National Park Service Releases New Wilderness Policy on Climbing Fixed Anchors

01/11/2011

Date: 1/11/2011

After years of anticipation and direct advocacy by the Access Fund, the National Park Service has released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies in order to provide accountability, consistency, and continuity in its wilderness stewardship program. The update covers a wide range of topics including the long-waited-for provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including as Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy.

The proposed policy acknowledges that climbing is a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness and that each park with significant wilderness climbing activities must prepare a climbing management plan. However, the policy calls for climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur.

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park’s climbing management plan.

The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand-placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most parks currently require no such prior-approval. The public will have 60 days to comment on this proposed policy revision. The Access Fund is currently analyzing the policy and working on an advocacy strategy. Stay tuned to Access Fund E-news for our position statement and an action alert for climber comments.