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Devils Tower in June – 22 years after the voluntary June closure started – What do people think now?


Original Post
Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153

You might ask yourself… that old issue? Haven’t we hashed and re-hashed this topic to death in previous threads. Does this issue even matter anymore?

The answer is… YES – the issue is still as relevant and current as it was 22 years ago. Yes, it has been talked about on the forums. I started this thread because there is a lot of inaccurate information out there and the issue still needs to be talked about because the numbers of climbers in June HAVE been increasing throughout the years. The bottom line is if climbers continue to be unable to self-regulate, the Climbing Management Plan (CMP) requires the National Park Service (NPS) to consider more restrictive mitigations.

Here are some of the FACTS:

22 years ago Devils Tower National Monument finalized a climbing management plan (CMP) that hinged around a voluntary climbing closure in June. This voluntary closure was a compromise that was reached by a work group that included American Indian and climbing community representatives. The NPS is required by the climbing management plan to monitor the number of climbers in June, and address any proportional increase in June climbing by taking steps to keep June climbing numbers low. The first and simplest step is through outreach and education, thus this message and conversation.

Climber’s compliance with the June closure ensures that climbers continue to enjoy a largely self-regulatory climbing environment at the Tower. If June climbing numbers continue to increase, proportionally, the National Park Service is required to consider more restrictive mitigations if necessary. Per the CMP, the definition of success with the voluntary June closure is:

SUCCESSFUL

  • A FULLY successful voluntary closure is that no climbers choose to climb in June.

  • Any year in which the number of June climbers decreases compared to the previous year is considered successful (proportionally).

    UNSUCCESSFUL

  • Any year in which there is no change or an increase in June climbers is considered unsuccessful. 

    In short, the National Park Service and Devils Tower needs your help to keep things in balance. It is the climbing community’s responsibility to uphold their end of the agreement embodied in the CMP. You can help do this by talking to your friends about the issue, writing your thoughts, comments, and questions here on this forum, and most importantly not climbing in June and not encouraging others to climb in June.

    I am happy to answer any questions that you have about the reasons for the voluntary closure, and I encourage open discussion on the issue. You can also visit the NPS website for more information:

    https://www.nps.gov/deto/planyourvisit/climbing.htm#CP_JUMP_5320589

    Lucas Barth

    Devils Tower Climbing Ranger

Chris treggE · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2007 · Points: 9,315

What are the trends? How many climbed in June, say, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and the last couple years? A graph would be ideal. How do these numbers compare to other summer months? Thanks. 

Bruce Hildenbrand · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2003 · Points: 945

I don't climb at the Tower in June, but I do have a real problem with the closure.  The affected region is the area above the paved trail which circumvents the rock.  This means that the only user group affected by the ban is climbers.  Every other user of Devil's Tower is unaffected.  That just doesn't seem right to me.

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 410
Bruce Hildenbrand wrote:

I don't climb at the Tower in June, but I do have a real problem with the closure.  The affected region is the area above the paved trail which circumvents the rock.  This means that the only user group affected by the ban is climbers.  Every other user of Devil's Tower is unaffected.  That just doesn't seem right to m

Are you asking why isn't it off limits to walkers? 

 I also choose no to climb in June; merely walking around the Tower on can see that it is sacred to many. 


James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,047

Lucas,

Are the numbers adjusted to account for what I am assuming is an overall increase in the popularity of climbing the Tower in all months? Specifically, does the NPS measure the percent of the total that take place in June, or just the outright number of June climbers? I would assume that the Tower sees more ascents now than 22 years ago, and that the NPS would (maybe should) consider the ban to be at least mildly successful if the percent of climbs in June is shrinking, even if the total might be growing slightly. In the end, for me it's just intellectual curiosity. I think we should all be respectful of the place and everyone that finds it sacred.

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

This has nothing to do with treating user groups equally. Are we 12?  Climbers are really the only ones that tend to use sheer rock faces for the most part on this planet.  And it just so happens that this is the area considered to be sacred.  

Saying that the numbers have only increased slightly despite the climber community growing immensely is another red herring.    That would be like saying that since there are more climbers now we should allow some to violate the bird closures that take place every year.   Yet, the bird closures have been quite successful and are seldomly violated. Is that because climbers are concerned about the bird populations or that they might receive a fine? I'm inclined to think the latter. 

 Is it really that hard to find other routes in other areas for only four weeks of the year  considering there are  like 1 million on this planet  The Native Americans have had so much taken away from them over the last two centuries. Is it really that hard to allow them to have a sacred area for a few weeks out of the year?   How selfish can climbers be? 

Greg D · · Here · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 871

To the OP, I would really like to hear from natives. Some climbers have posted on the Internet that they don't really care about the closure? I don't believe that's true. But what is the Native American community saying right now. 

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175

if the ban is important (im not saying is or isnt, but if it is), why dont they just make it mandatory? 

should people consider how their actions affect others? yes. do most people? no. and no amount of education will change that.

Andy Novak · · Golden, Co · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 355
Jake wander wrote:

if the ban is important (im not saying is or isnt, but if it is), why dont they just make it mandatory? 

Because the NPS THOUGHT that we as climbers could police ourselves and that we would be respectful of the closure without instituting mandatory rules. They were wrong. I say make it mandatory.   

Leslie McG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 410
Greg D wrote:

This has nothing to do with treating user groups equally. Are we 12?  Climbers are really the only ones that tend to use sheer rock faces for the most part on this planet.  And it just so happens that this is the area considered to be sacred.  

Saying that the numbers have only increased slightly despite the climber community growing immensely is another red herring.    That would be like saying that since there are more climbers now we should allow some to violate the bird closures that take place every year.   Yet, the bird closures have been quite successful and our seldomly violated. Is that because climbers are concerned about the bird populations or that they might receive a fine? I'm inclined to think the latter. 

 Is it really that hard to find other routes in other areas for only four weeks of the year  considering there are  like 1 million on this planet  The Native Americans have had so much taken away from them over the last two centuries. Is it really that hard to allow them to have a sacred area for a few weeks out of the year?   How selfish can climbers be? 

Very well said! 

Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153
Chris treggE wrote:

What are the trends? How many climbed in June, say, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and the last couple years? A graph would be ideal. How do these numbers compare to other summer months? Thanks. 

This above graph shows June climbers as a percentage of annual climbers. 1995 was the first year the climbing management plan took effect. As you can see numbers of climbers in June as a percentage of annual climbers have been rising. In the below graph you can see that total numbers of climbers visiting Devils Tower has been hovering around between 4,000 - 6,000, with a small decrease overall. 

Total # of Climbers

Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153
Bruce Hildenbrand wrote:

I don't climb at the Tower in June, but I do have a real problem with the closure.  The affected region is the area above the paved trail which circumvents the rock.  This means that the only user group affected by the ban is climbers.  Every other user of Devil's Tower is unaffected.  That just doesn't seem right to me.

Many other users besides climbers are affected. You are correct that the affected region is above the paved trail. Many people like to hike off trail and scramble/play in the boulders above the paved trail but not on the tower itself. Those users are also asked to voluntarily refrain from doing this during June.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175
Andy Novak wrote:

Because the NPS THOUGHT that we as climbers could police ourselves and that we would be respectful of the closure without instituting mandatory rules. They were wrong. I say make it mandatory.   

but why? whats the reason to not just make it mandatory? how is making something voluntary, then getting mad when people dont volunteer a good solution? i can see saying its voluntary, educating people on why it is respectful not to climb in june, then accepting that not everyone volunteers for any specific cause.

i say either make it mandatory or leave people alone about it.

just want to make it clear that ive never climbed the tower in june specifically due to the voluntary closure, so im not against. i just dont think the expectations are reasonable. 

Chris treggE · · Madison, WI · Joined May 2007 · Points: 9,315

Thanks Lucas!  The graphs are really nice to put this into better perspective than just saying "climbing in June is on the rise".  I'm surprised (as James alluded to in his post above) that the total number of climbers at the Tower isn't rising as well.  

Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153
Greg D wrote:

To the OP, I would really like to hear from natives. Some climbers have posted on the Internet that they don't really care about the closure? I don't believe that's true. But what is the Native American community saying right now. 

There are many tribes that have geographical, historical, and cultural connections to the Tower. I can't answer for them. Some native people care about the closure and some do not. Just like any user group, opinions are going to vary. The climbing management staff at Devils Tower is currently trying to engage the native american community in this conversation.. 

Andy Novak · · Golden, Co · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 355
Jake wander wrote:

but why? whats the reason to not just make it mandatory? how is making something voluntary, then getting mad when people dont volunteer a good solution? i can see saying its voluntary, educating people on why it is respectful not to climb in june, then accepting that not everyone volunteers for any specific cause.

i say either make it mandatory or leave people alone about it.

just want to make it clear that ive never climbed the tower in june specifically due to the voluntary closure, so im not against. i just dont think the expectations are reasonable. 

You don't think asking people to voluntarily abide by a rule is reasonable?  

James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,047
Greg D wrote:

Saying that the numbers have only increased slightly despite the climber community growing immensely is another red herring.    That would be like saying that since there are more climbers now we should allow some to violate the bird closures that take place every year.   Yet, the bird closures have been quite successful and our seldomly violated. Is that because climbers are concerned about the bird populations or that they might receive a fine? I'm inclined to think the latter. 

Greg D,

It might be a red herring if it was an argument and not a question (although I'd argue, especially given the data Lucas provided, that it's incredibly relevant since the percentage is actually increasing). No need to turn simple intellectual curiosity into an internet fight. Heaven forbid we'd withhold our opinions and judgement for more information. Of course this is the internet, so I guess you are operating correctly by assuming the worst and firing back as quickly as possible. Afterall, every interneteer worth his or her salt knows it's always better to interpret statements and questions in the least favorable way possible and refute them that way. This way the person you're attacking can reframe his or her comment more clearly, and you get the opportunity to repeat the process and attack them again and again. Thusly, we are all sufficiently entertained by the tubes and wires while not actually moving any closer to the truth or consensus. Bravo.

Lucas,

Thanks for posting the data. That's actually very interesting. Do you have a graph of the outright number of climbers in June too? Is that relatively constant (higher percentage of total, but lower totals) or is there outright growth in that number as well? I'm glad we're getting the data out there because I find it surprising.

Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153
Andy Novak wrote:

Because the NPS THOUGHT that we as climbers could police ourselves and that we would be respectful of the closure without instituting mandatory rules. They were wrong. I say make it mandatory.   

It wasn't the NPS that thought climbers could police themselves, it was the climbing community itself. The reason the closure is voluntary, not mandatory, is because the climbing community that was involved with the creation of the Climbing Management Plan, including local climbing organizations, and the Access Fund insisted that they could be self-regulatory. As I said in the OP, the community needs to step it up and keep their end of the bargain to avoid possible further restrictive measures.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175
Andy Novak wrote:

You don't think asking people to voluntarily abide by a rule is reasonable?  

i think it SHOULD be reasonable, but its not.

if something doesnt directly affect people, they generally dont care. i mean look at how many people are in prison. they are completely willing to break a law with severe consequences. 

telling people that they shouldnt do something cuz their actions will bother/disrespect people they will never meet SHOULD be enough to stop them, but it never will. people are selfish. 

im not saying the ideals here are bad, im just saying, its poor judgment to expect that much out of people. clearly.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 175
Lucas Barth wrote:

It wasn't the NPS that thought climbers could police themselves, it was the climbing community itself. The reason the closure is voluntary, not mandatory, is because the climbing community that was involved with the creation of the Climbing Management Plan, including local climbing organizations, and the Access Fund insisted that they could be self-regulatory. As I said in the OP, the community needs to step it up and keep their end of the bargain to avoid possible further restrictive measures.

but what would the further measures be? to say you CANT climb the tower during the timeframe you already SHOULDNT climb the tower? that seems like a great solution to this problem.

what would those of us who follow the ban be losing?

Lucas Barth · · Devils Tower, WY · Joined Aug 2008 · Points: 153

Their is growth in the raw June numbers as well. Generally, I think it gives a better idea of the increase in June climbers when you look at it as a percentage of annual climbers as in the graph I posted earlier.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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