Who’s managing climbers?

  • Fritz Weissner belays Lawrence Coveney during the first ascent of Devils Tower, circa 1937

    NPS
  • Matt Goode climbs at Cave Rock, Nevada

    ALEX MESSENGER, SNOWFIRE.CO.UK
 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "Invasion of the rock jocks."

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 ).

Indian Creek, 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.

Cave Rock, 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.

Red Rock 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 people’s sails.”

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 next spring.

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 has drafted.”

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...