Citizen coalition presents a Bitterroot climbing administration plan | Native Information


Ravalli Republic

Stakeholders for recreational rock climbing presented a climbing management plan designed by 16 local, regional and national citizen groups to the Bitterroot National Forest on Tuesday.

The Citizens’ Climbing Management Plan was developed during two years of meeting with climbers, BNF officials, and research into many other plans and climbing policies used by the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and by states and cities across the US, according to a Monday news release.

The plan includes an inventory of climbing routes, an authorization system to install permanent fixed anchors (climbing would not require authorization), a half-mile seasonal buffer around raptor nests, education outreach and protection of wilderness characteristics, cultural heritage, wildlife, and others resource values ​​to ensure the sustainability of climbing.

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Gary Milner, who worked on the plan, said the document is needed as the Bitterroot Valley and the sport of climbing grow.

“It is a proactive approach that protects natural and cultural resources and promotes sustainable climbing,” he said. “These policies and procedures, even if not enforceable, are a reflection on our community, values ​​and our priorities.”

Five people presented the citizens’ plan to Stevensville District Ranger Steve Brown, who has held monthly meetings since last summer with the climbing community and others on the effort. Some of the climbing issues include wildlife interactions, cultural and heritage resources, natural resources and recreation management.

“We’ve been getting input from a lot of folks and plan to take this next month to pull together a draft for a management plan,” Brown said. “Just at first glance it looks like much of the same information we’ve been meeting about but they’ve pulled it into a comprehensive document. They also asked that we include it separately as an alternative as we take it through NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and formally adopt it for the forest.”

The process is underground and has been for nearly two years, Brown said. He described NEPA as the public process for decision-making used on every project.

The Bitterroot National Forest is undertaking the development of a comprehensive climbing management plan with the purpose of promoting sustainable climbing activities into the future, forest spokesman Tod McKay said.

“The plan will seek to reduce conflicts, minimize impacts to resource values, and protect the unique climbing attributes found on the forest,” McKay said. “This is really very early in the process and there will be lots of opportunities for the public to share their feedback with us along the way.”

He recommended visiting the recreation and climbing tab at to learn more about the plan or to view climbing tips and recommendations.

The NEPA process takes time and provides many opportunities for public input, McKay said.

Milner said he appreciates the NEPA process, as public input is essential.

The organizations endorsing the plan include Wilderness Watch, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, WildEarth Guardians, Montana Peregrine Institute, Friends of the Bitterroot, Friends of the Clearwater, Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, Flathead Lolo Bitterroot Task Force, Native Ecosystems Council, Conservation Congress, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Sequoia Forest Keeper, Gallatin Yellowstone Wilderness Alliance, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Bozeman Broadband and Northwest Montana Great Old Broads for Wilderness Broadband, according to the news release.

Wilderness Watch Executive Director George Nickas said accepting the wilderness on its own terms is best for climbing.

“Modifying the wilderness to suit our personal demands not only is inappropriate and unlawful, but it also cheapens the climbing experience,” he said. “The Citizens Climbing Management Plan preserves the opportunity for an authentic wilderness experience and preserves the wilderness for humans and wildlife alike.”

Adam Rissien of WildEarth Guardians said the plan is essential.

“The (plan) will allow long-term enjoyment by the climbing community while also protecting sensitive habitat and important cliff-dwelling species,” he said. “Under this plan climbers can enjoy the vertical rock for recreation and still ensure the survival of specially adapted plants and wildlife on these same cliffs.”

Friends of the Bitterroot President Jim Miller said the organization is dedicated to preservation and climbing.

“FOB is dedicated to protecting our public lands’ natural and cultural resources, from peregrine falcons to ancient pictographs, while ensuring long-term climbing opportunities,” Miller said. “This (plan) achieves both and is a win-win.”

Montana Peregrine Institute Executive Director Jay Sumner said, “To protect our nesting Peregrine Falcons, it is essential that all managing agencies maintain at least a half-mile buffer zone restricting all activity around all active Peregrine Falcons nesting cliffs from March through July.”

Gallatin Wildlife Association President Clint Nagel said that at this time “outdoor enthusiasts want an uninhibited lifestyle.”

“But as more and more people venture out into the backcountry, it just places too much pressure on that resource, especially as it relates to wildlife and wilderness,” Nagel said. “If we allow that pressure to continue, we will lose the value that makes us want to venture and experience those places. We must have common sense and a sense of proportion as to what is acceptable.”

Linda Healow, Bozeman Broadband Great Old Broads for Wilderness, said “The Citizens Climbing Plan offers both ample recreational opportunity and protection for vulnerable areas including raptor nests in a well-researched, common sense and easily implemented proposal. We heartily encourage (Bitterroot National Forest ) to adopt the suggestions included in the plan.”