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MtnGoat

Impact study shows climbing damages ecosytems

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Zenolith: I hope you are wrong. You stated that

“I KNOW that if you banned climbing there however, that some of my less reverent bretheren would rap in there at night and carve their initials on those trees.”

If some archeological wonder were discovered in North Bend somewhere, wouldn’t climbers respect a closure of the area if the closure was narrowly drawn and clearly intended to preserve that specific site? What if there was a very rare three-toed black-necked pigeon colony found on the cliffs at Fugs Wall in Frenchmen’s Coulee and the State came out and said: OK to climb in other areas, but leave this one alone? Wouldn’t even the most strident combatants over there most likely recognize that they should accept this? Your initial-carving vandal would be nothing more than an idiot and a jerk.

In what I have seen in this thread so far, it appears you have little to disagree with about what Professor Larson wrote, yet you seem bent on an argument. For example:

quote:

“So, what does your study show that is NOT already obvious?”

Your last quote from him shows that they identified and cataloged a unique habitat that may not have been previously identified and inventoried. Perhaps also they may be able to formulate some guidelines for actually measuring climber-impact. And the willingness of climbers to accept their results and comply with responsive regulations, as you hinted in your last quote, may be even more significant in affecting how land-managers or others think they may need to restrict or regulate climbers in the future.

quote:

“Did you consider the impacts to other areas if this area is closed down? Did you think about …”

In the initial post it was stated that he recommended banning climbing in certain “protected” areas along the escarpment. I saw nothing recommending closure of popular and already-existing climbing areas, and no indication that even a large portion of the escarpment should be closed. However, the escarpment is a couple hundred miles long and even if most of it were closed, there might still be plenty or room for climbers.

quote:

“Lastly, acting like you need to wait for us to cool down before you respond and mentioning how "pissed off" some of us are is a juvenile rhetorical tool and I am calling bullshit.”

Do you think that someone who has spent twenty years studying ecology wants to get involved in a discussion of whether or not dolphins have it made because they can play and fuck more than humans? Are you sure he would want to debate science with people who are hostile to his ideas before they even know what he really has to say? Might a casual survey of the active topics on the bulletin board this week lead him to think that this thread is likely to see a bunch of spray even if he tries to take the time to post carefully reasoned responses? It is not uncommon for discussions on this board to degenerate into a bunch of irreverence and gratuitous insult? Is it OK with you if someone thinks they might not want to dive into the mud and they tell you this -- in advance?

Like your "disagreement" with the Professor, I may here have overstated any disagreement between you and I. And my diatribe is probably not properly directed toward you -- I enjoy cascadeclimbers.com, but there are certain aspects of the culture of this site that I do find disturbing. In this thread,I am simply asking:

If Professor Larson is willing to participate in a discussion here, can we discuss and perhaps debate real issues and leave the rhetoric aside?

[ 04-04-2002: Message edited by: mattp ]

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Matt, you make some good points (as does the Dr). You ask, "If some archeological wonder were discovered in North Bend somewhere, wouldn?t climbers respect a closure of the area if the closure was narrowly drawn and clearly intended to preserve that specific site? What if there was a very rare three-toed black-necked pigeon colony found on the cliffs at Fugs Wall in Frenchmen?s Coulee and the State came out and said: OK to climb in other areas, but leave this one alone? Wouldn?t even the most strident combatants over there most likely recognize that they should accept this?"

Yes, most of us would respect such closures. But there are people out there who shoot spotted owls and throw rocks at raptor nests and I think the reason they do it is because they feel cut out of the process, disempowered, etc. I am suggesting that recomendations need not always be for a ban right from the start, especially without comment from all user groups. (BTW, I am a working environmentalist and I do have some experience with this. In my experience an outright ban does not work as well as many other options.)

"In what I have seen in this thread so far, it appears you have little to disagree with about what Professor Larson wrote, yet you seem bent on an argument."

Do I need to disagree by a certain factor in order not to raise your ire? I disagree enough to want to voice it, so what?

"Your last quote from him shows that they identified and cataloged a unique habitat that may not have been previously identified and inventoried."

No, they didn't, or at least that's not in the full report. They made a comparative study of the climbed and non-climbed areas (as well as studies of the presence and behavior of flora and fauna, which I have no gripe with) and decided to recomend a ban based on the "news" that climbed areas have a less vital ecological community.

"In the initial post it was stated that he recommended banning climbing in certain ?protected? areas along the escarpment. I saw nothing recommending closure of popular and already-existing climbing areas, and no indication that even a large portion of the escarpment should be closed."

In the full report they mention that unclimbed areas are unclimbed because they are not of interest to climbers. I can't imagine that they would close undamaged areas that they don't feel are at risk. In the full report I read there is no ban recomended, but they do say this, "The analysis of damage to trees caused by climbers showed that 10x more wounds of various types on cliffs exposed to climbers than cliffs that are not used for climbing. Nearly 30% of large individuals and nearly 40% of saplings showed signs of damage on climbed cliffs as opposed to around 4% for the unclimbed cliffs. What is worse, these estimates do not include trees simply removed by climbers. If the tree density data are combined with the inventory of damage, it becomes clear that cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment that are exposed to climbing disturbance will eventually become useless from the point of view of environmental research and monitoring."

All I am asking is, "Does a ban follow from that?" I mean, here is proof that some climbers are idiots, but if you called a meeting of climbers and other users and showed them what a rare place this is and asked for their help in encouraging people not to cut limbs and rap off of trees, build trails and use them, etc. I bet you would do more for the place (and environmentalism) in the long run. Also, some people are going to read this claim --> ("cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment that are exposed to climbing disturbance will eventually become useless from the point of view of environmental research and monitoring") and think the scientists just want a neato research area all to themselves. Does the phrase "federal land grab" ring any bells? I'm all in favor of the feds grabbing all they can but I know that it pisses people off when they are denied access.

"Do you think that someone who has spent twenty years studying ecology wants to get involved in a discussion of whether or not dolphins have it made because they can play and fuck more than humans?"

No, and he doesn't have to. He can respond without using high school mock trial tricks to establish authority and ignore those things he is not interested in.

"Are you sure he would want to debate science with people who are hostile to his ideas before they even know what he really has to say?"

Yes, I think since he came on this site of his own free will, he must. And I think his science is impeccable, nothing to debate there, it is the gereralized ban mentioned in the first post that I thing should be debated.

"If Professor Larson is willing to participate in a discussion here, can we discuss and perhaps debate real issues and leave the rhetoric aside?"

That was exactly my recomendation to him that you took offense to.

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"Yeah, you go out in the hills in winter and feel the cold on your face, but you're most likely clothed in plastics, carrying distilled fuels that you burn in objects made of refined metals for heat... and the list goes on. Rather removed from "nature" in my book."

Nature is great in many ways, but I treasure my removal from it in other ways, and those synthetic garments are one of those ways. Not dying of whooping cough, polio, smallpox, or a badly broken leg is another. Not starving to death because my crop was destroyed by climactic conditions, still another. Even having crops instead of hunt and gather, still another. And genetically engineered rice and wheats, even better.

I guess I kind of find "closeness" to nature highly overated and something well fed people not at the mercy of nature are likely to think they want. Check out the new series on PBS called "frontier house" where modern day families get close to nature using only 1883 techology and decide how close is close!

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quote:

Originally posted by Dru:
but seriously, are you calling knowledge intelligence? seems to me they are two different things. some stupid people seem to know a lot of facts.

Too true... Wouldn't you say that how one applies the knowledge they have is an indicator of intelligence? As in the application of knowledge gained through experience; if it goes unheeded, doesn't that say something about an individual's intelligence?

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I dont know, but there are some people living today in essentially Stone Age conditions like in Papua New Guinea and so on, and they seem to be fairly smart even though I bet some of them don't know the atomic weight of technitium or who won the 1932 World Series. And I bet that some people who know both those facts still bought Enron stocks...

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"As in the application of knowledge gained through experience; if it goes unheeded, doesn't that say something about an individual's intelligence?"

It might, but then there is also the matter of value judgement, a factor commonly ignored when looking at someone else's decisions. Each of us makes value judgements about what risks to accept, and do so even knowing our choices can have disastrous end results, because to us, the tradeoff and benefit is worth the risk.

A simple example suits this board just fine, the completely arbitrary choice to engage in outdoor sports which are known to cause death. Some might say taking risks not absolutely necessary for a long life is never worth the pleasure or satisfaction of the risky activity, but of course many of us disagree. In this way I think a case can be made that the intelligence of decisions cannot be judged by evidence of risk alone.

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I don't know where everyone is getting the idea that they're trying to ban climbing on the Niagara Escarpment. The recommendations of the study are to do exactly the opposite. The cliff ecologists want to keep those areas that are already climbed (and have therefore already been damaged) OPEN to climbers. They know that if you close a crag, it's likely that the climbers will find another section of the escarpment to "clean" and "protect". All of the "climbed" portions of the cliff in the study are on government owned conservation land already, so no one has to worry about any land seisures. What the paper was hoping to do was simply to answer "Are rock climbers affecting the cliff face community?" I mean anyone could say "if people are trampling and burning off the moss, then ya, they're having an impact", but until you do a properly designed, scientific study, you don't really know.

Many of you are stating that if the climbers were educated about the ancient forest and unique nature of the cliffs, they would likely respect it more. There has been knowledge about the ancient cedars for close to fifteen years now. The guidebook to the Escarpment has a section about the ecology of the cliffs and the ancient forest on it. There have been numerous talks given at the national parks and conservation areas discussing the cliffs. Pamphlets are found at all the climbing outfitters in the area and at the local climbing gyms. Talks have been given to University climbing clubs in the area. Yet- we still find, year after year, more trees rippid out of the cliff face, more branches sawn off and shiny new bolts where communities of plants used to be found.

I am a climber myself and I know that when any study that threatens access is published, we (as a community) are likely to get defensive. What I'm hoping is that all of you will think twice before putting up new routes along the Escarpment. There are hundreds of "classic lines" and lots of areas where the damage has already been done.

I'm glad to see that such a lively discussion has come about on this topic. If you're interested in learning more about the cliffs you should check out the website www.uoguelph.ca/botany/cerg/

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Zeno -

I would echo the first line of your response to my prior post. You make some good points.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of discussion we may be able to have in evaluating the import and implications of a study undertaken in Ontario -- since most of us have never even been to the Escarpment and probably do not intend to go there, perhaps we can have a more reasoned and less reactive discussion than we might if Professor Larson was talking about a rare cliffside environment in one of our local climbing areas.

I am aware of one local crag where issues similar to those identified in the Escarpment study exist: Little Si. There are some rare plants growing along the top of the cliff at World Wall I, and the State asked the route deveopers there to refrain from establishing climbs that topped out. Once this request was made, I believe they put up no more lines to the top of the crag.

As I indicated above, I was aware that I overstated any argument with you, but I simply wished to make the point that this discussion may be more productive if we do not descend into a sprayfest. Yours had been the most comprehensive and coherent "rebuttal" yet posted on this topic and hence, I found it easier to try to make most of my points in reference to your prior statements.

- Matt

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The only good reason for a ban in certain areas is the unavoidable prospect of introducing non-natives. You can't even walk through an area without dropping seeds and spores, but the other parts of the HIPPO* accronym can be mostly mitigated. It would be very shocking to me if the climbing community at large did the kind of damage mentioned in the study(ies) after knowing the ecological uniqueness and sensitivity of the area. From what verve says that appears to be what is happening. Bummer. That would not happen where I live on the scale it appears to be happening over there. If the users won't listen to reason I can understand Dr Larson's hostility to us.

Relative to the size of the climbing community I would guess that there is a shortage of climbable cliffs over there. (I will actually get the chance to visit that area in the next 2 years.) If I lived over there I would lobby for the creation of a bounded climbing area where measures are taken to limit erosion and other damage. For the other areas (sensitive and "pristine") I would ask for a voluntary climbing ban but set up a process by which potential users could petition the authorities for entry. Closing the area to all non-ecologists is asking for trouble.

Looks like I've done an about-face dosen't it? Well, almost. Yep, I'm even going to buy that book on cliff ecology (even though it was written by canucks).

*HIPPO lists the factors that cause the decline of ecosystem (or species) health. These factors are interrelated in myriad ways.

H-habitat destruction I-invasives P-pollution P-population O-overharvesting

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There are definitely a shortage of cliffs in the area. Besides the Niagara Escarpment (which contains about 10 separate crags), there really isn't anything climbable except a whole lot of "buildering" and the climbing gyms. Basically you'd have to drive to Kentucky (7-12 hrs aways depending on where along the escarpment you live) to find anything outdoors to climb.

Now that the study has been released to prove that climbing is having an impact on the entire cliff face community, hopefully climber's attitudes and practices will change - but basically the damage has already been done at the established crags in the area (and despite what someone wrote earlier, it will not regrow in 10 years)... It'd be a neat trick if we could get hundred year old trees in ten years!

Despite all the media attention about this study now, it's quite unlikely that there will be any limits to new route developement. There are so few people in the Ministry of Natural Resources that there isn't anyone to patrol the cliffs or police any of the climbers. The guidebook is also pretty out of date (we've been expecting a new one to come out for years), so it would really be quite difficult to determine whether climbers were even putting up new routes.

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No cliffs closer than Kentucky? What about Bon Echo -- it can't be more than about three hours from Toronto. I thought that was one of the coolest place in the east. And aren't there lots of cliffs up along the north shore of Lake Superior? Within 7-8 hours, couldn't you drive from Toronto or Kingston to the Adirondaks and maybe even to the Gunks? I grew up in SE Michigan, and that part of the world is indeed short on good crags, but come now--it's not as grim as all that.

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quote:

Originally posted by verve:
There are definitely a shortage of cliffs in the area. Besides the Niagara Escarpment (which contains about 10 separate crags), there really isn't anything climbable except a whole lot of "buildering" and the climbing gyms. Basically you'd have to drive to Kentucky (7-12 hrs aways depending on where along the escarpment you live) to find anything outdoors to climb.

Now that the study has been released to prove that climbing is having an impact on the entire cliff face community, hopefully climber's attitudes and practices will change - but basically the damage has already been done at the established crags in the area (and despite what someone wrote earlier, it will not regrow in 10 years)... It'd be a neat trick if we could get hundred year old trees in ten years!

Despite all the media attention about this study now, it's quite unlikely that there will be any limits to new route developement. There are so few people in the Ministry of Natural Resources that there isn't anyone to patrol the cliffs or police any of the climbers. The guidebook is also pretty out of date (we've been expecting a new one to come out for years), so it would really be quite difficult to determine whether climbers were even putting up new routes.

At Squamish, you really do get 6 inches of thick moss and 7 foot tall trees growing on a route no one has climbed in 10 years. Not to mention slugs, snakes, and bugs of all sorts. Sasquatches have been reported in the North Gully oif the Chief.

Despite all the climbers at Squamish the green stuff is winning, and if you ever travel west from Onteario, ms. "verve", you might realize that it would be inappropriate to make conclusions about other crags, based solely on Ontario experience.

But what would the dolphins say about all this???? tongue.gif" border="0

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quote:

Originally posted by klenke:
The dolphins would say:Ghsl Glldfjbgg gllldagbgfadd gldd grlesl glefabgghas!

Translation:"You land mammals are all wannabes!"

I thought that translated as "I dont have hands but watch me catch this salmon!"

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Ecosystem this!!

While scaling the infamous rope eating flakes of the Great Northern Slab on Friday, I places my fingertips in a crack where an old grey piece of rope rested, the rope promptly reared its slimy reptilian head and flicked his tounge at me, HEY!

I HATE SNAKES!!! but I let him alone hoping one of the other people on the route would find him. Unfortunatly he didn't care for me and went home and nobody else was able to enjoy the surprize.

BTW erik, i went on garbage patrol as well around the GNS and didnt find much other than a strangly fashioned beer can and one pink berett like a school girl would wear which was kind of creepy shocked.gif" border="0

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I saw a snake climb a finger crack once. i was curious to see how its done cause snake has no fingers. Well, he just gets in there and chimneys. No kneepads either. Old skool to the bone.

If snake can do it I wonder if dolphin could? The escarpment is a choss pile anyways. Especially with that Project Grizzly guy getting knocked down it by bikers anyways.

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Dr. Larson,Thank you for your comments and your willingness to participate in a decidedly weighted discussion. There is very little room to argue with any of your findings because you did exactly what you said, you "nailed" the research. Your comment about the climber chopping the 1200 year old Juniper was very sad. I would doubt that the climber had any idea it was that old. That is not an excuse but rather an indication that even more education and dissemination of info is needed. You can go a long way in helping the climbing community be more responsible by continuing to stay involved with issue that are important to you and the climbers in your region.

The more you know, the more you know!

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To reply to Mattp and Dru, If I was going to drive north of Superior to climb, it would likely take 15 hours! Plus, the climbing season would be either very short, or very cold. I've ice climbed up there, but for a 15 hr drive, I'd rather head south. It's true that Bon Echo is pretty close - I mean, not for an afternoon of climbing close - but closer than Kentucy, but if your looking for something other than run-out slabs, Bon Echo is NOT the place to be. Getting to the 'gunks in New York is still a fair drive away - likely the same distance away as KY. So yes, compared to most places (other than prairies) we're pretty devoid of cliffs here - and shutting down the escarpment would really suck.

And I'm pretty sure that dolphin's wouldn't be typing any messages on a climber's forum. They lack the digits necessary to utilize a keyboard.

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Verve - My memory is that there were some "runout slabs" at Bon Echo, but also a lot of blocky corners and overhangs done on edge holds. As the edges all were tilted diagonally, I suppose you may think those were slabby as well, but most of the climbs there were not slabs that I would recognize as such. Anyway, I digress.

Mr. Larson - Question about the climber impacts: It seems to me that the impact associated with bolted face climbs on monolithic rock like granite is probably very different from that which would occur on the Escarpment, where cracks and corners and pockets are cleaned for use as holds and for the placement of protection. Have you any comments on, or are you aware of other's comments on the comparitive impact of different styles of climbing on different types of rock?

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Yes.... and to add to the comments above, I dont think the trees in Squamish are very old... Kevin Mclane has period photos from the 1920's showing the Chief almost completely treeless, so most of the vegetation there is less that 80 years old not 1200. we could always take some dendro cores and see, I got a borer here somewhere.

The Squamish Lichen seems to regrow fairly rapidly too. You can see then tip of a 1960's bolt hanger sticking out of the lichen on "Pineapple peel" on the Apron, if you know where to look.

As for endangered species I steer way clear of peregrines, they fly faster than I can climb and they have sharp beaks. One of them tried to steal my toque once, but that was a misunderstanding., It mistook my toque for a marmot.

As for the dolphins, I hear John Lilly was developing a prototype flipper-operated keyboard as part of his Ocean-wide Web plan before his recent death. grin.gif" border="0

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Dr. Larson,

Thanks for that reply. It may not seem like it in all my posts, but I am definitly on your side. Mostly, my job entails fighting loggers and the USFS rather than climbers though so I feel a bit strange being maligned with a group that you seem to see as harmful to the environment. I wonder, since you said that climbing is a temporary enjoyment (or some such), if you really see this as a clear "climbing against ecosystem" problem? Are you saying that climbing on the Niagra escarpment is not sustainable or is it just that cli mbing has been practiced unsustainably there in the recent past? I know that your professional intersts lie in protecting cliff ecosystems (and thanks for admiting your bias), but do you think that climbers generally cannot be taught to value those as well?

There is a dichotomy here; 1)There are not enough cliffs to support the number of climbers in the area. 2)The Niagra Escarpment ecosystem is being harmed by climbing and is an especially protection-worthy area. The question at issue is (if climbing and protection are mutually incompatible): Which is more valuable? You can argue that the ecosystem has been there longer and provides multiple benefits to humanity, etc, and I will agree enthusiastically. What every environmental problem comes down to though is that a) we don't think long-term enough for ecosystems and b) climbing (like logging) is an identity for a lot of climbers and they will fight for it the way a scientist would fight to see that science is not banned. Climbers, like verve, might feel like they can't live in Toronto and still be a climber.

Another question; All cliffs are part of an ecosystem. Why is this one so valuable, or are you hoping to stop climbing one cliff at a time? The old trees are great but you pointed out that our macroscopic bias prevents us from seen the bigger picture and its micro subjects. I would bet that all cliffs have lichens, etc. Are they less important?

That book of yours looks like a great resource but is a bit out of my price range ($70). Seems like you could help educate climbers if you gave them a discount smile.gif" border="0 . Is there a paperback coming out?

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A very close friend of mine, (a logger) once told me that if you don't log 'em down (old grow trees), they'll just fall down anyway. This is true, if you think about it.

I, for one, (and the great majority of normal americans, thankfully) could care less about your silly cliff ecosystem arguements.

I liked the entry that eluded to falling rocks at cliffs being hazardous to your head! Wake up! Mountains are by definition, crumbling apart.

The "green" movement is over, and it's time to move on with our lives. BTW, logging is incredible cross training for climbing.. just a thought...

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Hey gang,

I've just finished reading the three pages worth of correspondence about the "Climbing impact study" that I coauthored with Michele McMillan. Michele and I find it interesting that the earlier paper reporting the climber damage to the ancient cedar trees had virtually no coverage at the time. This is probably because the journal Conservation Biology didn't have a policy of sending out press releases at that time. Now they do. Hence all the media coverage that you all have been responding to. Many of you have correctly criticized the media-ization of the work - but we've all come to expect this in stuff we read in the press. So everyone who is sincerely interested in getting involved in the debate should really get the papers themselves rather than relying just on what the reporters say, or worse, just on the voice clips used on the radio.

O.K. for starters, everyone should understand the difficult job of studying ecology. Ecology is often called the 'Dismal science' because we so often come to the conclusion that there are too many humans for the natural renewable resources on the planet. We're such a drag at a party because we always hawl out the "we're ruining the earth" story while someone is knocking back some luxurious snack!!

Having said this, it may be true that we are wrecking a lot of things, and in other situations we may not be, but we think we are. The value of a scientific study of something, (especially something obvious) is that you nail it. Unless and until it's nailed, all that one has to argue about or base policy on is anecdotes (read = stories). Don't get me wrong. I love stories. I even include them in my lectures. But they aren't evidence. The test of evidence should be the kind that would stand up in court. If the science is not done well enough to stand up in court - then it's no good for policy.

Next, you should all understand that in a research career you are wrong more often than you are right - atleast in the planning stage of projects or in your first interpretation of results. That's why everything is peer reviewed at all stages. Peer review is not perfect, but like democracy - it's better than all of the alternatives. In my career I've come to the healthy point of not caring at all if the results go one way or another. In the case of the two climbing studies that are currently in discussion, my lab would most surely have loved there to have been no demonstrable effect of rock climbing on anything. We've been studying the ecology of cliffs for a long time and we love them dearly. We've also studied them in many countries and we have seen that their pristine conditions are usually disturbed only by quarry operators and rock climbers.

But the results we get are the results we get. Believe me, if I thought that there was some feature of the design of our study that yielded the results by some artifact of sampling, I would say so. As it is, the damage is dramatic, it (in the case of the Pete Kelly paper) results in 800 year old trees being hacked at by some climbers who are more interested in a clean route than climbing in a pristine forest, and the damage continues. I have a friend in France who was hunting for ancient forests in the Gorges D'Ardeche last week, and a climber cut down a 1200 year old juniper while my buddy was standing at the bottom of the cliff. The cliffs there support ancient forest just like we have here in ONtario, and just like the ones that occur in Mass, New York, Penn, Tenn, Ky, Virg., Illinois, Iowa etc.

O.k. so the damage has been done, and the cliffs can no longer be assumed to protect themselves. But there's lots of surface area (or length) of cliff right?? Sure, but the Passenger Pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America. And its gone. The time to start to protect a resource is when we realize that we like it and it's still common. A world made up of zoo-like dioramas of plants and animals will be a world we don't like. It may also (and more importantly) be a world that does not work.

So what I argue is this: if we as a species cannot arrange to protect a habitat that has protected itself for millions of years, then we probably can't protect anything. And why protect it all? We'll that's a no brainer: if you like the place to begin with, wouldn't it be nice if hundreds of future generations of people could enjoy it the way you do.

I'd be happy with just one little generation of protection to start with. I'm talking, however, about the tree's generation (~1000 yrs), not mine. What would it take to create wise use policies for cliffs that would guarantee that rock outcrops could support their endemic biotas for 1000 years?

First, since there's no money for environmental law enforcement, the users of the natural resources will have to collectively decide that they are (we are) going to be the ones to make sure that new pristine habitat is not destroyed for our immediate enjoyment, and that already destroyed habitat will be restored as much as possible.

I have detected in some of the posts, that some climbers don't value lichens and mosses as much as old trees. I should tell you, there's also an entire habitat inside the rock (cryptoendolithic organisms). We've published lots of papers about these too. And the one thing we've learned is that humans are specist: we value big (especially furry, except for dolphins) critters more than small inconspicuous ones. And this specist nature may well be our undoing. A great deal of research is being done right now on global carbon cycling etc., and most of the researchers doing the work realize that it is the little critters that do all the work and get no respect. Think of them as microscopic Rodney Dangerfields.

To those who think that we scientists are as biased as the next person - you are absolutely right. But we're biased on your side, not against you. Some of the nasty comments that were directed to us were probably heat of the moment comments and we are not upset by this. I told Michele (who as a young student is not that experienced in these things) that there are two choices for research: either do something that no one cares about and be accused of wasting money, or do something that people do care about and get accused of being biased. She chose the latter.

Whether you all think that we have been helpful to the debate or whether you think that we have hindered it, you should all know that our interests are driven by those millions upon millions of people not yet born, who might like some day to be able to enjoy the fantastic vertical world that's out there.

I'll respond to more messages as they appear. From here on I'll try to be more specific to each poster.

Doug LarsonCliff Ecology Research Group

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