The new route / bolting moratorium in Mill Creek has gone on too long with nothing being done. The people who want climbing removed from the North Rim – Keele, Milner – are at work trying to expand the wilderness that lies to the west of the climbs (west even of the areas like Pro Gray and No Sweat that have been established for decades) and push it to the east. The Forest Service has put a moratorium on bolting outside the wilderness because of this opposition. But what are wilderness attributes? Here are a few of the questions and issues I sent to Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King:
Solitude is a wilderness attribute. Yet in lower Mill, we hear the gun range and highway traffic. What level of noise is acceptable? Give us a number. Will the North Rim meet it? Will the gun range have to be shut down for the lower end of the canyon (where the climbs are) to meet the requirement? Will the people of Pinesdale be too close? Will the Cow Creek gate be closed permanently?
Solitude also means lack of people. But I (and other climbers) frequently see non-climbers hiking up the ridge on the treed slopes above the climbs. We know Keele frequently hikes that area. And kids from Pinesdale. There are enough hikers, in fact, to create a footpath that could be followed up the ridge well before the climbs went in. That path is what we used as the first half of the approach trail to the climbs.
And what about the backcountry skiers who use the burned slopes north of the climbs? All of this is accessible by Cow Creek and an easy trailhead. Therefore, wouldn’t the lower Mill Creek area be considered "too close" to the trailhead for wilderness?
What about the knapweed? The distance from the trailhead could be measured to the first knapweed (a matter of feet or inches) and how far into the drainage the knapweed goes to the west toward the real wilderness boundary.
What about wildlife? What are the counts that we need for wilderness? Camera counts can be done.
The Forest Service imposed a bolting moratorium, but it’s not based on counts, numbers. Give us concrete attributes for wilderness. Dan Ritter, the Stevensville district ranger who retired last year, was our FS contact and asked us to accept a voluntary moratorium. He called it a “cooling off period.” That doesn’t cut it. When is the end? What are the goals? Why does Region 1 staff think the moratorium was broken? How is something “broken” that was agreed to voluntarily? Nothing was accomplished except to advance the agenda of the Keele-Milner opposition to climbing.
Some other points:
- It has been 3 years of no progress. The FS was supposed to make a May trip to the North Rim for assessment. We should be hearing their findings by now. If they aren’t going to expand the wilderness to the east then there is no reason for the moratorium (as already said, they have given us no end date to work under). If they wait past June we get into fire season. One fire season leads to another and before we know it any decision will be delayed to 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 years.
- No other forest service land has recommended the number of routes. Why is Region 1 trying to do so? What is the criteria? Consider this:
- If 2 climbers are going to the North Rim and are of unequal level of climbing skill, how will the Forest Service guarantee equal route availability? ·
- With an aging population do we not need climbing areas close to trailheads? What about kids who would like to be introduced to climbing on safe, beginner routes, like at the North Rim? The Forest Service is required to make the public lands accessible to old and young alike. ·
- How does the FS propose to regulate the inventory of climbs across grades?
- If 2 climbers are at the 5.8 sport level, do they need more than 3 climbs or will the FS restrict the number?
- If 2 climbers are at the 5.9 sport level does the community need more than 2 climbs? If these climbers are training for longer, multi-pitch climbs, they should be able to do 8 or 9 training pitches in a day. Will there be enough routes or will the FS decide the number?
- What if climbers are training for an overseas trip?
- What about out-of-state climbers whose visits benefit local economy? Will the FS allow enough routes to attract them to the area?
Is this the business the BNF intends to get into --arbitrary micro-management of climbing when no other FS in the country controls climbing resources at such a level? There are many questions to be answered, the first of which is: When will the moratorium, that was believed to be voluntary and short term and entered into under good faith by the climbing community, be lifted, not extended indefinitely as it currently is?
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