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Greg_Malloure

Access fund calls NOCA's bolting policy "the ugly"

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THought this was interesting and worth a share. I am not too clued in on the debate but I have heard a little about it. This report is from the access fund.

 

http://www.opengate.org/access-fund-blog/2015/07/nps-wilderness-climbing-management-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly.html

 

It has been over two years since the National Park Service (NPS) issued a national-level policy that provides guidelines to individual parks on managing climbing (and bolts specifically) in designated Wilderness areas. Director’s Order #41 removed the threat that the NPS would ban bolts in Wilderness, but also tightened the screws on how climbers can place these bolts. Two years ago, the Access Fund could only theorize on how individual parks would choose to interpret and implement the general guidelines outlined in DO #41.

 

Well, the wait is over, and we are now getting some answers to these questions. The Wilderness climbing policies that we’ve seen so far fall into the spectrum of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

 

Joshua tree thinFirst, the good. As a result of DO #41 Joshua Tree issued its first Wilderness bolting permit in November of 2013—ending a longstanding moratorium on new bolts in Wilderness. Then Superintendent Butler issued a policy that allows the authorization of new bolts to prevent damage to vegetation. As a result, the first J-Tree bolt permit was issued so that the tree above the classis crack Room to Shroom could be saved.

 

Now, the bad. Lake Mead National Recreation Area recently issued a Wilderness Management Plan that calls for the removal of “bolt-intensive” routes in Wilderness and outlines a process for evaluating the removal of bolted routes due to impacts to Wilderness character, natural resources, and cultural sites. This process will include folks form the NPS, native American tribes, and the climbing community. You may be thinking…how is this not The Ugly? Consider that an earlier draft version of this plan proposed a wholesale removal of bolted climbing routes with no input from the climbing community. This nuance is substantial because it recognizes the need for the NPS to include climbers in decisions about fixed anchor management instead of making unilateral decisions.

 

CharlotteDome_SEKIOne more bad. The recent Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Management Plan states that climbers can judiciously place non-permanent fixed anchors (e.g. slings and nuts) when necessary, without the need for permits. But climbers will need special-use permits to place and replace bolts in Wilderness. Again, how is this not The Ugly? The draft plan, which we strongly advocated against on the grounds that it was not realistic or safe, proposed that climbers apply for a special use permit ($20) and wait up to 3 months in order to acquire a permit for adding or replacing any fixed anchor—including webbing slings. We continue to work with the park to remind officials that bolt replacement is essential and the NPS should not obstruct climbers from replacing bolts due to safety and visitor experience concerns.

 

Finally, the ugly. North Cascades National Park has ignored the majority of the guidelines provided in DO #41 and issued an unsubstantiated Wilderness bolt moratorium. The park not only bans new bolts, but can also remove existing bolts without any public process or notice to the climbing community. DO #41 provides park superintendents with the authority to prohibit bolts after they have established that bolts result in unacceptable impacts and have conferred with NPS climbing specialists and the climbing community. The Access Fund invoked the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to investigate what type of analyses North Cascades actually conducted prior to issuing their bolt moratorium policy. The answer: none. The spirit of DO #41 was intended to result in balanced policy that considers natural resources, Wilderness character and recreation opportunities, but the North Cascades interpretation resulted in a policy based on philosophical conviction without any assessment, study, or public process. We continue to fight this ban.

 

North Cascades banner

 

The inconsistency in the implementation of the NPS Wilderness climbing management guidelines is a problem. Resolving this inconsistency is one of the Access Fund’s top policy and advocacy priorities. We are working this issue through three main strategies:

 

Developing an interest within NPS—both at the national and park level—to improve DO #41 implementation.

 

A documented Fixed Anchor Policy, which we created in collaboration with the American Alpine Club, to outline the fundamental principles associated with our position on fixed anchors and guide our work on DO #41 implementation with parks.

 

Convening a working group of both climbing and conservation organizations—including Access Fund, American Mountain Guide Association, American Alpine Club, Wilderness Society and National Parks Conservation Association—to develop and advance a strategy to improve NPS Wilderness climbing management policy.

 

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Finally, the ugly. North Cascades National Park has ignored the majority of the guidelines provided in DO #41 and issued an unsubstantiated Wilderness bolt moratorium. The park not only bans new bolts, but can also remove existing bolts without any public process or notice to the climbing community. DO #41 provides park superintendents with the authority to prohibit bolts after they have established that bolts result in unacceptable impacts and have conferred with NPS climbing specialists and the climbing community. The Access Fund invoked the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to investigate what type of analyses North Cascades actually conducted prior to issuing their bolt moratorium policy. The answer: none.

 

Thanks for this long an informative post! The quoted section, the "ugly" just further convinces me that the NCNP is out of control and hostile w/r/t to climber access, and why I opposed expanding that park any more.

 

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Greg, thanks for posting, and thanks to the Access Fund for all their work addressing these issues head on with NPS et al. All this work also costs money too. I'll see what I can do to help, and soon.

 

Expanding NCNP is about protecting as much land out there as we can for future generations. That, is way bigger than any user group or issue that I have heard of to date. It will be interesting to watch, in any event.

 

d

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Expanding NCNP is about protecting as much land out there as we can for future generations. That, is way bigger than any user group or issue that I have heard of to date.

d

 

Indeed. But what other user groups would go into the areas proposed for expansion? Backpackers and dayhikers. Cyclists and riders on horseback?

 

I must say I enjoy the backcountry all over the NFs in the state, backpacking, hiking and tagging non-technical summits. It's refereshing to just show up at a TH, self-register (optional) and head in. No stopping in Marblemount during office hours, no permits, no quotas, no bureaucracy. Moreover I don't see any signs of overuse. The resources seem to be managed just fine by the NF for future generations as is.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, unfortunately. The NPS is a knockout in their own estimation.

 

They're not my type though.

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I'll echo the thanks for posting this Greg. The comparison to other parks makes NCNP look pretty darn weird.

 

Folks, I don't know much about the NPS works. Is there ever venue for public comment about a given park's practices? The way there would be if a municipality decided to undertake some new policy or construction? Or is the NPS just sort of a black box that does what it thinks best absent organized advocacy, litigation, or whatever?

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I wonder when it is that the NPS, and the climbing community, especially the NCNP part of it, will be able to overcome whatever existing animosities there are and begin a more effective relationship, working together for the betterment of this special place we all care so much about... Arbitrary decisions contrary to "guidelines" for established policy on bolting is very unhelpful to be sure.

 

KK, I agree that climbers are an important user group to this park and have legitimate complaints about NPS administration at NCNP. Ongoing engagement by access fund et al is crucial. Support them.

 

So much of expansion seems to be a done deal to me. It's tough to imagine the NPS being worked out of a deal they already have in NCNP. But I'm starting to see why some believe another entity would probably do a better job.

 

d

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So much of expansion seems to be a done deal to me. It's tough to imagine the NPS being worked out of a deal they already have in NCNP

 

From what I understand, it's far from a done deal, even changing the NPS managed Recreation Areas to NPs requires Congressional approval, funding and consternation. Even more so for the relatively small USFS lands involved in this deal.

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It's been two years and a day since Tyler Bartons death. I'll never forget.

 

Did the NCNP kill Tyler? Nope. Climbing is dangerous and nothing is promised.

 

Would Tyler be alive if those bolted rappell anchors hadn't been chopped by the NCNP?

 

That question lingers in my mind.

 

http://www.rockandice.com/lates-news/tnb-death-on-forbidden-peak-was-the-nps-complicit

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