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Alpinfox

URGENT - Infinite Bliss access meeting TODAY

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I think the reason we are at this point is basically that there is just too much development and recreational pressure for land managers like the Forest Service to ignore. If it wasn't this current matter there would be something else. The simple fact is that we cannot assume that we can do whatever we want. The wild wild west is long gone.

 

I wrote in my earlier post that I don't know where all of this is going to lead us. I don't subscribe to the theory that all is lost if that is what you mean by "it was fun while it lasted." Climbing is not over, but we have to look at what we are doing, and where; we are all going to have to make some compromises here.

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I happen to be reading a book called Backyard Wilderness: The Alpine Lakes Story. It documents the formation of the ALW as a Wilderness from the late 60s through the mid 70s.

 

The ALPS was probably the single biggest driving force in getting the Wilderness to be what it is today. It's compromised in size from what they wanted, but their proposal was the biggest and most ambitious, and they ultimately got everyone (except the FS and the timber industry) behind their proposal. They fought aggressively for years to establish the boundaries, stop logging within the proposed Wilderness, to educate the public about the benefits of this large wilderness at the very height of the FS logging boom, to bring together public officials in the face of this, and a lot more stuff.

 

The reason I bring this up is that the ALPS has a long and fairly successful history of preserving and protecting the places that you speak of, esp. in the MfK and the Icicle. Their opinions are highly respected with regard to the area in question, and in order to get anything done to allow development of this kind to be tolerated, it's my opinion that it's going to take their blessings. Like it or not, the ALPS is about preserving the ALW for future generations, even if that means not "using" it fully.

 

Forgive me if this seems too off-topic, but I think knowing a bit about the ALPS is helpful in understanding how such a trail and climb might stick in the craw of the interested parties.

 

Edit: There is a whole 'nother piece of the equation here that deserves some research. I have this hazy understanding of the creation of a new trail possibly requiring the decommissioning of another trail. I wish I knew more about this process, but it's something that you folks who are attending the meetings might want to look into. New trails are problematic on many levels. That's going to be more of a FS issue than an ALPS issue. I wish I could be more specific, but I don't fully understand the trail inventory issue myself.

Edited by marylou

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Wow Allison, that is quite interesting. I had the idea that ALPS was some sort of yahoo fringe group. Your description makes much more sense with the current reports of the FS bringing the hammer down.

 

Given this history I guess I can understand their slippery slope fears about the IB route and trail. But it is definitely ONLY that.

 

I really don't think IB is going to amount to much impact. The climb just doesn't have that much carrying capacity, the approach is stiff, it's a bit of a daunting effort for a novice/low intermediate climber, and soon the road to the start of the approach is going to be closed at least half the year. If left there, IB is not going to get 1/10 the climbers the Tooth will in the next 10 years.

 

Add this to the fact that as a group, climbers are relatively low impact. Climbers of this route are not even going to have a chance to trash the area like has been done at, say, Smith Rock. The area where IB sits will not allow a proliferation of climbs spread out. The route starts in a small funnel and basically won't allow any variations of interest.

 

I don't think IB is an egregious offense to the Wilderness. It is a route that climbers will value, but should not lead to widespread degradation of the area. It is not in the heart of the wilderness rather, so near the boundary that apparently it might not have even been known to be in Wilderness when the routesetters began work.

 

I must concede that it sounds like it is officially in a the wilderness area. Perhaps its existence does break specific rules. However, I think that if ALPS were to relent on this particular route, because it is NOT an extremely damaging route, because it will be a valued route, that this action could result in goodwill among ALPS and climbers. This would make it much easier for ALPS to work with this WCC that Matt and others have been working to form to prevent climber degradation that may be much more damaging than IB will ever be.

 

Hopefully ALPS will not continue to take the hard line. I think they'll see from this thread that many climbers are supportive of their conservation goals. But I think that by being unnecessarily combative like apparently wanting to extend their jihad against climbers outside the Alpine Lakes to places like Darrington, they will make enemies of potential allies. Maybe they enjoy being hated, but I doubt it. I seems much more constructive to work with groups, be inclusive, perhaps make compromises, but work toward a common goal.

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Marylou, the business about the trail inventory and the policy of removing a mile of trail for every mile added which you referred to has to do with an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the North Cascades for the recovery of the Grizzly Bear.

 

I have called Forest Service biologists and Fish and Wildlife guys and they can't or won't give me much information about the program, and the wilderness and district rangers don't seem to know all that much about it, but the gist of it as far as I can tell is as follows:

 

On both sides of the Cascades North of Snoqualmie Pass, they have divided the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie, Wenatchee, and Okanogan National Forests into small sections, Grizzly Bear Management Units. Within each unit they have to remove a mile of trail or road each time a mile of trail or road is added - inside or outside of the wilderness boundaries. The threshold for a trail to be included in this consideration is, I believe, one that will receive fourteen trips a week. It doesn't matter if the trail was built by the official trail crew or by fishermen or climbers. A trail is a trail, and they do not distinguish between the 4 foot wide heavily modified trailbed of a Forest Service trail and the climber's or fishermen's access route that is barely scratched into the duff. The basic premise is that grizzly bears don't like roads and trails, and will stay 1/3 of a mile away from them. They don't want the area to be further broken up into discontinuous areas for bear habitat.

 

This program was put into place with, as far as I can tell, no public comment and no environmental review. I think there were some internal politics and pressures related to the bear's listing as an endangered or threatened species or something, and the decision may well have been justified but in the short bit or research I've done on this I haven't been able to find out much about the basis or history of this (there may have been public notice and a comment period, for example, but I have been trying to follow these issues for almost twenty years and I haven't heard anything about it nor do I find any references to any public discussion in what I've uncovered so far).

 

Everybody recognizes that there are few if any grizzly bears at all in this program area (the most optimistic estimates are that there may be ten bears in the entire area, but many biologists and others believe zero is a more accurate number). Thus, there are few or no actual grizzly bears here and the only way they would ever have a viable population is to bring them in. Even Grizzly Bear supporters I have talked to have acknowledged that they don't see the importation of Grizzly Bears to be very likely.

 

There is, I believe, a separate issue about the trail inventory when it comes to wilderness. As I understand it, they have a policy or general rule that they will not build new trails in wilderness - anywhere. Regardless of any reacreational need or population growth, no more will be added in the Alpine Lakes area near Seattle, and as there are very few trails there now, there will be almost none ever in the new Wild Sky Wilderness north of Highway 2.

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Matt, thanks for posting that. Good information all, and more to ponder for those of us following this issue from the sidelines.

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Here is my $0.02

Let me preface, I do environmental consulting and work a lot with agencies and interest groups on a host of issues dealing with fish and habitat management. I have not ever worked with Alps, but I believe they will likely not give up their hard line. They likely are thinking of the slippery slope - that if they let one route and trail in then how do you draw the line in the future? Personally I think the route should stay for the reasons mentioned above. 1, 5 or 10 small trails like the one going to IB do a fraction of the damage that the mere existence of the road into that are has on the riparian and riverine enviornment of the watershed. I wonder how many of the Alps folks drive SUVs to their most favorite trailhead and live in a four bedroom house when there is only 2 of them that live there? Nearly all environmental groups and agencies I have been involved with are hipocritical to a large degree in some respect or another. However, this is not to say that we don't need them. Environmental groups with all of their hipocracy and hard lines are the only thing that keeps the bush administration from logging, drilling, paving and raping every last inch of ground we have. That is why they have to go to other countries to do it. Sorry for the rant. Mattp, if there comes a time that there is a need for a biologist to assess impacts, especially regarding the Darrington area, I will work pro-bono night and day to make sure access and routes are preserved there. Email me or PM if there is a need.

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I might not be a resident or even a active climber in my home state, but this issue is one that affects every climber, like it or not. I believe that the only way our voices can be heard is to ...speak up.

Please add my name to the rolls of WCC.

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Progress Report:

 

With regard Mt. Garfield, here's what we've done so far. I've been working on this with Jason Keith, Access Fund Policy Director, Andy Fitz, Access Fund Washington Coordinator, and Bryan Burdo, long time climber active in establishing routes and crags in areas near Mount Garfield.

 

1. We have talked with and met with the two individuals who established Infinite Bliss, informed them of the concerns raised by ALPS. They have stopped any further route or trail promotion or maintenance or development in the Mount Garfield and Middle Fork area.

 

2. We have met with a majority of the rock climbers currently actively establishing and maintaining rock climbs on the Forest and in surrounding areas. We informed them of the concerns raised by ALPS, and they unanimously stated that they take these issues seriously just we do. These climbers voiced a general commitment to work toward increased awareness for environmental concerns and a more open relationship with land managers.

 

3. We have toured the access trail to Mount Garfield with a ranger from the North Bend ranger station and discussed the trail itself and the route with him and with representatives of some local conservation organizations, the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, Middle Fork Coalition, and the North Cascades Conservation Council. There was no real "outcome" of that meeting other than a definition of the issues which underlay my post two pages higher up on this thread. The lead guy who will be working on this issue within the Forest Service is on paternity leave, and returns to the office, we understand, in about a month.

 

 

Looking ahead, we envision the following:

 

1. We hope to hold a general meeting of the Washington Climber's Coalition in July. We don't know what exact form the WCC will take as far as organizational structure, or even who is interested in it, but we hope to fashion an organization that will have a place for anybody who wishes to get involved.

 

2. We hope to work with the Okanagon, Wenatchee, and Colville National forests on similar issues in a more pro-active manner. They are in the process of fashioning a new management plan.

 

3. We would like to establish an ongoing structure for Washington climbers to communicate with each other and work together on issues related to rock climbing access and related issues. (See the other thread for some ideas.)

 

4. We would like to establish an ongoing structure for land managers and other third parties to communicate with climbers. An example of this is the situation where a particular crag or access trail may constitute a violation of some sort or where some particular behavior may be causing a problem for wildlife management concerns or something else. We would like to be able to put those concerned with a particular problem in touch with those who may be causing it in order to work out solutions.

 

5. We hope to set up a website for sharing information and maintaining things like contact lists, project reports, and anything else that somebody thinks would be relevant.

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Thanks for all your hard work Mattp! Let's go climbing together this summer!

 

I believe the best way to preserve the wilderness is to allow people to see it. They will appreciate it and want to protect it only if they experience it first hand. I am a climber so of course I want to climb new routes, but the most important thing is the preservation of all that is green and wild in our state.

 

thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif

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I applaud the formation of this "WCC" unfortunately I assume out-of-State'rs cannot be included other than offer verbal or financial support...?

 

One question/suggestion to add to your "Looking ahead" list,

 

Do you anticipate posting some sort of offical stance on issues involving climbing in the state of Washington?

 

In order to win my full support and I assume others as well, I would need to know what you stand for as a group.

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Although I have never met Mattp I have read many of his posts here and am willing to give him my unconditional support in these matters. In particular I like the way he tries to avoid the polarizing statements that some/many here like to make.

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In particular I like the way he tries to avoid the polarizing statements that some/many here like to make.

 

It would be a mistake to presume that you are seeing the whole of the conversation here. Some people are making these 'polarizing' statements in the open, others are doing their 'mudslinging' behind closed doors.

 

FWIW, I agree that we need to get more organized and I appreciate the energy that Matt and Daryl and others have expended in that direction. I just have misgivings about the tactics and methods which I tried to express here in a somewhat jovial way (hence the Monty Python reference).

 

-Loren

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