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By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Forest Service works on climbing management plan

 

July 25, 2019



TEN SLEEP – The United States Forest Service (USFS) issued a statement from USFS Powder River District Ranger Traci Weaver, dated Friday, July 19, prohibiting the creation of new climbing routes and the destruction of any manufactured holds in the Bighorn National Forest, including Ten Sleep Canyon.

According to the letter, “If an individual or group is manufacturing, or creating new routes with any type of permanent hardware or apparatus to include bolts, glue, manufactured hand holds; or modifying routes through chipping or hammering new or existing holds, they will be subject to criminal fines, to include money for restitution to the impacted area.

“The Bighorn National Forest is in the process of writing a climbing management plan, with the purpose of helping protect, from degradation, the aesthetic of the canyon and the unique climbing attributes found here on the forest.”

Weaver stated, “The biggest gist of it is, we are in the midst of trying to put together a climbing management plan and trying to get some standards set for what is acceptable, what is ethical, what will do the least resource damage in that amazing canyon and throughout the forest. Climbing is becoming such a popular sport; people are climbing lots of different places: Leigh Creek Canyon, which is a resource natural area, which is of concern to us. They are climbing in Crazy Woman Canyon, climbing up in the wilderness which, of course, is going to have its own set of standards because it’s a wilderness area. Then up on the northern part of the forest in Tongue Canyon and Shell Canyon, so it’s really spreading and we are just trying to get people to slow down until we can move a little more thoughtfully.”

While the letter is dated July 19, that doesn’t mean that manufactured holds and/ or the removal of manufactured holds will not be under the scrutiny of the Forest Service, Weaver said. “That doesn’t mean that something done before that date wouldn’t be subject to some scrutiny, it’s just that we wanted a date on there so people wouldn’t hurry up and put a bunch of new routes in before they thought the closure was coming into effect. But it’s not really a closure because it’s just making them aware this CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) exists, we are going to be monitoring the situation, we are going to be more engaged,” Weaver stated. She added, “A lot of this is just to try to get people to come together, come to a consensus with the Forest Service engaged in the conversation, what route development is going to look like. There are already over 1,200 bolted routes in Ten Sleep Canyon, so it’s not going to hurt anybody to take a tactical pause on building new routes, there is plenty of climbing there.”

The Forest Service is not at this time thinking of closing federal lands to climbing contrary to popular belief. “I want to make it clear that this isn’t the Forest Service trying to, I’ve had recommendations that we should close the canyon to climbing. We are not looking at doing that, we are just trying to work with the climbing community, work with the climbing coalition (Bighorn Climbers’ Coalition) and the Access Fund (Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment) to make sure that we are all on the same page moving forward. It’s really a cooperative effort.”

 
 

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