Tuesday, February 22, 2011

National Parks Clarify Climbing Policies

For climbers who frequent routes in the North Cascades National Park, or other favorites like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, new proposals may change how you climb within National Parks. The National Park Service recently released revised Wilderness Stewardship policies to guide Service-wide management of park wilderness areas, including specific requirements for how parks will manage climbing activities where ropes and fixed or removable anchors are used to support an ascent or descent, including rock climbing, snow and ice climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering and caving.
In a departure from its traditionally unclear stance on climbing, the Service’s new directive explicitly defines climbing as a legitimate use and offers guidance on issues like anchor placement. Recommendations from the document include:
"Clean climbing" techniques should be the norm in wilderness. This involves the use of temporary equipment and anchors that can be placed and removed without altering the environment (e.g. slings, cams, nuts, chocks, and stoppers).
Placement of fixed anchors does not violate the Wilderness Act, but the replacement, removal, or installation of fixed bolts must be authorized.
Parks with significant climbing use must develop climbing management plans. Strategies to control, or in some cases reduce, proliferation of fixed anchors in wilderness must be articulated in the plans. Climbing management planning will include public comment periods.
Motorized drilling will remained banned.
• The establishment of bolt-intensive face climbs, such as “sport climbs,” is considered incompatible
with wilderness preservation and management due to the concentration of human activity which they support, and the types and level of impacts associated with the development of such routes.

Washington climbers should make use of the public comment period to voice any concerns or questions about the draft by March 10, 2011. The Access Fund, a leader on climbing access issues, is analyzing this issue and soliciting climber feedback via a survey found on their homepage.

State Lands Access Fee Evolves

Washington legislators continue to craft proposals to keep state lands open and accessible for recreation despite the lack of general funds. At the heart of bills in the Senate (SB 5622) and the House (HB 1796) is a three-agency Discover Pass for vehicle access to State Parks, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) lands. The annual pass would cost $30 per vehicle or $10 for a day-pass. The Senate Bill 5622 recently moved out of the Natural Resources & Marine Waters committee with the following improvements:

  • Volunteers on state lands will receive a complimentary pass after 24 hours of service.
  • State Parks may establish up to 12 days a year when entry to parks is free.
  • Registered campers will not require a day pass or annual pass.
  • People purchasing hunting or fishing licenses can purchase a $7 vehicle access fee for activities exclusive to DFW lands.

Under the governor’s current budget proposal, general funds appropriated to State Parks will be cut by 2/3 in the next two-year biennium. The outlook for the 2013-15 biennium is a State Parks department entirely cut-off from general funds, and the prospects for access and recreation programs at DNR and DFW is equally dire. The need for user-generated funding has never been greater for agencies that manage state lands.

The Discover Pass strives to raise $71 million in the first two years. With the lion’s share of visitors, State Parks would receive 85% of funds generated by the Discover Pass, with the remaining 15% divided between DNR and DFW. While there are those who are skeptical that Washington can maintain state lands on user-generated funds alone, the pass is an important step in the right direction and offers an alternative to massive closures on state lands.

If you value the opportunities for recreation on our state lands, please take a minute to tell your legislators that you support the Discover Pass!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Planning Ahead for Washington's Wildlife

Ask a room of climate change researchers what Washington State will look like in the next 100 years and you will see dozens of different maps illustrating changing climate’s affect the natural world. Projections for climate change differ vary greatly depending on how each scientific model considers an array of factors. Maps of the future may show arid lands increasing or decreasing, forest types migrating east or west, and wildlife habitat and corridors expanding, contracting, or vanishing altogether. Only one thing seems certain about the future – change is coming.

In tandem with climate change, a growing demand for renewable energy makes its mark upon the landscape. Throughout Eastern Washington, rows of white wind turbines occupy the ridgelines and transmission lines stripe the terrain. As the pace of wind development increases, so does the urgency for planning ahead for connectivity and resiliency of wildlife habitats across the region.

Wildlife managers at the state and federal levels have the challenging job of anticipating a range of factors when planning for the future survival of fish, wildlife, and bird species in Washington State. Join the Conservation Division for “Planning Ahead for Washington’s Wildlife”, an evening lecture and discussion with two of the state’s leading wildlife managers February 18, 7-9:00 p.m. at The Mountaineers Program Center.

Rocky Beach, 32-year veteran of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, will discuss the impacts of climate change on Washington’s wildlife species and their habitat, as well as the possible strategies to address this daunting challenge at international, national, state and local levels.

William O. Vogel, Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will introduce landscape-level efforts to plan for the exploding wind energy market in Washington State. Vogel will explain how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is adapting to address concerns about wildlife and bird species by working cooperatively with land owners and project developers, as well as local agencies.