01/19/2009

Climbing Potentially at Risk at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma

Date: 1/20/2009

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a new conservation plan for the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, including a review of compatible land uses, and local climbers are making sure they have a voice in the process. The Wichitas, as they are commonly known, offer a unique wilderness climbing experience that is unmatched by any other area in the Midwest.

The Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition is working to ensure that the new plan will not adversely affect the long-standing tradition of rock climbing at this classic Oklahoma area. Once completed, the conservation plan will serve as a guide for managing the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for the next 15 years.

Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and James Inhofe (R-OK) have long supported climbing at the refuge, and both issued written responses to the Fish and Wildlife Service, stating their concerns about the compatibility review and their continued support of rock climbing in the refuge. For more details, see www.wichitamountains.org.

Local climbers went through a similar struggle in the early 90s and were successful in protecting the tradition of climbing in the Wichitas. Since that time, the climbers coalition has maintained a healthy working relationship with the refuge. But with the recent compatibility review process, and rumors that the refuge manager wants to ban climbing, local Oklahoma climbers have become concerned about the future of climbing in the Wichitas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service wants your comments by March 5. This is your opportunity to help identify issues and concerns for the Wichitas and to let land managers know you support continued rock climbing in the refuge. Your participation is critical to the preservation of climbing opportunities so that the Wichitas dont end up like the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, where climbing was banned last year through a similar planning process.

For details regarding how to submit your comments by March 5, 2009, see www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/oklahoma/wichitamountains/pdf_files....
A sample advocacy letter underscoring the compatibility of climbing on the refuge can be found here: www.accessfund.org/pdf/Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge.pdf