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Cochise Stronghold & Wilderness Designation
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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
May 14, 2014

At the Draft Forest Plan public comment meetings a few months ago, the Coronado had not recommended any of these areas for wilderness in its Draft Plan. I don't know how many times wilderness designation has moved through either Congressional wing without prior USFS recommendation, but I'd guess that it doesn't happen too often. That means that the climbing community has a chance to affect the outcome of this portion of the plan.

This is an important thing to realize: wilderness is an act of Congress, not the Forest Service.

As a conservationist, I'd like to see the entire area recommended by Sky Island Alliance and AZ Wilderness Society set aside as wilderness. With the ever growing conversion of land and subsequent loss of habitat across the globe, wilderness designation may be one of the most effective conservation management decisions.

However, that action would limit bolt replacement to hand-drilling unless some sort of unprecedented power-drilling clause was worked into the wilderness bill; such an unprecedented move is highly unlikely. Everything changes, however, and this could *could* be an opportunity for that. But don't get your hopes up. Wilderness could also mean a change in access.

As a climber, I'd of course like the best of both worlds: no ban on power drilling for replacement of existing anchors, but no future threat of development, OHV intrusions, etc. either.

To me, the best compromise outcome for both the conservation and climbing communities would be a permanent designation as Backcountry Zone and/or Inventoried Roadless Area, one that encompasses all climbing and sensitive biotic zones. Of course both of these designations are subject to administrative whims, but with SACC organizing and becoming a permanent part of the regional management community, climbers can fight any roll-backs that may come along.

The likelihood of the Dragoons or other areas recommended by the conservation community becoming wilderness anytime soon seems remote, though.


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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 15, 2014
One Way Sunset

Andy,

Yes, I agree. In my view wilderness designation is possible, but not probable.

I think this is a "shot across S. Arizona climbers' bow."

Scott Mc


P.S.
Those of you who know me, if you are interested, remind me to tell you an embarrassing story about when I first heard the phrase "shot across the bow" and how I almost wound up in jail. My hands still sweat just remembering it.


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By cochiseclimbing
May 15, 2014
My favorite place

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! www.saccBeta.com

Here is the SACC boards "reach out" to their membership and all interested parties!


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By cochiseclimbing
May 15, 2014
My favorite place

After reading this, I am voting NO to wilderness designation.

There are no compromises with Wilderness designation. We see this all over the country. They do not recognize climbers anywhere in the proposed Wilderness plan as a valid user group. That is why the availability of the area is ranked high in the Forest Services assessment plan. They identified the only conflict of interest as being helicopter animal surveys.

We need them to recognize us as users that are being highly impacted. We need to point out the faults in their survey of the area. We need to show them numbers and a unified VOICE!

WILDERNESS DESIGNATION will not decrease or improve the management of the highest impact users such as OHVs (in the current status of Wild Backcountry they must stay on current roads), grazing, expansion of horse camps (these areas are not included in the proposed area map).

Look at what is going on in climbing around us! There are other ways to maintain and preserve the Stronghold without this designation. Ways that will not permanently change climbing as an activity in the area.

More time is needed to decide how Wilderness designation effect climbing in the future.

In talking with the Forest Service personally, they have suggested that even if a "proposed" label of wilderness designation gets placed on the Stronghold it will be managed for it's Wilderness Characteristics.

Does this mean even if it takes Congress 10 years to pass Wilderness status or reject it the rules of the law of prohibiting mechanized machinery will be enforced until that time?
THESE ARE QUESTIONS TO ASK SATURDAY. The Forest Service Planner could not answer these questions with certainty.

Changing the boundaries for the proposed wilderness area to include the current areas we use for climbing is not realistic. It chops up the managed areas too much. Thereby, increasing the management demand on the Forest Service. They will probably reject it and be a wasted vote.

I see that one climber is lobbying for Wilderness to reduce numbers in the Stronghold. This is in contradiction to what the Forest Service sees as the goal of Wilderness Designation. The Forest Service believes by making this area a Wilderness designation it will drive new traffic to the Stronghold and reduce pressure on existing Wilderness areas such as Mt Wrightson and Pusch Ridge.

We must learn all that we can without personal agenda before we change this beautiful place for future generations.


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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
May 15, 2014
Ooops...

Please make sure to read all the way to the bottom of SACC Facebook message linked to in the post by "cochiseclimbing" above.

The mechanism for voting is in the SECOND link provided in that message.

The first link has comprehensive background information on the problem at hand.


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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 15, 2014
One Way Sunset

Thank you Cochiseclimbing for your work and posting up!


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By cochiseclimbing
May 15, 2014
My favorite place

There is suggestion by some people on here that the ultimate result of designation change is remote.

Please read again where I wrote about speaking personally with a forest service planner. I was told that even if the Stronghold sat only as a proposed area in the Coronado Forest Service plan it will be managed in accordance with the laws applicable to protecting wilderness characteristics until Congress passes or turns down status change.

This is ambiguous. We need clarity because this really could mean this utopia we have in the Stronghold could end as soon as the end of the month. We may be at that precipice where we can no longer wait and see.


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By Angel Mangual
From Sierra Vista, AZ
May 15, 2014

It seems to me that another area that could be affected is the Dry with the Whetstone, Sierra Vista RD. Please correct me if I am wrong.


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By cochiseclimbing
May 15, 2014
My favorite place

The Whetstone does have a proposed area map for potential change to Wilderness designation.
www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3799731.pdf
Does this proposed boundary include the climbing areas?


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By I found your gear
May 15, 2014

Hey folks,

My name is Alex Brummer and I'm one of the current board members for SACC (my apologies for the non-descript handle, I made my account a while back with the singular goal of returning someone's gear). I'm posting simply to inform everyone that if they choose use the voting options provided on the SACC Facebook page then their votes will only count if they are current members of SACC. We can't really claim representation of the community outside of our membership. Alternatives for non-members who want have some input are: becoming a member of SACC and voting, attending the meeting as an individual, or contacting Yolynda Begay, Forest Planner, directly at yolyndabegay@fs.fed.us or (520) 388-8370.

As for Angel's comment above, I personally was under the impression that the Dry is just outside of the proposed boundary for the Whetstones. I've copied the link for the proposed wilderness area in the Whetstones below. Maybe someone with more experience in that area can comment on how close the boundary is to the Dry.

www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3799731.pdf


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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
May 15, 2014

I looked over some maps of the area near Dry with Rodd Mondt from Sky Island Alliance the other week, and we figured out that the Dry is well out of the proposed boundary that SIA and AWS are promoting (it looks like it's actually on BLM land). If this boundary is the same that the USFS is recommending is unclear, as I still haven't seen a good map of the USFS proposals, but if it is on BLM land, it doesn't matter at this point.


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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
May 15, 2014
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.

As a former local that has climbed a lot in Cochise...

I vote "Yes" for wilderness designation. Here are three thoughts to consider:

We all value wild spaces and conservation. Right? It is hypocritical to me to support wild spaces only if they do not intefere with what we love to do. If you believe that wilderness designations are generally a good idea, I think it is wrong to oppose this designation just because it impacts us this time, rather than someone else. If you support wilderness, do so even if it impacts your weekends.

Secondly, many wilderness areas allow the replacing of bolts and new ones that are hand drilled. I believe that our argument should be based on allowing the replacement of old anchors and allowing new hand-drilled ones, and not a blanket "no" to wilderness. Posts regarding "loss of climbing access in Cochise" are way exaggerated.

Thirdly, hand drilling only is a great way to encourage routes that are consistent with Cochise's historic route style.


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By Eric Sophiea
May 16, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

Great thoughts, everyone!

I tend to agree with Eric D and Andy Bennett. The preservation of wilderness is more important than my personal recreation. That said: there is a lot of wilderness that is not very "wild" due to the presence of cattle and constant air-traffic over it. My understanding is that "prior use" is often honored in wilderness designations (and that's why I have to camp in the middle of a herd of cows when I'm miles into the Pecos Wilderness).

So, it seems that the thing to focus on is getting climbing recognized as a valid use that is compatible with a wilderness environment. What can we do to affect that?

The really sad thing here is that the Forest Service is ignoring this group of users who are probably great stewards of the land and proponents of wilderness (and potentially causing them to become opposed to wilderness designation). Can we help them see the light and recognize climbers as allies in the preservation of wilderness?


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By Mike Diesen
From Sierra Vista, AZ
May 16, 2014

"It takes an act of congress to designate an area as wilderness". We have to really think about what this means. Just here me out. I'm really skeptical when it comes to the government. Trusting congress to designate and for agencies to mange wilderness is really not much different than selling it to a private interest. I know what you're thinking. "we're not giving it to the government. We're protecting it for public use." The problem is we really loose all say in how the land is used. It's not really about bolts or route maintenance. It's more about being at the mercy of some government agency who controls and "owns" the land (they used to call it royal lands). Think about a private land owner who allows an activity on his land. It's his land and he can change is mind whenever he wants. Maybe he'll start charging you for the use of his land. Or maybe he just decides he doesn't want you there anymore. Yes today it may sound like a good idea but who's to say 10 or 15 years from now the FS decides that people shouldn't be allowed in wilderness areas. Or what if one day a new official who doesn't agree climbing is a valid activity moves into a position of power. I know I'm being a bit of a devils advocate and maybe sound a bit nuts but I've seen so much of our freedoms trampled to death in the last 30 years that I have no reason to believe that wilderness designation would be beneficial to us, or anyone for that matter, in the long run. So I would say Absolutely not!


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By cochiseclimbing
May 16, 2014
My favorite place

The problem here is that we "as people that climb" have been out of the conversation with the Forest Service for too long. There have been individuals who have and I thank you. I was too stupid to realize I should have been too.

We should have been at the table 2 years ago when this conversation started. 5 years ago to meet the players and show them we are stewards of the land. 10 years ago…….

What would you say if the Forest Service asked where you have been? Why do you want to be part of the conversation now?
-Spending our selfish time climbing.
-Being too young to care and or too old to care
-I just learned about it

Mountain bikers became involved in the Forest Plan revision early on.

So we are where we are and what an we do from here?

There are hundreds of questions we have that need answers.

There is a wealth of skill and knowledge in our community that we need to help change this from today forward.

We need to wake up and realize that there will inevitably be more legislation, if not today but tomorrow, and what we do now is very important. Get your calendar out and note when the next SACC meeting is. BE THERE ON SATURDAY! Write a letter to have someone take for you on Saturday.

Because right now, we are trying to slam the brakes on a moving train by merely standing on the tracks.


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By Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
May 16, 2014
Big Boulder, just a bit downhill from Temple of Kali. Alabama Hills, CA.

No to Wilderness .... Look at the history of just what will go down if this happens. Climbers and others will loose out to the Federal Government.

I have seen it before......

WILDERNESS is not created with a stroke of a pen.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
May 16, 2014

FWIW- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was a Wilderness Study area for a decade before being declared Wilderness- and it was treated as Wilderness for the entire time it was a study area. That included a total ban on bolting (which is still in effect as the Wilderness Management Plan works its way through the process). Even bolt replacement was banned due to an EA that the BLM did for the ASCA expiring in 2004. Thankfully, we were able to change this administratively, but the USFS may not do the same thing the BLM did regarding that. Start the dialogue with them NOW on bolt and bolt replacement.

Even though RRCNCA was declared Wilderness years ago, the BLM never got around to creating the Wilderness Management Plan even though it should have when the designation was made. As a result, the Resource Management Plan (which effectively stopped time in terms of trails, bolts, etc) still governs how the BLM manages the RRCNCA. We're hoping to get a WMP in place sometime late this year- a full decade late. That means bolting will have been banned in Red Rock for almost 20 years by the time the WMP goes through.

Don't take the Wilderness thing lightly. I'm not saying it's a bad thing- I like the protection Red Rock has due to the Wilderness designation, but the consequences are high for all user groups and management and bolt replacement (no power drills, sorry!) is a minefield because of it. Especially considering no climbing area I know of is free of folks ignoring the Wilderness designation when it comes to bolting.

Good luck- Cochise is a rad place- hope it works out for you guys! Also, if any of the locals want to chat about wilderness re-bolting and how that works and what kinds of hurdles there might be, feel free to shoot me a message- i've been dealing with it for years here in Red Rock and other Southern Nevada Wilderness areas.


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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
May 16, 2014
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.

There is a lot of speculation here regarding what might or might not happen.

It may be worth getting Eric Murdoch involved and getting some facts about bolting policies in most wilderness areas. I don't think that there is enough information out there for people to have informed opinions.


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By Charles Vernon
From Tucson, AZ
May 16, 2014

Here's my rant if anyone cares:

My natural tendency is to want to support wilderness designation here--even if it means fewer bolts, fewer opportunities to climb, etc.

But, I am shocked to find myself leaning toward opposing wilderness designation. The bottom line for me as others have alluded to is that I just don't see any reason to trust federal agencies not to act in an arbitrary and capricious manner here, whether in writing policies and regulations, enforcing them, exercising their discretion and authority, or acting in anything approaching a timely manner. I have to grapple with the DOJ and DHS on a daily basis and have lost all faith in the feds acting in a reasonable manner. In terms of climbing, there are too many negative examples of knee-jerk reactions by federal agencies in these kind of situations. To name just a few:

  • Red Rocks, described by John Wilder above;
  • Arches and the Delicate Arch fiasco in 2006. Sure, what Dean Potter did was stupid, but the reaction to what ONE CLIMBER did was out of all proportion, especially given the tourist shit-show that Delicate Arch is on a near-daily basis. A complete ban on fixed anchors and even a ban on climbing were apparently in play although fortunately neither happened.
  • The Superstitions, as described in other posts. Obviously climbers bear some blame in all these situations but again, the way the federal agencies have handled them does not inspire me with any confidence.
  • etc. etc.

There's too much of a double-standard. The federal agencies can use power equipment to fix hikers' trails. I have seen the feds helicoptering mountain goats out of wilderness in Colorado so that they don't bother the sheep. On Pusch Ridge they kill mountain lions that eat the sheep. What kind of "wilderness" is that? Hell, the Pusch is not wilderness, there's a strip mall that you can practically spit on from the top of Table Mountain. Real wilderness in the lower 48 is the Gila, or the Wind Rivers, Kings Canyon/Sequioa, North Cascades, various parts of Montana, etc. Even something like Baboquivari or the Santa Teresas around here. Smaller/more developed areas like Cochise should still get protection though--what about permanent designation as a Wild Backcountry Zone? That isn't an option on SACC's poll.

Regardless of whether you think there are too many bolts in Cochise, those routes are there, and people enjoy them. It doesn't make any sense to have a bunch of useless bolts dotting the rock in 30 or 40 years. What kind of wilderness climbing experience would that be? No one is going to replace all those bolts by hand. No one is going to remove them either. At this point the area is what it is.

Bottom line: I believe we should make clear that, in general, climbers support wilderness and wild backcountry areas. But we won't do so at the expense of arbitrary, ill-conceived decisions that adversely affect or even outright prevent our enjoyment of such areas.


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By cochiseclimbing
May 16, 2014
My favorite place

Just to clarify the Stronghold is currently designated as Wild backcountry and Developed Recreation in the campgound area on the Eastside.

Eric Murdoch has been very active with SACC and is involved in guiding the conversation that will happen this weekend.

There are lots of discussions that need to happen, among climbers, with Forest Service, with other user groups, with mother nature.

BUT Shannon, Scott, Alex, Kate, and Emily cannot do it all by themselves. We are demanding alot of them right now. Who am I to now ask these 5 people to take on this immense task and correct years of inaction while lots of us just went climbing. Even now, people want to "just go climbing".

There have been people in the shadows who I am just learning about now. Again, thank you.

The stewardship committee has taken on the challenge. There were volunteers for the SACC social at the park. Thank you all!

The board is currently spending HOURS meeting multiple times a month for the SACC general, then the board, then with other agencies. But they all have full time jobs.

It took 20 hours of work for the SACC board to just write SACC's call to action. Then they need quorum. Then they need to process all of the feedback from all who respond.

Please join SACC and take on an area that interests you: peregrines, safety, policy, communications officer.

Or put together a talk for a SACC meeting so we can all learn about an area of interest.

Then we could clear up speculation, get more information, and present ourselves as a valid, knowledgeable user group instead of the front we have presented to the public on these forums for too long.

Anyone????


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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
May 16, 2014

I have climbed in the Stronghold for 20 plus years. With the way the Feds handle things, especially the examples cited by Charles Vernon, I would oppose wilderness designation for the area. I pay taxes towards the use & maintenance of the federal forests and from what I see here in AZ, the forests are so completely mismanaged in many ways...perfect example is the complete lack of fire management techniques which result in huge fires across the state. I guess I'm selfish, but if I'm paying taxes, I'd like to use the forests for things I enjoy doing. The forest service's goal is to regulate the average user out of the forests completely. I've had dealings with the feds in the USFS and they generally want to limit user access because they are often times some what lazy and this way the less users using the forests, the less work they need to do.

Want an example of poor USFS management, then just take a look at the filty pig stye that Fossil Springs has become. USFS has not done a thing to bring the area into some state of cleanliness. All they need to do is charge an access fee and dirt bags will stop going there. Also, here's an example of USFS over-reach: in Sedona the USFS will tell you verbally and with signage that you must have a Red Rocks Pass to park and hike/mtn bike etc, even though a federal court has ruled that they cannot charge someone just to hike and park. But if you ask any USFS in the area, they will tell you that you must pay. I just don't trust people who may lie to me to get some coins for the area.


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By cochiseclimbing
May 16, 2014
My favorite place

Another point of data collection that would be useful to future discussions would be to see a comparison of the amount of fixed hardware in the Stronghold compared to other areas of it's size.

Again, lets think twice about our public apperance, our language, and our behaviour on public forums such as this. Climbers are a well educated bunch, lets draw from our community and start changing so we can all keep doing what we love to do....."just go climbing".


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By accessfund-erik
May 16, 2014

It's good to see that folks are interested in this issue. After reading through the comments on this thread, there are a couple points that I would like to address. I am the policy director for the Access Fund and may have a slightly different perspective. I will not be able to attend the workshop due to other AF responsibilities. I plan to debrief with some of the attendees in order to help develop a strategy for moving forward. Remember, this type of advocacy has no end and the time to comment is 'early and often'. This has been a tough lesson in southern Arizona.

1. Designated wilderness prohibits the use of power drills. New bolts, drilled by hand, may or may not be allowed. Replacement may or may not be allowed (although it usually is). Sometimes bolting activities need some form of permit, sometimes not. It is difficult to predict which wilderness climbing management protocols the Coronado NF would adopt. It is also really important to note that the FS does not have an official national-level policy on wilderness climbing like the NPS policy:DO#41 . But it will. The FS has been developing a similar policy (FSM2320) that should be issued within the year. FSM2320 will outline the general guidelines for how the FS will manage climbing in designated wilderness areas.

2. We may be able to look at NPS wilderness climbing management (with regard to DO#41) to help predict how the FS could manage climbing in their wilderness areas. There are some good examples and some restrictive ones. North Cascades National Park and Lake Mead NRA are examples of really bad outcomes for climbers. This is not to say that Coronado NF would adopt such restrictive policy, but it is important to understand the potential risks of wilderness designation. The benefits are that the land is protected from a variety of impacts and will be protected, by law, in perpetuity.

3. If the Dragoons is proposed as a wilderness, the FS will manage the land as a 'land with wilderness characteristics' (LWC) regardless of whether it makes its way through the legislative process and Congress passes the bill into law. There are many incorrect assumptions about LWC. Land managers can choose how to manage LWC and do not have to manage the land to the standards of the Wilderness Act of 1964. LWC is not a Wilderness Study Area. A land manager may choose to manage the land as designated wilderness, but they may also choose to allow actions (like power drills for replacement) that are prohibited in designated wilderness. The risk associated with LWC is that the regulations are at the discretion of the land management. That discretion may also benefit the climbing community. If the Dragoons are proposed for wilderness designation in the final FS Plan, the climbing community needs to foster a strong relationship with the FS in order to allow the best chances for a fair and suitable policy on fixed anchors and power drills for replacing bolts.

4. One thing that has not been discussed on this thread is how all this will affect existing Coronado NF wilderness climbing areas and how the relationships (with wilderness advocates) that the climbing community builds, or destroys, will affect future climbing conditions at Mt. Lemmon etc. When the Coronado NF starts to develop their Wilderness Management Plan for existing wilderness, will climbing advocates remember the great relationship they have with the climbing community or will they remember something different and advocate against climbing? Will our behavior and actions now affect future climbing management elsewhere? If we support Dragoons wilderness, perhaps with a modified boundary, might wilderness advocates support less restrictive wilderness policy with respect to fixed anchors and other wilderness climbing management issues? Can we get the best outcome through well-developed diplomacy or does the climbing community need to be more aggressive? How will our advocacy approach today serve our future needs?

I agree with many of Charles Vernon's comments. We can not go back in time. We have an incredible climbing resource that also will need 1000's of bolts replaced in a few decades or else we will have a big problem. The FS needs to understand this conundrum and recognize the climbing community as successful stewards (note cleanups and falcon monitoring) instead of potentially thinking we are a bunch of reckless, anti-environment, maniacs. That is what the folk who are gracious enough to attend the Saturday meeting need to impart.

Regards,
Erik Murdock


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By bikesrockswaves
May 16, 2014

Posting my comments to SACC (via facebook then supplemented via e-mail). I'll note that some observations are addressed above. Thanks to Access Fund post and perspective in particular, and Scott, Scott, Geir, and others. One supplement to their comments: In this case, there isn't much time for development of better relationships before a recommendation is made, so there is certainly a lot of risk & uncertainty in all of the approaches, wherever management discretion gets involved, and with new USFS climbing policies pending.

---
Scott, Geir,

I just had a very pleasant, informative, and constructive 45-60 minute conversation with Yolanda Begay at USFS regarding the Dragoons PWA, the process, and the options available. Below is what I just posted on the SACC Facebook page. It was long for fb, but probably a decent amount of nuance and context missing that I would be happy to share if you would like to speak to me directly.

I think the key thing is bringing solutions -- as well as consideration as to what those might be, including perhaps requesting a slightly less restrictive designation -- such as "Managed for Wilderness Characteristics" or "Wild Backcountry". We need to learn a little more about, but she described them for me, and these might provide desired protections without the rigidity of a congressional designation. This would balance a number of climbers' concerns about getting protection vs challenging restrictions. I think it is also worth noting that it sounds like these designations often take a long time -- as well as congressional advocates (and Arizona is somewhat lacking in such environmental advocates) -- and so there may be a natural window for the maintenance of anchors which results, alleviating a big concern we all have about old anchors; apparently Mt. Graham has been on the recommended list for 20+ years. (Future anchors is a different question.)

Some key notes, options, and ideas:

- Alt designations, as a tool: "Managed for Wilderness Characteristics" or "Wild Backcountry"
- How to manage the hundreds of formations with a map "polygon" change is a complicated issue
- Could we request something like: "Wilderness Designation, excepting that above [20'] in height on rock formations [larger than 100' in width or height] will be 'Managed for Wilderness Characteristics'?
- Requesting that the current USFS plans and docs submitted, evolved, etc, document these concepts & facts:
a) recognize climbing and climbers as a long historied, minimal impact primary user and steward of the area.
b) climbing use includes a history of fixed anchors, which historically have been minimal, due to abundance of natural anchors. (Which shall be preserved and maintained.)
(Trying to think of ways to document a history in the process and deflect future risks of regulations, under whatever designation. It may be worth, if proposing future guidelines and regulatory approaches, to propose that the future guidelines (not rules) are for
- It may be that a formal agreement can be reach such that SACC is the supporting group helping govern, influence, maintain anchors and consideration of future actions. (Probably best to lay a foundation soon establishing SACC (or other?) as their public partner re: climbing in that Ranger district, so that are present and influential if those less desirable conversation later occur.)
- Probably another 10-20 years before next plan revision, but all USFS plan revisions will mandate a review of potential wilderness areas (so this will come up again, but it will be a while.)

- Their action will occur with the finalization of the larger Coronado plan in the next (roughly) 30 days. It will be a recommendation, not a decision.

Will shoot other notes or ideas out, but feel to reach out.

----
What I posted on SACC FB site:

"Howdy all. I just spent a very constructive, positive hour on the phone w/ Yolynda Begay at USFS regarding Dragoons PWA, the meeting tomorrow, and the process at hand. Fundamentally, I presented that many climbers have a conflicted relationship with the proposal, due to desire to protect a cherished resource vs anchor-related concerns (which I elucidated for her) and were concerned by minimal recognition of climbers & climbing resources in the USFS materials.

In short, with the public comment period closed on the larger plan, they have ~30 days in which to recommend (or not) some/all of SIX add'l areas for wilderness status. This will be the public process for that (all 6). Dragoons is on the list due to very high volume of requests for consideration; would have perhaps barely been excluded on other merits.

They sound open to alternative solutions and she repeatedly requested that ideas are brought and I flushed out some new potential approaches as well as considerations with approaches (given the numerous formations and terrain complexity). Solutions might include: reductions of the proposed map polygon; alternate and desirable protective designations, such as "Managed for Wilderness Characteristics" and "Wild Backcountry"; perhaps even other creative ideas, like perhaps above-20' on rock face treated different or requesting a designation earliest-date to allow for anchor maint. & upgrades). *Note: She mentioned that the 'Super' had internally commented on openness to tweaking the map and that this was somewhat unprecedented; this is a positive indicator. She also mentioned positive dynamics and recent history with 3rd parties to work together on trail maintenance, issue monitoring, etc -- and that the new Douglas district Ranger is dynamic, great to work with, etc, and we should reach out. On the flip side, it seems clear that knowledge of the climbing presence there (at least at Tucson office) was minimal.

The meeting format will be SHORT (15-20 minutes per area), BUT they will have envelopes in which you can leave written comments. Please consider bringing or drafting written thoughts there for deposit as no other formal comment vehicle.

Thanks SACC for heads up & great info."


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By cochiseclimbing
May 16, 2014
My favorite place

Even if you are just new to climbing or don't think you have anything to add. Please still come Saturday.

The Access Fund has recommend that the more people we can get there the better. Ask questions, just show you care. What ever we do, lets do it together!

Can we get an idea of who will be going?


1)Scott (SACC representative)
2)Alex Brummer (SACC representative)
3)Me

I am confused by the previous post about the conversations with Ms. Begay at the Forest Service. She has informed others that the designation of the Stronghold was already Wild Backcountry. Do we need the Forest Service to clarify the status?

Please see Eric's post regarding what it can mean when an area is "managed for Wilderness Characteristics":
"FS will manage the land as a 'land with wilderness characteristics' (LWC) regardless of whether it makes its way through the legislative process and Congress passes the bill into law. There are many incorrect assumptions about LWC. Land managers can choose how to manage LWC and do not have to manage the land to the standards of the Wilderness Act of 1964. LWC is not a Wilderness Study Area. A land manager may choose to manage the land as designated wilderness, but they may also choose to allow actions (like power drills for replacement) that are prohibited in designated wilderness. The risk associated with LWC is that the regulations are at the discretion of the land management. That discretion may also benefit the climbing community. If the Dragoons are proposed for wilderness designation in the final FS Plan, the climbing community needs to foster a strong relationship with the FS in order to allow the best chances for a fair and suitable policy on fixed anchors and power drills for replacing bolts. "

This designation is a wild card.

Changing boundaries will change the Forest Services ability to manage the area. If you look at the map, excluding the Rockfellows to WhaleDome would completely divide the proposed area which would then have it not meet the area needed for Wilderness designation.

This option and the negotiation of power drills would be setting a HUGE precedence in Forest Service management. I guess all of the "no faith in government" people and I don't really see that happening.

We need the Stronghold to stay as Wild Backcountry…at least until we have a fair chance of understanding what other options mean.


FLAG


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