ACT NOW: Bitterroot National Forest Bans New Bolts

FEB. 28, 2020—BREAKING: Thanks in large part to an overwhelming response from the climbing community, Bitterroot National Forest has revised their prior order. The new Order provides allowances for safety and bolt replacement but there are still significant problems with the policy. We'll update the community more after we complete our analysis with WMTCC.

READ THE NEW ORDER HERE. Stay tuned for more news on this issue from Access Fund. 

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We need climbers across the country to mobilize on a national-level threat. In an unprecedented move, Bitterroot National Forest in Montana banned new bolts and first ascents earlier this month, without any public process or opportunity to comment. 

Climbing in Bitterroot National Forest, ancestral lands of Ktunaxa amakis, Photo courtesy of © Damien Powledge

An estimated 30 percent of America’s climbing is on U.S. Forest Service land, and this unsubstantiated ban sets a dangerous precedent for climbing in national forests all across the country—areas like Rumney, Linville Gorge, Jackson Falls, Cochise Stronghold, Maple Canyon, Boulder Canyon, Needles (California), and so many others. 

The ban was issued as an official order by Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson, and it declares all new route development (first ascents) after the date of the order illegal. The order does not include any allowances for emergencies, fixed anchors that protect natural resources, bolt replacement, first ascents with no fixed hardware, hand-drilled fixed anchors on new routes in Wilderness, or slings for descent. Of further concern, the Supervisor’s Order "reminds" climbers that new fixed anchors are banned—incorrectly implying that fixed anchors were illegal in the past. This implication is at odds with well-established U.S. Forest Service plans across the country, which acknowledge fixed anchors as critical tools for climbing.

“We haven’t seen a U.S. Forest Service decision as egregious and far-reaching as this in 25 years,” says Access Fund Policy Director Erik Murdock. “This Supervisor’s Order overrides a successful, existing agreement between the climbing community and the forest, ignores any public process, and sets a dangerous precedent for all national forests.” 

Access Fund is working with Western Montana Climbers Coalition (WMTCC) to push back on this unsubstantiated ban and remind Bitterroot National Forest that fixed anchors are legal in national forests. Perhaps more importantly, we’ll be reminding the supervisor that a significant management decision like this, on our public lands, deserves public process and science-based decision-making. Learn more about this issue and past work with Bitterroot National Forest.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Thanks in large part to an overwhelming response from the climbing community, Bitterroot National Forest has revised their prior order. The new Order provides allowances for safety and bolt replacement but there are still significant problems with the policy. We'll update the community more and recommend further actions after we complete our analysis with WMTCC.

READ THE NEW ORDER HERE. Stay tuned for more news on this issue from Access Fund.