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Fixed Anchors in Wilderness


by Editor

March 18, 2001

Camp4 - Climbing News Archive

The US Forest Service says it wants to complete its rulemaking on climbing and fixed anchor use in designated wilderness areas, but it will have to wait to do so.

The Forest Service has developed a draft rule but did not release the rule for public review and comment prior to January 20, 2001, when the Bush administration took office. President Bush quickly placed a 60-day moratorium on all new federal government rulemaking.

The Access Fund has been working hard to insure the Forest Service supports the progress made by the Negotiated Rulemaking committee, which was disbanded last fall after a few wilderness purists refused to accept a proposal which all other committee members supported. Environmental heavyweights such as the Sierra Club, National Parks & Conservation Association, and Wilderness Society all endorsed the proposal.

The Forest Service stated it will honor the work of the rulemaking committee in its new rule. The Access Fund's ongoing communication with the Forest Service has led us to believe the unpublished agency rule is not entirely consistent with the committee's proposal that would have allowed the use and replacement of existing fixed anchors in wilderness. Also, it would have prohibited new climbs which are entirely bolt protected (new bolts could be placed occasionally, to link crack systems or as belay/rappel anchors). Under this proposal, any type of drilled fixed anchor would require some form of authorization, for example through a decision in a Wilderness Management Plan or under a special use permit.

The Access Fund endorsed this proposal as a difficult but acceptable compromise to resolve the long-standing question of how bolting should be treated in wilderness, which by law requires a higher standard of protection. We will not support any proposed rule which is more restrictive than this compromise.

The Access Fund continues to work with the Forest Service and other federal wilderness agencies to clarify or establish climbing policy. If and when the Forest Service does issue a draft rule for public comment, it is critically important for climbers to provide feedback. Check the Access Fund Web site for updates on the fixed anchor issue and information on how to comment on a proposed rule.

News courtesy of The Access Fund.

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