• Western Montana Climbers Coalition

Winter 2019-2020 Update

The WMTCC is currently in the process of a complete board restructure, so we appreciate your patience as we work through this. All the work of the WMTCC is 100% volunteer hours. We have divided the board into four committees to tackle the wide array of issues we are facing from all angles: Policy, Communications/Events, Bolt Replacement, and a Bitterroot Chapter. If you are interested in joining one of the WMTCC committees, we

would love to hear from you and what you can offer as a volunteer! Send a note to info@wmtcc.org .

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor's Order Temporarily Banning New Development:

First and foremost, we cannot thank the Missoula, Bitterroot, Bozeman, Helena, Kalispell and Montana climbing communities for their support during this time. Since the release of the nationwide call-to-action issued by the Access Fund on February 18, 2020, over 5,000+ people responded with calls and e-mails to oppose the BNF release of a Supervisors Order titled “Climbing Regulation”.The mobilization of climbers (and other recreators) from across the country was the second-largest response to an Access Fund Call-to-Action to date! This response influenced a move by the FS to revise their Order (detailed later) to make allowances for the continuation of our sport. Please see the current revised Order titled “ Climbing Management Plan ”. While the Order is confusingly titled, “Climbing Management Plan”, it is not a Climbing Management Plan (CMP) and is a temporary regulation in the interim while the proposed CMP is written.


All climbers should be aware that the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) is committed to pursuing a CMP. The WMTCC will continue to work with the Access Fund and all interested climbers to advocate for climbers during this process. We look forward to participating in necessary cooperation with groups seeking regulation of climbing, as we will need to develop relationships with all concerned parties. We need to spread the message and gain trust around the fact that our members are responsible land stewards and want to see our impacts minimized wherever possible. To date, the WMTCC has been a powerful source of information and a resource helping with this goal. The WMTCC is uncertain about the process of creating a CMP. The WMTCC Policy Committee was extremely disappointed in the lack of process and genuine dialogue leading up to the release of the original Supervisors Order titled “Climbing Regulation”. The WMTCC feels that the new Order, “Climbing Management Plan”, is still far too restrictive and should be remedied as soon as possible via the proposed CMP. The Bitterroot National Forest Service (BNFS) has assured climbers that this is a temporary “pause” in development and that the goal is to secure climbing into the future as a legitimate activity via the CMP. We are hopeful but also concerned as it seems the BNFS desired outcome and plan may be mostly predetermined and poorly informed. To combat this though, we need climbers, of all walks, to reach out and provide their input. The CMP may not create a realistic or viable path for allowing climbing, and especially future development, to take place on our public lands. However, it should be known that the WMTCC is in support of any productive opportunities to acknowledge and mitigate impacts associated with our recreation. Climbers will need to be vigilant, united and vocal to ensure a reasonable process that will conclude with an acceptable CMP. When

we can again, we will be hosting community gatherings, and working hard to build a strong coalition to help ensure all climbers are represented in this process.


Up to this point the climbing community has successfully worked in a cooperative and friendly manner with previous forest supervisors, district rangers and biologists. Historically, climbing impacts in the BNF were generally slow to manifest, and forest-wide there have been very few complaints or issues on the subject of managing climbing. In the past, we have managed areas of concern with the FS on an “as-needed basis”, and as far as we know those pursuits were successful. For example, the voluntary bolting moratorium at Mill Creek’s North Rim was observed by all developers. The forest-wide regulations implemented via the Supervisors Order “Climbing Management Plan” hits climbers hard in what seems more like prohibition than proper “management”. Accordingly, it is our goal to see the resolution of the document. Based on conversations with BNF rangers, the WMTCC believes that the BNFS intends to establish basic guidelines for future climbing development. This will require careful examination of the issues and impacts of new climbing areas, the WMTCC encourages climbers to welcome this discussion.


There will be public input meetings with the BNFS (TBD post-Covid CDC regulations). This will be part of a mandatory NEPA process where public input is gathered for the CMP. We need to PACK the room with climbers and educate ourselves. If you need a place to start, research the BNF Forest Plan, BNF Management Areas, The Wilderness Act, BNF Recreational Opportunity Spectrum, and think of how these relate to climbing. Please let anyone on the WMTCC board know that you are interested in attending and/or speaking at one of the public input meetings. We will keep you updated on the details of those meetings as they come.


Help us build our coalition. We need every person and organization sympathetic to our cause to rally around this. If you can think of a group that would co-sign a letter to the editor, a letter to rangers, or show up to a public meeting, get a hold of the WMTCC. Know that we encourage individuals to act. Get involved. Do not wait for the WMTCC to “fix” this issue. Reach out in every creative way that you can. Contact your forest service rangers, senators, representatives. Talk with your communities. Spread the message of sustainable, responsible climbing.


Timeline of events leading to the release of FS Document “Climbing Management Plan”:

- January 1, 2020 WMTCC Directors are tipped off about FS conversation of bolt restrictions and possible permitting system for development/placement of bolts.

- January 10, 2020 - WMTCC Board of Directors and Interested Community Members present to BNF District Ranger on the state of climbing in the BNF as an attempt to educate and dissuade any kind of bolting ban.

- Feb 15 - First Supervisors Order Titled “Climbing Regulation” issued. Signed order was handed to WMTCC Directors at the beginning of the meeting.

- February 18 - Access Fund Call-to-Action Issued

- February 26 - WMTCC Policy Committee, Access Fund, and other interested parties meet with the Forest Supervisor and District Ranger with requested revisions to the Forest Supervisor’s Order.

- February 28 - Supervisors Order is revised in new Order titled, “Climbing Management Plan"

- New Order provides allowances for bolt replacement and safety measures. The

language about chipping, gluing and modifying climbing holds was removed. These are

illegal activities but are not an issue in the Bitterroot National Forest. The new Order

overrides the “bolt ban” and replaces it with a “bolt authorization” process. However, the

revised Order needs more detail about what “authorization” entails, but climbers should

appreciate that the Order does not consider bolts fundamentally illegal, which they are

not. Bolts are legally placed, used and maintained at thousands of USFS climbing areas.

- March/April: We are currently reaching out to many groups and individuals organizing our dialogue in support of sustainable climbing in the BNF. We have rallied the support of lawyers, biologists, recreation and public land specialists, and substantially bolstered our volunteer base.


Contact Officials:

Bitterroot National Forest Managers:

Matt Anderson, Bitterroot Forest Service Supervisor - matthew.anderson3@usda.gov +

406-363-7121

Steve Brown, Stevensville District Ranger (CMP organizer) - steve.brown2@usda.gov +

406 777-5461

Federal Representatives:

Steve Daines: www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve

Jon Tester: Nate Wyatt is the active contact aware of the issue.

Feel free to mention him when you use this link: www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator

Greg Gianforte: gianforte.house.gov/contact/email



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