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NMCRAG Meeting July 16th to Discuss Proposed Bolting Policy for Sandia Mountains
Submitted By: Monomaniac on Jul 13, 2010

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From Bryan Pletta:

"The NM Climbers' Resource and Advocacy Group (NM CRAG) will be holding its annual meeting to elect officers on Friday July 16th at Stone Age Climbing Gym at 6:30 pm. In addition to holding elections for new officers the main purpose of this meeting will be to discuss a proposal to the US Forest Service (USFS) regarding the management of fixed anchors in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness.

An incident occurred a few weeks ago in which several well meaning but misguided climbers were using a motorized drill to upgrade an existing anchor on the Ramp route on the Point in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. The use of battery powered hammer drills is illegal in Wilderness and these individuals are now facing federal charges. This incident was merely a trigger to a wider concern within the USFS regarding the use and management of fixed anchors in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. The Forest Service is aware of the level of new bolt intensive route activity going on the Sandia Mountains and is concerned not only about their suspicion of widespread power drill use but also of the number of new fixed anchors being installed without management oversight.

I had an initial meeting with the Francisco Valenzuela, USFS Southwest Region Director of Recreation, Heritage and Wilderness, last week and it is clear that the wheels have been set in motion on this issue and the days of climbers being able to self manage new route development are a thing of the past. The USFS is currently working on a national policy to manage fixed anchors in Wilderness which is expected to be about a three year process. The SW Region intends to develop an interim policy for the Sandia Mountains until the National direction is finalized. The good news is that they are actively seeking to work with us and want to develop a workable and enforceable policy. They are looking for NM CRAG to submit a proposal on how fixed anchors should be managed in the Sandias and we are hoping to have a draft policy to submit by the end of July. Please come to the meeting next week to submit your ideas and get involved in this important issue. Questions can be directed to Bryan Pletta at 681-6830."

Comments on NMCRAG Meeting July 16th to Discuss Proposed Bolting Policy for Sandia Mountains Add Comment
By J. Albers
From: Colorado
Jul 14, 2010
Thanks for posting this Mono.
By George Perkins
From: Los Alamos, NM
Jul 25, 2010
Any news from, or about, this meeting? or the next step forward?
(A number of us in Los Alamos are concerned with this issue but unable to drive to ABQ for this meeting..)
By Karl Kiser
Aug 8, 2010
NM CRAG announcement:

Please join us next Monday August 9th at 7:45 p.m. at Stone Age Climbing Gym for the third in a series of public meetings to discuss the climbing community's response to the US Forest Service proposal to manage fixed anchors in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. This critical issue not only affects our local climbing area but could set national precedent. Please attend and make your voice heard.

My comments (personal view, NOT a resolution of NM CRAG) follow:

Most concerns about bolting revolves around philosophical convictions rather than resource impacts related to the placement and use of such historic tools. Zealots, both individual and institutional, believe bolts to be inappropriate. And if the big W (federally designated wilderness) is involved then the issue of a ban comes to the forefront. A common outcome is either bolt chopping or official bolt prohibition. Such an outcome in the Sandia Mountains would be less than ideal.

The purpose of the NM CRAG meetings (16 & 30 July, 9 August scheduled) is to find a rational majority response of the climbing community to the concerns of the US Forest Service. I do hope the USFS is not considering a de jure (outright prohibition) or a de facto (an ineffective permit system) ban on fixed anchors in the Sandia Mountains. It is clear the USFS possesses the authority to make such a determination but the question is whether they should so determine at this time.

It is true that many climbing areas are managed via climbing management plans but such plans are usually a response to resource impacts ( a large number of visitors in a relatively small physical area) and require a significant commitment of resources. I question whether climber impact upon the Sandia Mountains has reached this threshold and whether the USFS desires to start such a NEPA process. Surely a prudent approach would be to acquire baseline information and educate the public about resource impact prior to any quick action.

Climbing in the Sandia Mountains does trend toward the traditional spectrum but I would hope there is a place for some variety of climbing styles. The resource impacts of Palomas (high density of short closely spaced climbs, large number of people, little parking, trash, dogs, poop etc.) would be less than appropriate in a wilderness setting. However there are many newer, within the last decade, mixed climbs in both Upper La Cueva and Echo Canyons of excellent quality. These mixed climbs require both gear and bolts to link physical features on good rock. The cracks which would take only removable gear simply do not exist on these climbs.

Climbers, both local and national, are encouraged to post constructive comments relating to the placement and use of fixed anchors in the Sandia Mountains.

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