FUTURE OF FIXED ANCHORS II CONFERENCE
Check out this video of SLCA Chair, Mason Baker, speaking about the Risk Management for Climbing Anchor Replacement at the Future of Fixed Anchors Conference II hosted by the Access Fund.
GRIT MILL & CLIMBING MASTER PLAN PROJECT
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
September 16, 2015
Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) has been an invaluable resource to Utah recreationists and specifically rock climbers for over fifty years. With population growth, ever-increasing participation in rock climbing, and no formal trail network or historic maintenance, this area is being negatively impacted by recreational use. Numerous social trails follow direct fall lines, increasing soil run-off, degrading habitat and impacting the Salt Lake City watershed. Recreationists can become disoriented on the informal paths, putting them in potentially dangerous terrain. Search and Rescue operations are hindered by the lack of a formal trail system. Lower LCC is the entrance to world-class recreation opportunities within minutes of Salt Lake City and visitors should be greeted with a world-class trail network and supporting facilities. The Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project will enhance recreational experience as well as conserve the health of the Salt Lake City watershed. This project will be a model for a successful public/private partnership and a stepping-stone for future trail connectivity in LCC.
It is the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance’s (SLCA) intent to create a sustainable and well-managed loop trail for multi-user recreationalists, and to stabilize existing climbing access trails and climbing staging areas. Total project cost is $120,000 and support from the SLCA, Salt Lake Ranger District, Mountain Accord, Salt Lake County, and Trails Utah will match Recreational Trail Program funds. This project has successfully undergone the National Environmental Protection Act analysis, has a Decision Notice, and is in its implementation phase.
The Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project is the first significant climbing trail network with Forest Service support and involvement of its kind in the Wasatch and the nation. It will preserve access to LCC climbing and set a precedent for climbing access trails recognized by the Forest Service for continued maintenance and protection. This project will be a stepping stone towards a Wasatch Climbing Trail Crew, a Climbing Management Plan and a Climbing Ranger for the Uinta-Wasatch-Chache National Forest. With the population along the Wasatch Front expected to double in the next fifty years and the visitation numbers of the Wasatch equaling more than all five Utah National Parks combined each year, we need to act now to protect this area.
The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance is Utah’s leading voice for climbing access and stewardship: uniting, educating, and inspiring climbers of all disciplines to serve their local climbing community since 2002. This has been a desired project by SLCA membership for over twenty years and we are excited to see it to its completion.
April 30, 2015
Mountain Accord Executive Committee:
The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on “The Proposed Central Wasatch Blueprint” (Blueprint) offered by the Mountain Accord stakeholder process. From the SLCA’s perspective, the Blueprint marks a good starting point for this process. The SLCA offers the following comments and recommendations to help inform the Mountain Accord process as well as communicate with its members, the rock climbing community in the central Wasatch, and the general public who may be affected by implementing proposed actions arising out of this process as discussed in the Blueprint.
Background on the SLCA
Founded in 2002, the SLCA is a non-profit 501 (c) organization that exists to provide a unified voice for climbers in the Wasatch and surrounding regions through advocacy, stewardship, community, and education. The SLCA’s members have actively used the area that will be affected by the Blueprint, and will continue to do so in the future. For many SLCA members, climbing in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons is a weekly, if not daily ritual. Please visit SaltLakeClimbers.org for more information.
Below the SLCA identifies its support for certain concepts being considered through the Mountain Accord process. This section is followed by a list of concerns that the SLCA has with certain concepts being explored in this stakeholder process. In each section, the SLCA offers specific recommendations on how the Mountain Accord process might further examine these issues to ensure that the public, and in particular the climbing community, receives adequate information to contribute to the Mountain Accord process as well as future proposed actions that emerge out of the Mountain Accord process. The last section offers general recommendations on how the Mountain Accord process should consider proceeding to best engage the public to garner public support recognizing that all stakeholders will have to compromise to balance competing interests for this treasured area covered by the Blueprint.
Concepts Supported by the SLCA:
- Federal Land Designations: The SLCA supports a federal land designation being passed by Congress that identifies the recreational value of rock climbing within Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons to ensure preservation and enhance climbing areas and the surrounding environments. Any such legislation will need to be carefully crafted to maximize the ability of climbing maintenance activities to occur to ensure proper future management of climbing resources. The SLCA supports such legislation as a means to end future potential for ski area expansion disputes.
- Mass Transit Solution: The SLCA recognizes that a mass transit system and trail network systems will cost a great deal of money and supports Mountain Accord seeking federal funding to implement these systems through federal legislation.
- Land Swaps: The SLCA works with land managers and private landowners to protect access to climbing areas, and we support the Mountain Accord process to examine and carry out land swaps to better ensure access to climbing that is on private land. The Gate Buttress owned by the LDS Church in Little Cottonwood Canyon is one property the SLCA recommends Mountain Accord Cottonwood Canyon Taskforce explore for a land swap.
- Trail Connectivity: The SLCA promotes better climbers’ access trails, therefore we are excited about the inclusion of a trail connectivity component in Mountain Accord. Mountain Accord has the opportunity to help establish additional sections of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, make improvements to the Great Western trail, and support much needed maintenance of existing trail systems as well as shovel-ready projects in need of funding for implementation. We support the establishment of the multi-user “Wasatch Traverse” concept if stakeholders, land owners, and the USFS can agree upon an appropriate alignment in upper Little and Big Cottonwood canyons.
- SLCA Recommendation: Specific to climbing resources, the SLCA looks to stabilize climbing access trails and staging areas in the Central Wasatch and in particular at climbing areas that are adjacent to proposed and existing designated trails. The SLCA also supports the establishment and maintenance of canyon length, multiple user trail systems in Parleys, Big Cottonwood, and Little Cottonwood canyons as integral to connectivity with potential, future transit.
- Grit Mill as a ‘Shovel Ready’ Mountain Accord Project: Lower Little Cottonwood Canyon is a heavily used recreation node that has been virtually ignored by Mountain Accord. As a treasured climbing and hiking resource and the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon, this area has been neglected for many years. The SLCA is encouraged by Mountain Accord’s support for the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project. This project is “shovel ready” because it has undergone National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a record of decision has been issued by the U.S. Forest Service. This multi-use loop trail with adjoining climber access trails contemplated under the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project will set the precedent for better climbing access trails and better overall trail connectivity throughout the Wasatch. Directly across the highway, this part of the stream and Little Cottonwood Canyon trail corridor is the epicenter of vandalism in the canyon. Hydroelectric and utility infrastructure in this area further complicates matters.
- SLCA Recommendation: The Mountain Accord process should continue support of implementing the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project and additionally focus on developing a master plan to ensure recreational uses in these areas are compatible with this privately and publicly owned infrastructure.
- Imposition of Fee Structure: The SLCA recognizes the need for funding to maintain and develop recreation areas in the Wasatch and is open to fees that directly support and improve recreational sites within the canyons. While the SLCA recognizes the environmental impact caused by motor vehicle use and in particular the impacts to the air-shed, such restrictions without adequate assurances on the location of public transit stops in close proximity to key climbing areas in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons is not an acceptable approach for the SLCA.
- SLCA Recommendation: The SLCA will participate in further studying such a fee system and how it may be implemented to ensure access to dispersed climbing areas and the experience while at these areas in Big and Little Cottonwood is at the very least preserved or potentially enhanced by such a fee system. The SLCA will offer its knowledge of climbing areas in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons to develop a well-conceived parking plan in conjunction with mass-transit stops.
- Parking: The SLCA is interested in getting more cars off the canyon roads and is interested in mass transportation ideas that serve dispersed recreation users as well as the resorts. The SLCA sees opportunity for better trailhead parking throughout the canyons through the Mountain Accord process.
- Environmental Scorecard: The SLCA recognizes a need for an environmental monitoring system in the canyons and is in support of Mountain Accord’s efforts to create this promptly to advise future NEPA work.
Areas of Concern for the SLCA:
- Watershed Impacts: Impacts to the watershed from new infrastructure for mass transit are unknown and will need to be better understood prior to implementing proposed actions.
- SLCA Recommendation: The environmental scorecard should focus on creating a baseline understanding of existing watershed conditions. A desired future watershed condition should be identified.
- Ski Area Expansion: The SLCA is concerned about future ski area expansion and the cumulative effects of such expansions on the environment.
- SLCA Recommendation: The ski areas should clarify expansion desires, such as Snowbird’s expansion desires into American Fork Canyon. Additionally, this potential ski area expansion should also be addressed in the American Fork Vision Process that is currently underway.
- Mass Transit Impacts to Climbing Resources: The SLCA is very concerned about potential transportation solutions that may negatively impact existing climbing resources and in particular bouldering areas located in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon. Lower Little Cottonwood Canyon hosts some of the most heralded bouldering in all of America, and these boulders are accessed by SLCA members throughout the year. This high pressure winter has resulted in bouldering occurring steadily through the winter months. At this very preliminary phase, the SLCA does not believe a “rail trail” alignment would be appropriate, because, based on our understanding, this alignment would cause the greatest impact to climbing as well as the environment by not taking advantage of the existing disturbance of the road that would be better utilized by a “side running rail” alignment. The SLCA would like to acknowledge and express its appreciation that Mountain Accord lead transportation engineer, Newel Jensen, promptly met with SLCA representatives for a field visit and was encouraged that most, if not all, boulders adjacent the highway would not be lost to potential, future expansion of the transportation corridor.
- SLCA Recommendation: The SLCA requests the transportation subgroup and Utah Transit Authority continue to reach out to the SLCA to discuss potential alignments so that the SLCA can best inform alignment decisions to eliminate or at the very least minimize impacts to rock climbing and in particular bouldering in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Further, the SLCA requests that Mountain Accord provides resources to assist in documenting all potential impacts to climbing resources in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
- Adaptive Management Approach to Future Proposed Actions/Cumulative Effects Considerations: Mountain Accord envisions a myriad of proposed actions, many of which are interrelated.
- SLCA Recommendation: Proposed actions arising out of the Mountain Accord process should analyze previously implemented actions to ascertain the cumulative effects of those actions as they relate to the intended purpose of a future action being proposed. Consequently, the Mountain Accord process should adopt an adaptive management approach that recognizes how certain proposed actions may not be warranted or perhaps need to be modified to account for certain actions that have already be implemented and are producing effects that dictate altering the course of future proposed actions. For example, a long-term mass transit solution will need to account for how recreation is managed in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon, and, specifically, how the implementation of the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project might affect siting for transit stops in this area of the canyon.
- Public/Private Support for the Salt Ranger District for the United States Forest Service: Having collaboratively worked with the Salt Lake Ranger District for a over decade, the SLCA is concerned with the massive amount of workload that the Salt Lake Ranger District will face to conduct NEPA for certain proposed actions arising out of Mountain Accord as well as implementing these actions once the necessary NEPA and regulatory decisions have been performed. The Wasatch Legacy Project (WLP) has been somewhat effective by leveraging a public/private partnership, but even if Mountain Accord generates much needed additional funding for WLP projects, Salt Lake Ranger District oversight and participation could come at the expense of existing workloads. The SLCA will continue to support maintenance efforts through volunteer efforts, but the SLCA and Salt Ranger District’s ability to support such maintenance will likely become strained if the large-scale programs envisioned by Mountain Accord come to fruition. Consequently, the Mountain Accord process should examine and provide recommendations on how potential proposed actions arising out of this process will be studied, implemented and maintained once implemented.
- SLCA Recommendation: The inclusion of a climbing ranger and climbing management plan as part of a greater trails plan for the Wasatch. Instituting a Climber Ranger in the Salt Lake Ranger District will help minimize some of the workload constraints already facing the Salt Lake Ranger District, which will only be heightened as the proposed actions discussed by Mountain Accord are implemented. The SLCA suggests a public/private funding arrangement for a Climbing Ranger for the Salt Lake Ranger District akin to the funding structure by the Utah Avalanche Center for the USFS Avalanche Forecaster should be a priority. The majority of the trails to climbing areas within these canyons do not qualify as USFS system trails, and a climbing management plan that takes a programmatic approach to dealing with these trails will likely allow for more efficient analysis in one NEPA document while best assessing the cumulative impacts of climbing in these two canyons. This approach will also provide clearer management directives for the Salt Lake Ranger District, which should improve its administrative efficiency in its management of climbing resources under its purview.
General Process Recommendations:
- Decision Tree Framework: The Blueprint identifies fourteen (14) proposed actions that may occur as next steps. It is unclear the timeframe for these actions occurring and how these actions will be undertaken. For example, there are many activities identified that appear to have a federal nexus to trigger an environmental analysis under the NEPA. The SLCA suggests that Mountain Accord develop a comprehensive schedule for completion of all these activities and relatedly, some type of NEPA strategy document that identifies when NEPA will be performed for certain activities and what federal agency will act as the lead agency. Laying this framework out in some type of ‘decision tree document’ will greatly improve the public’s understanding of how these actions may unfold.
- MOU as a Deliverable from the Cottonwood Canyons Task Force: The available information from Cottonwood Canyons Task Force states that the ski areas are willing to make exchanges of certain private parcels to the public domain in exchange for five enumerated benefits. (e.g., 416 acres in American Fork, additional water for snowmaking, etc.) It is unclear from this proposal whether this agreement between the ski areas and presumably, the United States Forest Service has been formalized in any way. While the SLCA recognizes that neither a private party, such as a ski area, or a public agency like the USFS could agree at this time to the proposed exchanges without going through the appropriate processes (NEPA, board approval by ski area companies, etc.), the SLCA is concerned that this process and negotiation be conducted as transparently as possible. To this end, the SLCA suggests that a MOU with suitable off-ramps may be appropriate to give this process the requisite transparency to engender public support.
The SLCA, again, would like to thank Mountain Accord for the opportunity to comment on its stakeholder process and its consideration of these comments. Lastly, the SLCA provides two maps depicting existing climbing areas in lower Little Cottonwood Canyon as well as proposed trail work to be performed as part of the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project for the benefit of the Mountain Accord process. If there are any questions in regards to these comments or the maps, please do not hesitate to contact us. The SLCA looks forward to continuing to actively participate in this stakeholder process.
SLCA Board of Directors
SLCA Policy Committee
Opportunities and Unknowns for Climbers
From brake and exhaust fumes from the many vehicles using Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon on a beautiful spring day to the traffic jams that a powder day generate in the Central Wasatch, it is clear to anyone who ventures into our backyard that these canyons are heavily used and need to be better managed – especially in light of projected population doubling.
Mountain Accord is a public process designed to do just that. The process has already brought together more than 20 organizations and nearly 200 stakeholders to create a Proposed Blueprint for the future that preserves the legacy of the Wasatch. Mountain Accord is our chance to maintain the precious balance that exists within the Wasatch. We have the opportunity to address problems facing us today and to plan our future. We need to take this opportunity seriously and continue to engage in this public process.
While the impacts to climbing from potential proposed actions identified in the Mountain Accord Proposed Blueprint will remain uncertain until site-specific environmental analyses are performed, the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance has identified several potential opportunities and benefits for climbers in the Mountain Accord Blueprint listed below. When thinking about the Mountain Accord process, we ask you to consider these opportunities and potential benefits, as well as the unknowns and please submit your comments to Mountain Accord by May 1st.
OPPORUNITITES & POTENTIAL BENEFITS
- Through Mountain Accord, we have the opportunity to be forward thinking regarding the predicted population doubling in the Wasatch and plan accordingly.
- Climbers have a seat at the table as a stakeholder in Mountain Accord and a voice in the planning process now and into the future.
- The SLCA aims to protect and enhance climbing areas and the surrounding environments. The Mountain Accord interest in federal land designations surrounding ski resorts will stop ski resort expansion and protect the Wasatch, permanently ending the battle over ski area expansion. The SLCA sees opportunity with a National Recreation Area or National Conservation Area federal land designation to protect climbing resources into the future.
- The SLCA recognizes that a mass transit system and trail network systems will cost a great deal of money and supports Mountain Accord seeking federal funding to implement these systems through federal legislation.
- Currently, the SLCA works with land managers and private landowners to protect access to climbing areas, and we support the Mountain Accord process to examine and carry out land swaps to better ensure access to climbing that is on private land. The Gate Buttress owned by the LDS Church in Little Cottonwood Canyon is one property the SLCA recommends for the Mountain Accord Cottonwood Canyon Taskforce to explore as a highly valuable recreation site.
- The SLCA promotes better climbers’ access trails, therefore we are excited about the inclusion of a trail connectivity component in Mountain Accord. We recommend the inclusion of a climbing ranger and climbing management plan as part of a greater trails plan for the Wasatch.
- Mountain Accord is interested in projects that are shovel-ready and the SLCA is encouraged by the support for the Grit Mill & Climbing Master Plan Project– this climber access trail network will set the precedent for better climbing access trails throughout the Wasatch.
- The SLCA recognizes the need for funding to maintain and develop recreation areas in the Wasatch and is open to fees that directly support and improve recreational sites within the canyons.
- The SLCA is interested in getting more cars off the canyon roads and is interested in mass transportation ideas that serve dispersed recreation users as well as the resorts. The SLCA sees opportunity for better trailhead parking throughout the canyons because of Mountain Accord.
- The SLCA recognizes a need for an environmental monitoring system in the canyons and is in support of Mountain Accord’s efforts to create this promptly to advise future National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) work.
- As a member of the Wasatch Legacy Project (WLP), the SLCA recognizes the need for a steering body for the Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back and recommends that Mountain Accord consider the WLP to fill this role.
- Impacts to the watershed from new infrastructure for mass transit
- Ski area interests in 416 acres in American Forkand how this will impact American Fork Canyon
- Mass transit with different possible routes in Little Cottonwood Canyon impacting climbing sites
- A wilderness federal land designation could prohibit the use of power drills for re-bolting work on routes and make working on trails prohibitive
Your input will shape what Mountain Accord proposes for the future of the Central Wasatch.
Salt Lake Climbers Alliance
SLCA Policy Committee Members
Mason Baker, Chair
February 27, 2015
BLM, Price Field Office
ATTN: Matt Blocker
Dear Matt Blocker,
The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) and the Access Fund (AF) appreciate the opportunity to comment on the public scoping notice for the Joe’s Valley Recreation and Bouldering Area Environmental Assessment by the Price Bureau of Land Management Office (BLM). As highlighted in the scoping letter, the BLM proposes to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate the impacts caused by recreation activities and to formulate potential future management alternatives for the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Area. This area is considered some of the best in the world. Its high concentration of boulders, impressive number of moderate and advanced climbs, relatively easy access and general casual feel attracts climbers from around the world. Joe’s Valley is a hugely popular area for college spring breaks, quick access from the Salt Lake and Front Range Regions and a frequent destination for those on long road trips. This intense use is increasing strain on the local resources; from extensive erosion at the base of boulders and approach paths, to human waste concerns in the local water supply, to campsite expansion and roadside safety concerns. The EA will need to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the accompanying Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations. With this in mind, the SLCA and AF support the process of conducting an Environmental Assessment and would like to highlight some specific issues on behalf of our membership that should be considered by the BLM and USFS as part of scoping this EA.
Background on the SLCA and AF
Founded in 2002, the SLCA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that works on assuring rock climbing access to climbing areas through advocacy and conservation efforts in the Wasatch. The SLCA’s members have actively used the area that will be affected by the proposed action, and will continue to do so in the future. For many SLCA members, climbing in Joe’s Valley is a weekly, if not daily ritual. Please visit SaltLakeClimbers.org for more info.
The AF is the national advocacy organization that keeps U.S. climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the AF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock, ice, mountaineering, and bouldering. The AF works closely with hundreds of local climbing organizations across the country, including the SLCA. To learn more, visit AccessFund.org.
Summary of the SLCA and AF’s Comments
The SLCA and AF’s comments on the proposed action for the Joe’s Valley Recreation and Bouldering Area Environmental Assessment can be broken down into three components: human waste, trail and staging areas, and camping/parking infrastructure.
The SLCA took initial steps in attempting to curtail the concerns of human waste in Joe’s Valley by installing two seasonal port-a-pots in the area. Since being placed seven years ago, these are now over run by visitor use and are costing the non-profit upwards of $2,500/yr. The SLCA and AF reached out to the BLM and the USFS to discuss options for a more sustainable human waste solution. The first step was identified as performing an area assessment, intended to record the current conditions of the recreation resources related to bouldering in Joe’s Valley. The final report, Joe’s Valley Bouldering Recreation Impact Assessment (http://www.saltlakeclimbers.org/resources/), was spearheaded by the SLCA, with funding support from AF, American Alpine Club, membership fees, and in-kind services. The SLCA and AF support that this process should provide strategically located and sufficient toilet facilities to create a healthy experience in Joe’s Valley in addition to protecting the local watershed.
Climbing Access Trails and Staging Area Development
The increased use in the Joe’s Valley area has created extensive erosion patterns at the base of boulders & approach paths, as indicated in the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Recreation Impact Assessment. We believe that creating sustainable and structurally sound use areas (pad platforms) and approach paths for climbing areas will provide longevity to the climbing resources and encourage continued use. We believe that the climbing community can, and should, be relied upon for much of the stewardship of this area, through volunteer Adopt a Crag events and similar initiatives. The SLCA and AF support improvements to the sustainability of the climbing resources throughout Joe’s Valley.
Camping & Parking
The SLCA & AF are supportive of creating camping opportunities that not only provide acceptable environmental and visitor protections, but provide a pleasurable and relaxed experience. Part of the appeal of Joe’s Valley is that the area has a feel of un-developed open space. Any camping and parking infrastructure modifications should be as minimal as possible (i.e., defined dispersed camp sites with marked parking and minimal development within the camp sites) in order to maintain this appeal of Joe’s Valley. If it is determined that some current locations are unsuitable for camping, it is crucial these be replaced with similar alternatives.
The SLCA and AF believe that if it is determined that use fees must be collected, these fees be specifically directed back to the resources at which they are collected (i.e., camping fees must cover the cost of toilet and facility maintenance). Rock climbers are important and regular visitors to the Joe’s Valley Recreation and Bouldering Area & Emery County areas; this consistent visitation provides economic opportunities within the local communities.
School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) and private lands exist in the Joe’s Valley area where people currently camp and recreate. It will be imperative that the BLM and USFS take into account these lands, their current and future management objectives.
The BLM and USFS must take into account present and potential future energy development, mining, and reclamation projects in the area. These activities may have an impact on future recreation use in the area. Any management alternatives must identify and acknowledge this potential, while addressing options to avoid conflicting impacts.
The SLCA and the AF would again like to express our gratitude to the Price BLM for taking the initiative conducting the public scoping notice and for being provided with the opportunity to comment on the public scoping notice. The completion of an EA can create tangible benefits to rock climbers, other recreation users, and SLCA and AF’s members use of the included area. The SLCA and AF respectfully request that the comments made in this letter are addressed through the EA process to better understand how to best manage the proposed area taking into consideration all the various factors (human waste, trails, camping, parking, etc.) discussed in this comment letter.
SLCA and AF Support
AF’s publication, Climbing Management: A Guide to Climbing Issues and the Development of a Climbing Management Plan and website ClimbingManagement.org, have both proven to be a useful tool for land managers across the country. The SLCA, AF, and local climbing community are ready, willing, and able to help the Price BLM develop and implement climbing management policies that protect resources and afford recreational access. In addition, some aspects of this planning initiative may qualify for AF Climbing Preservation Grant Program, American Alpine Club Cornerstone Grants, state Recreational Trail Program funding or assistance from the AF Conservation Team who help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States by assessing climbing area conservation needs, working with locals to address those needs, and providing training on planning and stewardship best practices to keep those areas healthy.
SLCA Comments to Mountain Accord – Phase One
How do we envision the Wasatch in forty years considering the projected growth of our population and many more of us living, working, and recreating in the mountains? Despite the balance we now enjoy, increasing pressures already threaten this tremendous natural resource. Do we fight for the status quo, and continue reacting to increasing use, development, and traffic, or can we work together through Mountain Accord to develop broader strategies that balance competing demands?
For the past several months the SLCA has been an active participant in the Mountain Accord, Recreation System Group representing the interests of the climbing community. Mountain Accord will advise future planning for transportation, the economy, environment, and recreation in the Wasatch. This is not just another planning process. The focus on the Central Wasatch, including not only the Wasatch front, but also the Wasatch back is unprecedented as is the support and representation amongst government, agencies, and stakeholders. Having participated in a number of prior planning efforts, we realize that Mountain Accord may be our generation’s best opportunity to implement a robust, long-term plan and corresponding infrastructure supporting transportation, access, and preservation in the Central Wasatch.
Despite this significance, public understanding and involvement has been underwhelming. Now is the time to pay attention and let your voice be heard. The comment period for the Draft Idealized Systems and Proposed Actions has been extended to November 20th, and a range of scenarios will be presented for further public review and comment at open houses December 2nd and 3rd. Please take some time to review the current presentations and reference materials available at mountainaccord.com and send in your comments.
Please also see the SLCA’s comments to Mountain Accord. Feedback is appreciated to help the SLCA refine our positions and better represent the climbing community. Send comments, questions, and concerns to SLCA Executive Director, Julia Geisler, at Julia@saltlakeclimbers.org.
Please note: the SLCA’s neutral position on some of these issues does not mean that we take “no stance” or don’t care. We feel that there is not enough information to make black and white decisions at this point in the process. As you will see in the comments, we have plenty of questions and concerns about the implications of taking a solid stance for or against some of these issues as they relate to climbing. We believe that this is an opportunity to work with those at the table for Mountain Accord and that means hearing out detailed plans and giving input where we are able in the process in order to continue to protect climbing.
Joe’s Valley Bouldering Area Recreation Site, Informal Trail, and Dispersed Campsite Impact Baseline Assessment
In 2013, a concerned Forest Service employee (who is also a climber), reached out to the SLCA and suggested that if we provided the two land agencies that manage Joe’s Valley – the BLM and the Forest Service – a baseline assessment of the current conditions around the boulders and on the trails, that this may help to be able to get some attention to the alarming erosion problem that is occurring. Joe’s Valley is in the watershed for Emery County causing the issues of erosion and human waste to be of great concern especially with the increase in numbers of climbers over the years. The SLCA followed through with the Forest Service employee’s tip and with help from the Access Fund, formed the Joe’s Valley Coalition. This Coalition is made up of employees from the BLM, FS, Governor’s Office, Emery County, SLCA, and the Access Fund.
The SLCA received two grants from the Access Fund and the American Alpine Club, contributed in-kind services, and its own resources in order to put together the Joe’s Valley Bouldering Area Recreation Site, Informal Trail, and Dispersed Campsite Impact Baseline Assessment. The SLCA would like to thank the authors, Jeff Porucznik, Jonathan Knight, and surveyor, Justin Wood for the countless hours they spent putting this assessment together. The SLCA hopes that this document will serve as a resource for future planning at other bouldering areas.
The assessment was presented to the Coalition this past Friday, October 24th, 2014 at the Emery County Courthouse. The land agencies were beyond impressed at the professional level of detail that the assessment provides. It has helped to raise the priority level for resources to be allocated to the bouldering areas at Joe’s Valley from low on the docket to high priority. The assessment will serve to advise an Environmental Assessment that the BLM has committed to conducting as the lead agency in collaboration with the Forest Service. Archeology studies have recently been conducted by the BLM and will be conducted by the Forest Service later this month. The climbing advocacy groups will be asked to bring matching funds to the table within the next year for implementation of more defined camping, vault toilets, and better trails and improved landing zones at the boulders. Please stay tuned for upcoming ways to donate your time and support. We will need funds and volunteers in order to continue to protect and enhance the world-class bouldering that is in Joe’s Valley.