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Cochise Stronghold & Wilderness Designation
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By Eric Sophiea
May 16, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

I'll be going. I want, if nothing else, to make sure that the Forest Service recognizes that climbers are a primary user group here, and that we want to be stewards of the land. I feel that is one of the biggest messages we can send to land managers in order to help climbing in So. AZ for the long term.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, everyone!


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By cochiseclimbing
May 16, 2014
My favorite place

See you there Eric,

You bring up a good point.

There will be breakout groups at the meeting where you will be talking with different members of the Forest Service.

Please talk about climbers being stewards of the land


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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
May 17, 2014
Toofast

I will be brief as it has been a tremendously long day.

I tried at length to switch my schedule to attend tomorrow's meeting. I am sorry to say that I could not arrange the day off, but I am encouraged to see that several climbers will be attending. I plan on talking with Yolanda early next week so that I can share my thoughts. If a couple of like-minded people want to join me you are welcome.

In conversations with Erik and many others, one point that has been particularly troubling for me is that Wilderness Designation would have uncertain effects on climbing in the Stronghold. While the idea of hand-drilling only in the Stronghold has appeal to me, the rest of the uncertainties that come along with the package do not. The FS does not have a national-level policy on wilderness climbing yet. When they do, who knows how the Coronado FS will implement it? Simply going along with the proposed designation, without knowing precisely what it will entail, seems foolhardy.

Erik's fourth point above carries equal weight for me. Our approach to this will affect our relationships with multiple other groups, including the FS. I think we're all on the same page that we need to identify ourselves as the biggest user group of the area inside that polygon. I also think we're clear that we've got to be plugged in to all of these discussions from now on.

However, we are arriving into this discussion at a late hour with a message that will likely derail years of many other people's efforts. They are probably not going to be happy about it. Let's be careful in how we approach this.

Thanks,
Geir


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By Eric Sophiea
May 17, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

Well stated, Geir! It's a bummer that we're late into this discussion. Let's make sure we give it a chance at connecting with new friends! Climbers are probably the best stewards of a place like Cochise!


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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
May 17, 2014
One Way Sunset

Thanks to all who attended!

I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedules to attend this critical meeting. As you could see, it was really important. As you could see, I think even the Forest Service was even impressed with our numbers.

I think we did about as good as we could do.

Now, let us see what happens.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Thanks again!

Scott Mc


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By Andy Bennett
From Tucson, AZ
May 17, 2014

+1000 Scott. The number of climbers who showed up was really impressive, thanks to all who came out. As today's meeting demonstrated, it's really important for citizens to be involved in this process every step of the way. Yes, it's too bad climbers weren't involved from the get-go duing scoping, but we are now, and must continue to be present in all pertinent USFS projects into the long-term.


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By Eric Sophiea
May 17, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

Do we know how to further nurture a relationship with the land manager and the conservation organizations who are working to expand wilderness? It seems like that is a good step to becoming recognized as a user group in the future.

I know that not all of us are in favor of more wilderness and many of us are not in favor of wilderness at the expense of climbing freedoms. I appreciate people's concerns about the unknown actions of future land managers (as has happened in some Wilderness areas). There is always risk of the unknown future. There is also risk of losing access without a Wilderness Designation if the land use changes due to development, mining or something else. The future is always unknown.

I truly hope that, despite our varied concerns and values, we can promote a productive relationship with other organizations whose goals generally coincide with ours. I'm not sure if we came across to the F.S. or conservation advocates as a bunch of self serving a-holes or as a concerned user group that wants to be part of the future conversations regarding outdoor recreation. I hope it's the second of those two.

Special HUGE thanks to Scott McNamara and Erik of the Access Fund for their guidance, and to the SACC board (and Tanya) for all of their work. I'm glad to be a member of those two organizations!


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By cochiseclimbing
May 18, 2014
My favorite place

Hey Eric,

Rod Mondt, from the Sky Island Alliance, talked at like the 4th SACC meeting. There are a few SACC members that have contacts there and the conversations are continuing.

At the end, did you see me talking to Mike Quigley? He is the Arizona State Director for The Wilderness Society and he really wants to work with us.

Shannon Maitland, Andy Bennett, and Scott Ayers met with him to initially look at maps and define climbing areas of interest and they are meeting again this Tuesday.

He presented some interesting ideas about conservation area designation and is following up about the "minimal necessary tools" idea we heard about today. Lots of great things happening and Alex is writing a brief for SACC about todays meeting, stay tuned!

www.saccBeta.com

There were also some questions about how to join SACC. You can go to the above address and click on the link to donate. The suggested donation is $20 for the year.


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By Eric Sophiea
May 18, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

Thanks, for the info, Tanya! I'm glad you made contact with the Wilderness Society!

I didn't see Rod at the meeting Saturday, but maybe I just missed him. I sent an email to Louise from SIA (who was at the meeting). I've worked with her in the past as an SIA member and volunteer. Hopefully we can make some friends, as both SIA and the Wilderness Society are very well organized groups.


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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
May 18, 2014

One other thing I took away from a conversation I has with one of the FS Rangers after the meeting was that the timing of this meeting a weekend after the big trash cleanup reflected well on us as a user group. Maybe she was blowing smoke up my @ss but she seemed genuinely excited about the prospect of the FS and the climbing community having more open lines of communication and the opportunity to work together on common goals. While as a user group we may be new to the game we have already made a positive impression on some of the FS personnel through the huge numbers who showed up for the Mt Lemmon clean up and then again at this meeting. Both of which would not have happened without the SACC so big props the them (soon to be us).

The important thing now will be to continue to nurture our newly formed relationship and stay engaged. If only 1 climber shows up to the next meeting on this issue we would probably look quite foolish. However, I feel that enough of us are now plugged into the process now that no meetings on this issue will quietly slip by. Thanks again to everyone who took the time out of their weekend to attend this meeting.


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By Chuck Calef
Jun 6, 2014

Remember when sex was safe and climbing was dangerous? If so then you probably remember when climbers and mountaineers were actually conservationists and wilderness advocates. People like John Muir, David Brower, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, and to a varying degree virtually everyone that was climbing in the 60s and 70s. But no longer it seems, judging from the self-centered, narcissistic tone of the posts in this forum. To put it bluntly many of the contributors here are trying to decide which is more important: Wilderness protection for thousands of acres of magnificent, unspoiled, and unique country, or the continued privilege to bring their Bosch into these mountains and drill holes in the rock to create even more shitty little sport climbs. A no brainer right?; but most seem to be choosing the Bosch option. "From my cold dead fingers …"

Scott McNamara writes, "I suspect that the whole purpose of wilderness designation is in part to protect the minority user." That's not what I think. The purpose of Wilderness designation is to protect unspoiled land from the depredations of humans be they mounted on ORVs or wielding chainsaws or motorized drills.

Jonathan Swift wrote, "There is no piece of wisdom in fewer hands than knowing when to have done." This wisdom is certainly not in the hands of Scott McNamara, Robbie Mackley, Nick Martel, "Christian", "cochise climbing", Guy Keesee, John Wilder, Charles Vernon, "Tradster", "accessfund-eric”, who want to keep up the drilling in the Stronghold. If you want to clip bolts, Arizona has no shortage of industrial climbing wastelands. Go to them and leave the Stronghold unimpaired. More than a lifetime of convenient clipping awaits you at Virgin River Gorge, Queen Creek Canyon, Superstition Mountains, Jack's Creek Canyon, Mount Lemmon. And if you want to crank more in your next reincarnation come on over to New Mexico's Datil Tower, Cochiti Mesa, the explosively-developing Jemez Mountains, Palomas Peak, Sitting Bull Falls. One way to answer Scott's plaintive query, "Are there enough densely bolted routes in the Stronghold right now?", is: "No there are never enough bolts as evidenced by their exponential proliferation everywhere in the world. We will not rest until every cliff is developed, every ego, searching for immortality in a guidebook is satisfyingly stroked. Routes will be safe for a new generation of children who, learning their climbing indoors from competitive parents, won't be expected to learn the arcana of anchors, protection, self-reliance, common sense, those things that used to be the basis of mountaineering." But that would be the wrong answer.

One of the characteristics of on-line bolt forums such as this is the pro-bolters’ use of disingenuous arguments to support their position. In this forum that particular red herring is the concern that in the future when bolts decay and become unsafe they will need to be replaced using power drills. It follows that if motorized drills are banned then an unsafe condition will result that has no remedy. (Try arguing against the “safety card” in modern America). Well the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA) has replaced thousands of bolts by hand in wilderness areas. Why should Stronghold climbers expect the convenience of power drilling?

Another characteristic of these forums is that they are populated by a vocal minority of climbers, namely those who actually do the dirty work of bolting. Not knowing the proportion of climbers who bolt or even if this proportion has been measured, I would guess that bolters make up less than 5% of the climbing population. Yet it is they who will direct the development of our crags unless stopped by land managers and expressions of anger from other wilderness users. It’s true the Frenchification of American rock climbing is nearly complete. Bolt wars are almost always lost by the trad faction these days. The majority of American climbers don’t bolt but expect safe bolts for their clipping pleasure. This majority no doubt supports in a desultory way the views expressed in this forum and that’s why I support wilderness designation for Cochise.

Finally, do I expect to change anyone’s mind regarding these issues? Sooner convince the Taliban to live in peace and harmony with Christian Americans, or Arizonans to hand over their concealed-carry weapons. No, bolters have made up their minds and nothing will stand in their greedy way.


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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
Jun 6, 2014

Chuck, I'm so glad you put so much faith in the feds to do what is right. You sure like to tar & feather those of us who may well disagree on this issue. By the way, I started climbing in 1973, probably before you even knew what a perlon rope was.

Things were different then. If you clip bolts, and sport climb, then I'd say you are a hypocrite. Stick to trad so you can spray with a pure heart.

I'll continue to do both trad & sport. By the way, I must be one of those evil climbers, as I've placed a few bolts and been involved in a few first ascents.

By the way, get your freaking facts straight, there is no bolting in the Superstitions. Please take your oh so superior attitude and create a bowel obstruction for yourself. I don't appreciate you being the arbitrator as to where many of us may want to climb bolted routes.

I question whether you've ever climbed in the Stronghold...there are many bolts there already. and many fine bolted lines. Plenty more opportunities for more climbs, too.

Cheers!


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By Greg Opland
Administrator
Jun 6, 2014
Georgeous!

Chuck Calef wrote:
Arizona has no shortage of industrial climbing wastelands. Go to them and leave the Stronghold unimpaired. More than a lifetime of convenient clipping awaits you at Virgin River Gorge, Queen Creek Canyon, Superstition Mountains, Jack's Creek Canyon, Mount Lemmon.


While I agree with the central premise that we don't need to bolt the f(ck out of every piece of rock everywhere, throwing the Superstitions in a list of a) sport climbing areas, and b)"industrial climbing wastelands" makes your expertise in this matter somewhat questionable. Only someone who has no idea what they're talking about would refer to the Supes in that vein.


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By Christian
From Casa do Cacete
Jun 6, 2014
Ooops...

"The fool has one great advantage over a man of sense — he is always satisfied with himself."


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By LB Mullin Jr.
From Gunnison, CO
Jun 6, 2014
Base camp for Torres del Paine

Having never been to the superstition mountains I don't know about the bolts, and don't care. I agree with most things Chuck Calef has to say. I have been following this because I support most wilderness. Our wilderness is a special national resource that I love and spend 6 months a year. Using my hand drill just makes me enjoy my power drill more when I get to use it. But I am happy to give it up to save a small portion of the country from our modern society and our toys.


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By Eric Sophiea
Jun 8, 2014
Licking the cat with googly-eyes.

Perhaps Chuck Calef mistook the Superstitions for somewhere else in AZ or just is ignorant about them. And perhaps he named people as "wanting to keep drilling up" without fully understanding their particular positions (as I suspect that some people's posts on this thread are not complete representations of how they view this issue). And perhaps Chuck has climbed some sport routes. Heck, maybe he's a Bosch wielding fiend in the Homestead!!!

However, none of that invalidates his basic premise. Which I think deserves thoughtful consideration, at least: "Wilderness is a valuable resource in it's own right" I think is what he was trying to say.

I was at the Forest Service meeting to learn more about this Wilderness designation. There were a few ranchers, miners and ATV users who were basically there to say "wilderness takes away my freedom to use land however I want." They sounded like completely self centered a-holes, frankly. Not the kind of folks I want to hang out with. They were all about "watching out for Number One." No consideration of future generations. No thought about other users. Just themselves.

The climbers present at the meeting came DANGEROUSLY close to sounding EXACTLY like those "what about me" folks. Maybe we are just like them? Just something to consider.


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By Geir
From Tucson, AZ
Jun 8, 2014
Toofast

Eric Sophiea wrote:
However, none of that invalidates his basic premise. Which I think deserves thoughtful consideration, at least: "Wilderness is a valuable resource in it's own right" I think is what he was trying to say. I was at the Forest Service meeting to learn more about this Wilderness designation. There were a few ranchers, miners and ATV users who were basically there to say "wilderness takes away my freedom to use land however I want." They sounded like completely self centered a-holes, frankly. Not the kind of folks I want to hang out with. They were all about "watching out for Number One." No consideration of future generations. No thought about other users. Just themselves. The climbers present at the meeting came DANGEROUSLY close to sounding EXACTLY like those "what about me" folks. Maybe we are just like them? Just something to consider.


Well said Eric!

I am interested to hear how you think we could better present ourselves. I, too, do not want climbers to be viewed as using a "watching out for Number One" approach to this.

Aside from some of the factual errors in Chuck's post I too found myself resonating with the idea that Wilderness is valuable in its own right. Although I think it is still vague how Wilderness designation might impact climbing in the Stronghold, I think climbers should be able to adapt to it if that is what is necessary.

For example, assuming for a moment the only significant change for climbers is that power drilling would not be permitted, would that really be catastrophic for us? I don't think so. New route establishment would take more work, but it could still be done. Replacement of hardware on favorite routes would still be able to happen, although it would be harder. We would need a large number of committed folks to make the latter happen, but it's happening today in Wilderness areas all over the US. Whether or not we can use power drills will not ultimately decide if climbers can enjoy the Dragoons.

Of course, power drilling is not the only thing that would change if the Dragoons became a Wilderness. So in the unlikely event this proceeds, we need to be looking at every element of this closely.

Talking about this on the forums is helpful to get ideas out there, but anyone wanting to make a difference will need to (at the minimum) direct their comments to the FS contacts listed earlier in this thread.


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By JoeS
Jun 8, 2014

I agree with the comments of Eric and Geir. That said, I have a separate concern related to the proposed plan for wilderness in the Stronghold. The map of the region to be considered for wilderness designation, if I understood it correctly covered pretty much the entire region of rocks, but didn't extend out beyond that. In other words it would affect the activities taking place on the rocks but not those immediately surrounding them. So activities such as ATVs and others would be no more restricted than they currently are. Additionally, unlike drilling which only makes noise when the original line is established (and maybe again many years later), ATVs and shooting, etc. are continuously noisy activities. So while we should respect and consider wilderness to be established where appropriate, the current plan doesn't seem to do that in a sensible way.


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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
Jun 9, 2014
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.

Eric Sophiea wrote:
The climbers present at the meeting came DANGEROUSLY close to sounding EXACTLY like those "what about me" folks.


Well said. It is not okay for climbers to take the position that Wilderness is a good thing, unless it impacts us and what we want to do. That is clearly hypocritical.


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By 1Eric Rhicard
Jun 9, 2014
It is a good sized roof. Photo: Jimbo

I am pretty late to this discussion so excuse me if this point has been made. I don't mind keeping the stronghold open to my interest which includes using a power drill to protect a new route or upgrade and old ones.

My experience has been that the only people that get their extensive butts out of the jeep or off the quad at least now and then are hunters climbers. Hikers do as well, but I have rarely seen them anywhere off trail. My point is that beyond the fringes and the few roads that poke into and pass through the Stronghold motors and people are a minor impact. Hike anywhere other than the main climbing spots and peace and solitude will be yours.

Personally I would rather listen to 15 seconds of a power drill than 30 minutes of hand drilling.

Mining and development are other issues that I would not like to see occur there. These are so much more significant than what we climbers do. If this is a threat to the area then I might inclined to go with the designation.


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By cochiseclimbing
Jul 5, 2014
My favorite place

Here is part of the answer but I am not clear on how historical mining allowances are treated under The Wilderness Act.

From the Forest Service Document: Dragoon Potential Wilderness Evaluation Report

Availability-"There is no potential for timber extraction. There is little or no potential for extraction of locatable minerals. "


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By Shannon KM
Jul 8, 2014

Hi all! Please visit Southern Arizona Climber's Coalition's Facebook Page to learn about SACC's direction to maintain climber access to the Stronghold.


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By Jerry Cagle
From Tucson, AZ
Jul 9, 2014
Not My Cross to Bear

I think it should have National Monument status conferred upon it...


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By Scott M. McNamara
From Tucson, Arizona
Jul 17, 2014
One Way Sunset

The Access Fund has generously created an "action alert" so if you would like to comment on the proposed Cochise Stronghold Wilderness desigination you may do so here:

www.accessfund.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionCenter.aspx?c=tmL>>>


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By JB7
Jul 17, 2014
Violin Wall

I used to live in El Paso Texas. Back then I frequented Cochise on a monthly basis in the fall, winter, and spring. Absolutely one of my favorite climbing areas in the southwest. Although I no longer live nearby, Cochise is a special place to me, and a place that I try to visit as often as possible if I am able(being so far away now does not help much). I am just one of many from El Paso who frequented the Stronghold. I think as a climber, pretty much anywhere within a 4 hour drive is considered a some what of a local crag. I know that to myself and my group of climbing buddies that Cochise is one of all our favorites. It truly is a magical place.

Anyway I am somewhat divided on the argument here, but am slightly leaning toward the wilderness designation. I have read the entire post. I can agree on many points from both sides about whether a wilderness designation is a good thing or not.

The sentiment of Chuck's post seemed to resonate with me. Is a wilderness designation really that bad of a thing?

On the flip side I have a deep distrust of government, politicians, bureaucrats, and do fully trust they will always manage such matters in the public interest.


JoeS wrote:
The map of the region to be considered for wilderness designation, if I understood it correctly covered pretty much the entire region of rocks, but didn't extend out beyond that. In other words it would affect the activities taking place on the rocks but not those immediately surrounding them.


I agree on this. I think the surrounding area is absolutely beautiful, especially on the west side. If it were to go the way of wilderness designation. I would hope they would expand the boundary to encompass as much of the surrounding lands as possible.

1Eric Rhicard wrote:
Mining and development are other issues that I would not like to see occur there. These are so much more significant than what we climbers do. If this is a threat to the area then I might inclined to go with the designation.


Agreed, this would be one of the pros of a wilderness designation. There is already civilization slowly creeping up on the stronghold from both the west and the east. Just imagine the surrounding area in 50 years or even 100 years.

I guess the only thing that bothers me about the wilderness designation is the uncertainty, and current lack of a defintive management policies/plan.


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