Help Strip a Poison Pill from Utah Lands Bill!
You may recall that in May, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the “Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018” (S. 2809), a bill that involves world-class wildlands in southeastern Utah along the Green River in Desolation Canyon and in the San Rafael Swell. It was a bad bill that not only shortchanged the areas that would gain Wilderness designation, but more importantly included numerous bad provisions that would have severely compromised even the areas that were designated Wilderness.
We’ve just learned that backroom negotiations have resulted in a bill that dropped several of the bad provisions and added more Wilderness to the package. However, Senator Hatch added a very harmful, unprecedented amendment onto his bill – without any discussion or debate – that would legalize permanent fixed climbing anchors in designated Wilderness, part of a deliberate plan by the Access Fund and its allies to weaken the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act. While other changes to the bill might make it acceptable to conservationists, it is imperative that the destructive and precedent-setting “fixed-anchor” provision be removed.
The use of fixed anchors in wilderness directly contradicts the Wilderness Act’s prohibition of “installations” in wilderness. The preservation of an area as wilderness is an attempt to preserve the wildest and least tamed landscapes. Reducing a climbing route’s challenges by bolting it also goes against the essential spirit of the Wilderness Act. The maintenance of wilderness character dictates that, rather than hammer a piece of rock into submission and installing permanent bolts, a climber in Wilderness may have to accept that a route that cannot be climbed without bolts should not be climbed at all. In the first catalog for his company Chouinard Equipment, later to become Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard pioneered removable climbing chocks and a manifesto of “clean climbing.” He wrote, “We believe the only way to ensure the climbing experience for ourselves and future generations is to preserve (1) the vertical wilderness, and (2) the adventure inherent in the experience… The fewer gadgets between the climber and the climb, the greater is the chance to attain the desired communication with oneself—and nature.”
It is unfortunate that the Access Fund is mirroring the efforts of mountain bikers by turning to the same anti-wilderness Utah politicians who stripped protections for Bears Ear and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to try to weaken the Wilderness Act as it applies to their recreational pursuits.
Please help block this unprecedented attack to legalize illegal fixed climbing anchors in Wilderness!