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Cochise Stronghold & Wilderness Designation
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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 9, 2014
One Way Sunset
Parts of the Stronghold are among the areas being considered for wilderness designation. Were this to occur, then there might be significant impact on climbing.

Climbers are not mentioned in the linked Dragoon report. Mountain bikers are metioned. They object based on the perceived impact.

Perhaps it behooves Stronghold fans to take a closer look?

Coronado National Forest Announces the Wilderness and Draft Land Management Plan Workshop


Thank you for your response during the comment period for the Coronado National Forest Draft Programmatic Land and Resource Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Public participation and input continues to be an integral component of the forest planning process. A number of comments we received expressed support for additional areas to be recommended for wilderness designation. There were also comments that indicated problems with additional wilderness areas. In order to come to a well informed decision regarding wilderness recommendations, we will host a workshop where interested parties can come together to discuss potential areas, and the pros and cons of wilderness designation in these areas

The workshop will focus on the following potential wilderness areas:



· Chiricahua Addition North, Douglas RD

· KuChish, Douglas RD

· Mt Graham WSA, Safford RD

· Whetstone, Sierra Vista RD

· Dragoon, Douglas RD

· Tumacocori, Nogales RD



The meeting will be held at the Udall Recreation Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road on May 17, 2014 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.. Information, reports and maps will posted to the following website: fs.usda.gov/detail/coronado/la...



For further information please contact Yolynda Begay, Forest Planner at yolyndabegay@fs.fed.us or (520) 388-8370.



Sincerely,



===============================

Yolynda Begay

Forest Planner

Coronado National Forest

300 W. Congress St.

Tucson, AZ 85701

(w) 520-388-8370

(c) 505-269-4995

yolyndabegay@fs.fed.us


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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
May 9, 2014
Scott,
Thanks for bringing this to everyone attention. We need to try and get a solid group of climbers together for this workshop to make sure our voice is heard.

FLAG
By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 9, 2014
Toofast
The area in the Dragoons being considered for wilderness designation is shown on this map:

fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUM...

Scott is right on the mark; the highlighted area encloses the majority of climbs in the Stronghold.

FLAG
By accessfund-erik
May 10, 2014
Unfortunately, I will be out of town, but I would be interested in talking with a few people who will be attending. Thanks,
Erik Murdock
erik@accessfund.org

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By Joe G
From Phoenix, AZ
May 11, 2014
I can not make the meeting but will be sending an e mail with questions, concerns and support.
My questions are how a designation would effect climbing establishish routes ? My experience with other wilderness areas is that the only restriction is a power drill and I don't see a problem with that . The only area I'm aware of that has further restrictions that have come after a wilderness designation is the superstions and I don't see a total bolt ban happening anywhere else. We can take some of the blame for what happened in the supes allbeit penalties for actions taken 25+ years ago. It seems to me by looking at the map that they have taken recreation into consideration when drawing the wilderness boundaries by leaving the existing roads on the west side accessible .
I think it would be great for them to recognize us as a user group but I feel a wilderness designation would be the best thing for the mountain in the long term.

Joe Garcia

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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 11, 2014
One Way Sunset
Joe,

It seems to me that if the use of motorized drills becomes illegal

one problem might be

how we maintain the existing routes when they become unsafe and need upkeep?

How has that been handled in the Supes?

Scott Mc

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By Joe G
From Phoenix, AZ
May 11, 2014
The issue in the Supes is an isolated total bolting ban and should not be compared to a typical wilderness designation. In the superstions there is not only a ban on motorized drills but a total bolt ban including bolting by hand. That being said I think it is important to identify the forest services outlook on climbing and if they only plan on implementing a motorized ban. More then likely the stronghold will not get any restrictions beyond what is issued in tradional wilderness designations and that would allow for the use of hand drills. So when bolts need to be replaced in a wilderness or even bolting a new route it is ok to use a hand drill . I have drilled several holes in granite using a hand drill and yes it is a pain the butt and time consuming but totally doable .

Thx,
Joe

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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 12, 2014
Toofast
Hey Scott,

I mentioned this very thing to Erik the other day. There are many old routes in need of attention now; it would be wise to get those done before redesignation occurrs as it will be much easier. I am planning to do a big push for this.

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By Joe G
From Phoenix, AZ
May 12, 2014
I'd love for the stronghold to stay the way it is but to me there is a rising call for public lands to become private and I just feel that areas like the pinaleno and Cochise would be better protected against future issues if it was made a wilderness .

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By Mike
From Phoenix
May 12, 2014
Doing the jump-across off The Mace.  I never get t...
Like Joe, I see this as potentially a good thing. You can hand-drill in the wilderness. Geir, knock out that rebolting effort before the change occurs, if it ever does. I am happy to help out with it if you want, just LMK.

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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 12, 2014
One Way Sunset
I wonder if it is possible that new routing and replacing old bolts

might best be done in such a way that

when those bolts need replacement

either no drilling or only minimal drilling will be required.

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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 12, 2014
Toofast
Awesome Mike I will need the help.

Scott there is a new bolt that has just been released that I think will work with your idea. It's the Climbtech Legacy bolt. Check it out. The ASCA bolts I have been using for replacement are themselves removable but not quite as easily.

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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
May 12, 2014
While there is the possibility of this being a good thing I believe that we are currently awaiting the forest service creating a new management plan for climbing in wilderness areas for which one possible outcome/recommendation is the removal of all bolt protected climbs(chopping the bolts) which in the stronghold's case would affect a LOT of routes should this area be designated wilderness. Even if the proposed removal of bolted routes in wilderness does not happen now I suspect that if in the future the forest service decides to chop bolted routes the 1st place they would start are in "wilderness areas". Regardless designating the area as wilderness will by definition create more regulation, to which I am opposed.

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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
May 12, 2014
So I searched for, found, and re-read the thread I was thinking about and it turns out I was wrong, no mention of bolt protected face climbs in that one, but I know I read it somewhere...

here is a link to that thread anyways, it was titled "ONE DAY LEFT to write a letter and affect the future of climbing"...

mountainproject.com/v/one-day-...

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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 13, 2014
One Way Sunset
The purpose of this post is to think aloud with you about the Stronghold and wilderness designation. I am seeking clarity. I am seeking transparency. I am testing my ideas.

I am sorry for the long e-mail. If you do not want to read it, then the bottom line is I think we should oppose wilderness designation.

I was surprised that, according to the Coronado report, Southern Arizona Climber’s Coalition (SACC) had not given any input.

At its best SACC can (and probably should) only represent the majority of its members’ views. It cannot represent the whole climbing community. I am even not sure how SACC would determine consensus within the whole climbing community. It cannot represent Phoenicians who climb in the Stronghold, for example, who are not members. It cannot represent minority views---the trad masters who prefer much fewer or no bolts.

For this reason, I post on Mountain Project so that anyone (from anywhere) who is interested can be aware of the potential for significant climbing impact in the Stronghold and comment, criticize and/or participate.

If you do not participate, then in my view, you cannot be heard to complain if the proposed changes impact your climbing. It is coming to a location near you soon.

I do not know SACC’s position on this topic. I am not a member.

If would be helpful if they would post it.

I am aware of at least one climber who has actively lobbied the Coronado for years to have the Stronghold designated a wilderness area because he thinks there are too many densely bolted routes and too much climber traffic. It appears to me that this is also the thinking espoused by the Sky Island Alliance/Wilderness Society —and to some extent they have a point.

I am sympathetic to this position. I admire the minority users and their skills and minimal impact. I suspect that the whole purpose of wilderness designation is in part to protect the minority user.
Nonetheless, I would guess that the majority of climbers favor the densely bolted routes in the Stronghold. Ultimately, I know I do, too.
But the densely bolted routes also bring much more climber traffic than the old school lines. As the Internet (and soon to be guidebooks) taut these amazing bolted lines, traffic will continue to increase. Right now climbers are one of the few forest user groups with growing numbers. The future will bring accidents and rescues. Access problems will increase.

If I have the facts correct, then take for example the Michigan couple who started up Peacemaker late in the day. The belayer could not unlock their carabiner/tether/PAS stuck at one of the belays. They did not have a knife. It was getting dark. They called for a rescue. A spectacular floodlight/helicopter rescue ensued. These out-of-town climbers go home, but at the end of the day it is the locals who are stuck with the fallout. I fear that it would not take many of these before the Coronado casts a jaundiced eye toward climbers. For these reasons, I believe that the locals have much better claim to having the last word on this issue.

The bolts that are presently in the Stronghold are there. There is no going back. Traffic is going to increase.

I am not sure what the benefit of wilderness designation would be as it relates to weekend climbers. It would put an end to densely bolted first ascents. It might reduce climber traffic and thereby lessen environmental impact. It might be good for the environment. I do not think it would be good for the majority of weekend climbers.

So let me talk about my fears about wilderness designation:

If the Stronghold is designated a Wilderness area then using a motorized drill will become illegal. To the extent that climbers adhere to the law, wilderness designation will put an end to the densely bolted first ascents.

Are there enough densely bolted routes in the Stronghold right now? I do not know. I do not want to be the one to decide that.

I find it troubling that the next generations cannot have the fun that I have had. (I suppose that I could not explore and hunt buffalo on the plains in the late 1700's.)

Eventually there will come a time when the densely bolted routes are going to need maintenance. If we cannot use a motorized drill to replace aging anchors, at some point those routes will become dangerous and disappear.

I fear that a ban on motorized drills will not be honored by a new generation that want to put up their own routes. If there are future flagrant violations of the ban then I am concerned with harsher regulation and enforcement.

Wilderness designation is the highest form of protection that the government can give to land. Right now I would guess that almost every climber trail in the Coronado is illegal. Thus I fear with this higher form of protection may also come stepped up regulation and enforcement. The Coronado might feel obliged to take actions that previously were not contemplated. For example, there is already ample prosecution precedent in Sedona in the Coconino for bootleg trails.

As mentioned by Joe G., in the Tonto Superstition Wilderness all fixed anchors are banned. I have been told, at least at one point, rangers were aggressively enforcing the ban. Among other things, they were asking to search packs.

It seems to me that for all these reasons, it is probably best for most of us and SACC to oppose wilderness designation.

Which leads me to my final point. It is important that all future new routes be established in such a way that maintenance is easy and little to no additional drilling is required. By this I mean, developers must standardize and adhere to the best practices that are now emerging.

These are just my thoughts at this point in time. I do not seek to influence your thinking as much as to simply get you to think about this issue and attend the meeting.

This is an important issue. It foreshadows the shape of things to come. Consequently, I would take it as a personal favor if you would not use this thread for another Scott Ayers beat down.

I get it. He did bad in the Stronghold, but he also did good. We all do bad. We all do good. I doubt anyone can calculate the exact percentages—to my mind the good/bad thing is merely part of being human.

Thank you.


Scott Mc
620-1481

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By manuel rangel
From Tempe, Arizona
May 13, 2014
I support Wilderness. I climb in the Supes often enough. I have bolted there too. The ban was instituted in part due to careless behavior on the climbers' part.

Nowadays the ban on bolting in the Supes has got to change. The official stance is ridiculous. Popular climbs have need of maintenance. New routes will have to hold to the hand bolting requirement.

Bolt removal has been put forward by the NPS for Christmas Tree Pass, Nevada. The Access Fund has been actively involved in the process.
mountainproject.com/v/nevada/c...

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By Robbie Mackley
From Tucson, AZ
May 13, 2014
Me and Holden at the "Matterhorn"
Thanks Scott, this is a great thread. As you requested, I hope it can stay productive.
I would also agree with the above posts in that, it would probably be better to oppose any designation at this time.
Geir, I would be more than willing to contribute anything I can, to a route maintenance effort. Just contact me via email to set something up.
-Mackley

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By Mike Diesen
From Sierra Vista, AZ
May 14, 2014
I live in Sierra Vista and spend the majority of my weekends in the Stronghold and believe me, the real impact doesn't come from climbers. It's the homesteaders that move in every fall, winter and spring with their 40 foot toy haulers and triple axle horse trailers. They set up corals and tear up the area on their quads, horses and mountain bikes. I get run over by them just about every time I head out there. But once I get up to the base of one of the domes I may see 1 or 2 other climbing parties. Even with its "tightly" bolted routes and ease of access it's far from a high use climbing area. Any climb on Sheepshead is an hour and half from my front door so it hardly even qualifies as a back country climbing destination. A busy weekend on Sheepshead or the Rockfellows (the 2 most popular climbing areas) would be about 5 parties. There's one trail up to Sheepshead. One trail up to the Rockfellows. One trail to the wasteland or whale dome. In fact I think there is only one trail to any of the climbing areas in the Stronghold unlike some of the areas in places like Red Rock where there's 47 different spur trails to get lost on. This year we had the pleasure of a bunch of naked hippies showing up and trashing the whole west side. They stayed for over a month.

My point is this. If they want to designate anything a wilderness area it should be the whole area. From Tombstone to Dragoon. Let everyone suffer. Why should us climbers be told how to act when the majority of the users (non-climbers) are the ones having the greatest impact.

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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
May 14, 2014
So that everyone can get a sense of where everyone else stands and to make counting opinions easy maybe everyone can start with if the support or oppose wilderness designation and if they plan on attending on Saturday. I will go 1st.

I OPPOSE a wilderness designation for Cochise Stronghold at this time.

Kristina and I WILL BE attending the meeting at 1:00pm Saturday 5/17/2014 @ the Udall Recreation Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road.

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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
May 14, 2014
This really should be handled through the SACC and through the people that have the most experience dealing w the Service and w the rules of procedure for these kinds of meetings: Scott A, Scott M, EFR, Geir, etc

I may be wrong and maybe a picket line the-more-the-merrier approach is best, but I would think you would want to present a unified front and not have a ton of climbers possibly expressing contradictory positions at the meeting?

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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 14, 2014
One Way Sunset
Christian,

I understand and deeply appreciate your sentiment.

It would be far better if we all spoke with one voice—but that is not the nature of our community.

For me one of the great things about climbing is all the wild characters and their views. There are some really interesting people out there.

I never wish to exclude the minority position, even if it dilutes my own position or the majority position.

If you have a minority position, in my view, it is a good time to express it.

I would guess we are beter off if the forest service sees more climbers rather than less. I would guess we will grow more as a community if we have to think about and address others views.

Scott Mc

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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 14, 2014
Toofast
Mike,

The process and criteria that the FS used to identify potential wilderness areas is in this document:

fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUM...

After reading through this I got a bit of a feel for why the lines were drawn the way they currently are as opposed to a broader area.

As part of this process, the FS is to take into account recreational use of the area:

"The availability of an area for wilderness designation is based on the trade-offs involved in managing the area for wilderness character versus current and potential future uses." The very first of the uses in the bullet-point list below is recreation. (page 2)

In the evaluation for the Dragoons, the "current uses" identified do not include rock climbing. They mention horseback riding, hiking, camping, hunting, motorized touring, and the developed campground. As any rock climber who has been to the Dragoons knows, this is a huge omission. check it out on page 3 of the Dragoon Potential Wilderness Evaluation Report:

fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUM...

As far as I can tell to this point, a primary problem with this evaluation is that the enormous value of the recreational rock climbing resource in the Stronghold isn't well understood. This probably is a result of the FS not evaluating it fully as well as climbers not being plugged into the process while the evaluation was being done.

Regardless, at the upcoming meeting(s), we need to be clear that climbers are the biggest recreational stakeholders in the Dragoons, and that we want to take a role in determining what happens with this potential re-designation. I think it is best not to stress the number of routes, but rather that the climbing is high quality, it attracts people from all over the country, and that it has been drawing visitors for this purpose since the late 1960's.

Thankfully, I know a few members of the community are planning to attend the meeting Saturday. I am trying to rearrange my work schedule so that I can attend as well, although on the short notice that I have to work with I'm not optimistic that I can make it. I will, however, be present in the future meetings.

Scott and others have brought up a lot of good points about the pros and cons of wilderness designation for the Dragoons. I haven't decided what I think is the best path to advocate for yet as I don't have all the information yet.

However, as I mentioned, replacement of hardware would become more difficult. On the older routes, where we are pulling existing bolts, slightly enlarging the existing holes, and putting in replaceable hardware, it is all possible without power drills, although definitely not fun. Thanks to everyone who has volunteered to far to help upgrade the older routes proactively; I will certainly take you up on it.

In the distant future, it would be challenging to do a nice job replacing the modern wedge bolts that have gone in over the past 20 years or so. The two methods for removing and replacing wedge bolts (core drilling and a newer "spinning" technique) both depend on power drills. This is something we need to keep in mind as we need to be thinking long term.

There's lots to think about, but what's important for the next few days is that we have some solid folks there Saturday.

Best Wishes,
Geir

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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 14, 2014
Toofast
Nick,

After a number of conversations in the past few days, I have learned we have at least four directions that climbers could choose to advocate for:

1) Wilderness designation,
2) Wilderness designation, but with different boundaries than what is currently proposed,
3) Wild Backcountry Zone designation, which apparently would allow power drill use but offer some benefits to climbers with OHV and mining issues, or
4) Opposition of wilderness designation.

At this point I do not know the pros and cons of each of these paths, nor am I sure these are our only choices. I will try to become knowledgeable about all of these options and make what suggestions I can.

Thanks,
Geir

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By Red
From Arizona
May 14, 2014
Cobra Kai
(why does the "quote" option not work sometimes?)
Geir said:
"at the upcoming meeting(s), we need to be clear that climbers are the biggest recreational stakeholders in the Dragoons, and that we want to take a role in determining what happens with this potential re-designation. I think it is best not to stress the number of routes, but rather that the climbing is high quality, it attracts people from all over the country, and that it has been drawing visitors for this purpose since the late 1960's.

There's lots to think about, but what's important for the next few days is that we have some solid folks there Saturday. Best Wishes, Geir"


I agree.

Thanks in advance to all that attend and participate in the upcoming meetings.

FLAG
 
By Jason Halladay
Administrator
From Los Alamos, NM
May 14, 2014
Climbing at the Belvedere crag near Nago with a gr...
Red wrote:
(why does the "quote" option not work sometimes?)

It's very fickle about line breaks. I sometimes have to play with it and use the "preview message text" link under the text box to see if I got it right. Typically it has to have a line break after the /quote end tag.
Sorry for the drift, carry on with this important and civil discussion...

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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
May 14, 2014
Scott M. McNamara wrote:
Christian, I understand and deeply appreciate your sentiment. It would be far better if we all spoke with one voice—but that is not the nature of our community. For me one of the great things about climbing is all the wild characters and their views. There are some really interesting people out there. I never wish to exclude the minority position, even if it dilutes my own position or the majority position. If you have a minority position, in my view, it is a good time to express it. I would guess we are beter off if the forest service sees more climbers rather than less. I would guess we will grow more as a community if we have to think about and address others views. Scott Mc


It depends on the nature of this initial meeting and how many more there will be and on the way in which the FS typically negotiates and decides these things.

Since I don't have a lot of detailed knowledge of this, I was just trying to bring up the general issue that we may have to decide between having a complete democracy along with (possibly) a complete inability to get anything done vs having a slightly more autocratic approach but with more negotiating power (ie take a vote of SACC or get AF involved and get up there and say "we are the SACC/AF and we represent x amount of climbers and this is our position" vs 20 other guys getting there up and hemming and hawing and basically saying "this is my opinion only" and the FS saying "what is with these guys, they can't even decide what they want, why should we listen to them?)

Sorry couldn't really organize this post any better, have to get back to work lol

FLAG


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