For the week of August 19 thru August 25, 1998  

Climbing-bolt ban lifted by Dept. of Agriculture

But Sawtooth bolting still prohibited


By KATHRYN BEAUMONT
Express Staff Writer

Climbers upset by the May 1998 Forest Service ban on bolting in wilderness areas can breathe a sigh of relief--unless they climb in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

James Lyons, under-secretary of the Department of Agriculture, announced this week that the national ban on new bolts or fixed anchors in Forest Service wilderness areas would be lifted, because it had been enacted without appropriate public involvement.

"While some support the decision and its intent, others question how a decision with such national scope and effect can be made without the benefit of national public input," Lyons wrote in a memo to U.S. Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck.

In early July, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations, attached a rider to the Forest Service’s 1999 budget that essentially said the same thing. This budget amendment also would have halted the ban until more public input had been heard on the issue.

But Lyons voluntarily revoked the ban, beating Congress to the punch.

"The Wilderness Act has remained virtually unchanged for 34 years," Lyons stated. "An appropriations bill is not the place to make changes in policy of this magnitude."

The ban would be suspended for one year while negotiations over the restrictions take place, during a process Lyons called "negotiated rulemaking."

"The goal of this rulemaking will be to see if there are common areas of agreement among these wilderness supporters that we can incorporate into and help guide our wilderness management regulation," Lyons stated.

The nationwide ban on new fixed anchors in Forest Service wilderness areas came from a decision initially handed down in September 1996 by Bill LeVere, supervisor of the Sawtooth National Forest.

The Sawtooth decision was appealed by climbers, who felt it was too stringent, as well as by conservationists, who felt that it did not go far enough.

This dual appeal, however, did signal to the Forest Service’s upper levels that a national decision on bolting in wilderness areas was needed, and the nationwide ban was enacted in May.

Because this decision was based on appeal, no public input was gathered before the ruling was handed down.

There was, however, five years of public input for the Sawtooth decision, according to LeVere. As a result, Lyons’ lifting of the ban will not affect the Sawtooth Wilderness Area, where any new fixed anchors or bolts are still prohibited.

"This is a good move," LeVere said. "Things should be done with public involvement. I’m glad that once again the Sawtooth National Forest elevated something to national attention because the wilderness needs public protection."

 

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