Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bitterroot Forest Service Letter - No Progress

The Bitterroot National Forest service released a letter dated March 7, 2016, that updates "interested parties" on the status of climbing in Mill Creek. The letter is a disappointment, and keeps our local Forest Service sitting firmly on the fence. The letter was in part a response to a letter sent by the Western Montana Climbing Coalition to Stevensville District Ranger Tami Sabol. Among the requests made by WMTCC was that the Forest Service honor a verbal agreement made with District Ranger Dan Ritter that the voluntary bolting moratorium be lifted February, 2016; agree that climbers could work to mitigate erosion at the base of the Tick Farm --erosion that we shall remember was accelerated by the repeated destruction of primitive belay platforms by the small but extreme group that opposes climbing-- and demonstrate willingness to establish a climbers' approach trail from the main trail in the Mill Creek drainage.

Instead, the Forest Service has extended the bolting moratorium indefinitely; apparently prohibited erosion control by banning "permanent structures"; and most disturbing, stated that no route development of any kind shall be done in the canyon. This last clause especially appears an attempt by our local Forest Service to place the Bitterroot National Forest in a use class by itself, standing unique among all other Forest Service lands, occupying a category of management more restricted than even our country's national parks or wilderness areas where traditional gear routes are routinely and legally established, and where bolts themselves are permitted if hand-drilled.

A copy of the letter is included below. The fight is far from over.