Who’s managing climbers?
Devils Tower National
Monument, Wyo. Twenty-three Indian tribes claim
cultural ties to this 1,200-foot volcanic butte, which, on busy
summer days, crawls with upward of 120 climbers. To ease conflicts
between climbers and Native Americans using the site for religious
ceremonies, in 1995, monument managers started asking climbers to
stay off the rock during the month of June. But a handful of local
climbers, represented by the right-wing Mountain States Legal
Foundation, sued the Park Service. The Supreme Court refused to
hear their case, and the voluntary closure stands. Park Service
staffers say that 81 percent of climbers comply (HCN, 5/26/97: The
sacred and profane collide in the West ).
Utah The Bureau of Land Management has no climbing
management plan for this popular area of red sandstone cliffs split
by famously difficult-to-climb cracks. Just two agency staffers
manage recreation on the 1.8 million-acre Monticello district,
within which Indian Creek lies, and they don’t even know how
many climbers come here. Climbers have created scores of new
campsites, and some climb on walls that hold Anasazi rock art.
“Every area that was open and pristine has a camp ring,
toilet paper and garbage around it,” says rancher Heidi Redd.
The Nature Conservancy, which owns property adjacent to the BLM
land, is footing the bill for an environmental assessment of Indian
Creek’s recreation use. The Access Fund is trying to get
climbers to clean up their act.
Nev. The Washoe Indians consider the 250-foot volcanic
pillar near the shores of Lake Tahoe so sacred that at one time,
only medicine men were allowed to enter its deep undercut alcoves.
Now it’s a hot spot for climbers, and bolts and chalk marks
dot the rock’s overhanging walls. The Forest Service wants to
ban all climbing and remove the 300-plus bolts. Climbers say
they’ve cleaned up the broken glass and beer cans around the
rock, which had become a party hangout for local teenagers. The
Forest Service expects to make a decision this summer. The Access
Fund’s executive director, Steve Matous, says his group will
“consider appealing” any decision that bans climbing.
Castle Rocks State Park, IDaho The undulating
granite crags of this newly created park, located just north of the
Utah-Idaho border, are a climber’s paradise. The park, which
opened Memorial Day weekend, has a temporary cap of 75 visitors per
day until trails, toilets and parking are constructed. Castle
Rocks’ management plan bans bolts in some areas, and mandates
a minimum distance of 15 feet between bolted routes. But climbers
have “broken just about every bolting rule already,”
says climbing ranger Brad Shilling.
Canyon National Conservation Area, Nev. Bureau of Land
Management officials say that more climbing occurs in Red
Rock’s remote canyons than on any other BLM wilderness land.
Located just outside of Las Vegas, the area’s most accessible
walls attract tens of thousands of climbers each year. Staffers
hope to begin work on a climbing management plan this fall that
will serve as a national model for the agency. There is currently a
moratorium on new bolts in Red Rock’s wilderness areas.
“Most people follow the rules and don’t do it,”
says Mike Ward, who owns a climbing gym and gear shop in Las Vegas.
“But (the moratorium) takes the wind out of a lot of
UMPQUA NATIONAL FOREST,
ORE. On southwest Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest,
Forest Service staffers and climbers are butting heads over birds.
For years, the agency has relied on word-of-mouth to let climbers
know where peregrine falcons are nesting on the basalt outcrops
scattered throughout the forest. “We haven’t advertised
the location of falcon nests” because it would only invite
curious onlookers, says wildlife technician Kevin Sands. But in
recent years, the number of climbers has multiplied and Sands says
he’s seen climbers on routes with falcon nests. It’s a
catch-22, says Roseburg, Ore., climber Greg Orton.
“We’re expected to stay away from raptor nests, but the
Forest Service doesn’t let people know where they are.”
Agency staffers say they hope to have some regulations in place by
Washington, D.C. In 1998, the
Forest Service ruled that climbers could no longer use
“permanent, fixed anchors” in designated wilderness
areas (HCN, 8/17/98: Forest Service pulls anchor ban out of thin
air). The ban was scuttled when climbers objected, and several
years of negotiations among climbers, wilderness advocates and land
managers failed to reach a compromise. Forest Service officials
expect to announce a new wilderness bolting policy this fall. The
Bureau of Land Management is also drafting regulations. The
BLM’s senior wilderness specialist, Jeff Jarvis, says that
the agency is “not going to ban fixed anchors,” but
that placing any new bolts will likely require a permit. Don
Fisher, the Forest Service’s wilderness program leader, says
his agency’s policy will “be very close to what the BLM