Bolting blues

  • Hanging On: Rock climber in New Mexico

    Steve Ryder
  The Access Fund, an advocacy group of over 7,000 rock climbers, says a proposed federal rule could kill climbing in BLM wilderness areas. The proposal prohibits "physical alteration or defacement of a natural rock surface in wilderness." Sally Moser, executive director of the Access Fund in Boulder, Colo., says without bolts or nylon webbing and removable protection as anchors, climbing will be dangerous or even impossible. But temporary gear is no problem, insists Jeff Jarvis, a Washington, D.C., staffer with the Bureau of Land Management who helped draft the proposal. "Webbing isn't a bolt," he says. But when it comes to bolts, the BLM sticks to its ban. The 1964 Wilderness Act defines wilderness as "federal land ... without permanent improvements," says Jarvis. The good news for climbers is that both the BLM's proposed rule and existing rules for wilderness study areas permit local managers to allow bolts at their discretion. Still, the Access Fund fears that starting out with a blanket ban on "fixed anchors' will prejudice local officials against them. Some 1,500 people have commented on the new rules for BLM wilderness; a copy is available from Rob Hellie in the BLM's wilderness office at 202/452-7703. Access Fund information is available at 303/545-6772.

*Alan Schussman