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Too little land, too many people

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Although I think it is useful to consider the environmental impacts of rock climbing (HCN, 7/7/03: Invasion of the rock jocks), I have to wonder about the story’s lack of context. Of course, there are fewer plants and animals on a cliff face that climbers frequent. That seems quite obvious. However, out of all the rock formations in the world, only a small percentage are worth climbing. In Colorado, where I have done most of my climbing, there is no shortage of rock (hence the name: Rocky Mountains), yet most climbing is concentrated in only a few areas. This is because the features that make a good rock climb are actually not very common at all.

The real impacts of climbing, as illustrated by the situation in Bishop, Calif., are the trails that climbers use to access the rock, and the presence of people in areas that they previously didn’t find much interest in going to. All of these access issues, including the previously debated issue of mountain biking, come down to too many people and not enough land. Rather than taking an adversarial approach between hikers, mountain bikers and climbers, why not try working together to gain more protected land for all of these groups? The more land, the more spread-out the impact. Otherwise, you are playing right into the hands of the enemy by dividing and conquering from within.

James Swanson
San Francisco, California
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