Bolting Action Page
Personal Stories Matter - a lot
Whether writing to your legislator or commenting on a proposal, personal stories carry much more weight than an obvious copy-paste job. These take time, and that's what this page is here for! Think about why the ability to sustainably bolt canyons in the US is important to you. Choose some starter language below that's most relevant to you (mix and match for an even more powerful statement!), and wrap your personal story around that starter language. Then click the link and submit your comments.
Note there are THREE links below: one for the USFS, one for the NPS, one that combines messages to your representatives and senators.
Please customize slightly for each, and submit them all!
Public Comment Period vs. Letters to Legislators: Understanding the Difference
There are two calls to action here: one is informing the NPS and USFS why their proposed guidance is flawed; the other is encouraging your legislators to support AORA and the EXPLORE Act.
Writing your legislators: Remember that your legislators work on behalf of their constituents, and the only way they know how to do that is if they know what their constituents care about. These are elected positions, and their jobs depend on them getting it right. They are also people who generally care a lot about doing good work on behalf of their districts. Numbers matter. More messages in support of a particular bill communicate to them the importance of it, and that they should support it on our behalf. More personal stories humanize the need, and connect legislators to their constituents on a personal level. The link below takes you to a pre-filled form. At minimum, more submissions communicates that A LOT of their constituents care about this. Better - if you can personalize the form (edit to make it your own story), your legislators will see that a lot of their constituents are deeply connected to the issue and willing to take the time to describe the personal impact it has on them.
Public comments on proposed rules/guidance: While legislators operate at a human interaction level, agencies like NPS and USFS are very different and operate almost entirely according to their legal obligations in a bureaucratic process. To be clear, those administrators are still people who want to do the right thing, and that's important to remember. But they have to follow strict rules and processes, and generally remain as objective as possible. Public comment periods are not a campaign opportunity - in fact agencies cannot legally make decisions purely based on volume of comments in one direction or the other. The purpose of the public comment period is to give the public the opportunity to provide information that likely wasn't considered fully when drafting the rules. Our job is to provide that information in a clear, substantiated way. While emotional language is meaningful to legislators, it could detract from a public comment in a proposed rule. Agencies are tasked with reading and responding to public comments, and incorporating the INFORMATION received into their decision-making process. Numbers still matter because if we give the same information, told from different personal perspectives, it emphasizes the importance of that information. But quality of information matters more. This is why pre-filled forms don't work. Each of us has to put in the time to write our own comments, but know that the time you put in will have a meaningful impact on the outcome.
To Comment on the Proposed Climbing Guidance
Here are some points that we think are important for the agencies to understand. Use what feels relevant to you. Your comment should be true to what you believe.
What's in place now (land managers managing the land according to the unique needs) is working, and it's counter productive to place universal restrictions on land managers who manage such a huge diversity of lands
The proposed restrictive national-level guidance is uninformed, and will likely have negative impacts on wilderness in some areas
In some, but not all, cases, bolted anchors are paramount to achieving both the recreation and conservation objectives of the Wilderness Act. National guidance prohibiting fixed anchors fails to acknowledge regional differences and will inherently undermine one or both of those objectives.
Note: The Wilderness Act states: wilderness areas shall be devoted to the public purposes of recreational, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.
Note: The USFS Minimum Requirements Decision Guide lists as its policy objectives: Protect and perpetuate wilderness character and public values including, but not limited to, opportunities for scientific study, education, solitude, physical and mental challenge and stimulation, inspiration, and primitive recreation experiences.
Canyoning, like climbing and caving, is a legitimate way to experience our public lands, and brings unique value to the community
Canyoneers are the true experts in low impact canyoning, and when land managers partner with the canyoning community, they can achieve outcomes that best serve the purposes of wilderness and non-wilderness public lands.
This is an unfunded mandate, and it is irresponsible for an agency to issue guidance without identifying the resources it would take to adhere to the guidance.
For the NPS draft guidance: The language subjecting existing bolts in Wilderness to an unresourced Minimum Requirements Assessment, and promoting their removal in absence of an MRA approval is uninformed, and in contradiction with the stated purposes of wilderness. (Removing bolts from places like Zion and Capitol Reef will lead to the inevitable degradation of those canyons, as well as the damaging loss of access to the public) This language should be removed.
For USFS draft guidance: The language that describes "existing climbing opportunities" is vague and inactionable. It leaves forest supervisors ill-equipped to make reasonable decisions about fixed anchors in non-wilderness areas. This provision should be removed.
OPTIONAL STARTER LANGUAGE
Below is some language to help you get started. The intent is to help you reflect on your personal connection to canyons, and what you care about preserving the most. You can use this language to help communicate what the agencies need to consider in their guidance, or to share with legislators why passing these public lands packages into law is so important to you.
My first canyon was in Zion
My first canyon was [name] in Zion National Park. [describe the experience, and how it impacted you] For decades, National Parks have partnered with canyoneers to establish safe, sustainable access to these incredibly special places. In places like Zion, thoughtful bolting has reduced the impact on the resource, and made it an invaluable entry point to the sport for an estimated 25% of American canyoneers. Additionally, the low technical barrier to Zion canyons creates opportunities for peer leadership, allowing non-canyoneers to become immersed in these special places without paying for a guide. The park has successfully managed these canyons for decades through an effective permitting process, and in partnership with the canyoning community. Adding bureaucratic restrictions to park managers is unnecessary. Language that promotes the removal of existing bolts in absence of a costly MRA is in contradiction to the purposes of wilderness: the removal of bolts will lead to the degradation of these canyons, and close the door to thousands of people every year who seek to be immersed in these spectacular places.
Canyoning is an inclusive sport, and bolts make that possible
The canyoning community is an inclusive community that prioritizes empowering individuals and creating a sense of team. A well-bolted technical canyon reduces the need to be an elite athlete or a "seasoned outdoor explorer" to be an asset on a team. Bolted anchors allow a much broader group of outdoor enthusiasts, including those who are brand new to the outdoors, to not only experience full immersion in a remote place, but also experience them as a valued teammate through technical skill that is not reliant on having years of outdoor experience or on being the fastest or strongest. The USFS Minimum Requirements Decision Guide lists as its policy objectives: Protect and perpetuate wilderness character and public values including, but not limited to, opportunities for scientific study, education, solitude, physical and mental challenge and stimulation, inspiration, and primitive recreation experiences. Fixed anchors in a canyon promote these values in an equitable way, allowing more of the public to benefit from these stated objectives.
Canyoning connects everyday people to nature in an immersive way
Responsibly placed anchors make safe access to special places possible. Many people lack the time or access to training to travel through technical terrain independently. A guided canyoning experience not only allows people to experience special places the wouldn’t otherwise have access to, but it builds confidence, encourages teamwork, and promotes a sense of play, all of which are critical for adult mental health. As guides/educators, when we take untrained individuals into a canyon, well-placed fixed anchors are what allow us to provide a transformative experience in nature for our participants, while effectively managing the objective risks of the environment. (For guides/educators: Insert trip advisor comments)
Bolts reduce impact on the resource, and preserve the wilderness character
In many cases, bolts are the most sustainable option - even more sustainable than fully removable anchors. Well-traveled destinations without fixed anchors experience tree damage and erosion due to high traffic using the only natural anchors available. Webbing and other soft goods deteriorate and leave microplastics in the environment. Ultimately, they wash into the water course. Bolts, on the other hand, can be placed on a durable rock surface that keeps impact away from fragile surfaces. They also create less of an eyesore than webbing or damaged natural resources. Over time, high-travel canyons without bolted anchors experience more lasting damage to the environment than those with bolted anchors.
Bolts greatly improve safety, and reduce the likelihood of needing rescue
In aquatic canyons, teams must prioritize managing the risks of water hazards. This means that anchor managers must be stationed at the edge of a drop so that they can communicate with the rappeller to ensure the rope is set with precision, and so that they can help facilitate any problem-solving. Additionally, anchors must be placed so that the fall line avoids any major aquatic hazards. These safety objectives should be considered the minimum safety requirements for the public to experience aquatic canyons in wilderness and non-wilderness alike.
Canyoneers care deeply about low impact travel, and should be included as experts in local decisions
The canyoning community in the US is very connected, and our approach to canyon travel (and all off-trail travel) is centered on minimizing human impacts on the resource. The community engages in ongoing conversation about ways to continue to protect the primitive nature of our canyons, and how to adjust our strategies so that they are appropriate for the environment. High-travel canyons - those that have easy access or low technical barriers - need special considerations. For example, 6-8 parties a year using a retrievable anchor around a tree will likely retain the wilderness character. But 6-8 parties a week during peak season using a retrievable anchor around that same tree will erode the roots as they access the tree, and strip the bark as they pull the anchor to retrieve it. For a high travel canyon, bolts can greatly reduce the impact by keeping all travel on durable surfaces. This is just one example to illustrate the importance of land managers working with canyoneers who can inform decisions in the best interest of the wilderness purposes. National guidance prohibiting bolts presupposes that the agency leaders are experts in whether bolts achieve the purposes of the Wilderness Act, and that a one-size-fits-all approach will meet the same goals for a huge diversity of land. It fails to allow room for public experts to support the decision.
I am concerned that this is an unfunded mandate
It's no secret that our public lands are underfunded. Most Forest Service Districts and National Parks lack the staffing needed to respond to basic permit requests, much less conduct a NEPA process. Requiring an MRA for any bolts in wilderness, including existing bolts, is irresponsible without identifying a dedicated fund to provide the resources for this. This unfunded mandate will surely lead to bolting permit moratoriums, an absurd outcome that wholly fails to meet the stated purposes of the Wilderness Act.
For AORA and the EXPLORE Act
The link below will take you to a page that pre-populates a message. Keep what's relevant to you. Delete what isn't and add your own content! Make it personal because they will read it!
Express your support for AORA and the EXPLORE Act
Explain why the PARC Act is so important to you, personally
Get canyoning on our legislators' radar as a legitimate sport with a healthy community
Read what others have written
TALK ABOUT THIS with other canyoners. This will help you hone in on WHY its important to you, and what you want to tell your legislators
Put one hour in your calendar to give yourself dedicated time to do it right.
Here's an example:
As an avid canyoneer, skier, and paddler, I am writing to ask you to support America's Outdoor Recreation Act.
I care deeply about the PARC Act, and I'm glad it's included. While it is written to support climbing, it also supports the continuation of canyoning, which is my passion. Canyoning is a sport that provides access to incredible places hidden right in our backyard. I'm proud to be part of an inclusive community that prioritizes empowering individuals and creating a sense of team. In the PNW, our canyons are bolted. This greatly improves safety in an aquatic environment. Perhaps more importantly, a well-bolted technical canyon reduces the need to be an elite athlete or a "seasoned explorer" to be an asset on a team. Bolted anchors allow non-athletes to not only experience full immersion in a remote place, but also experience them as a valued teammate through technical skill that is not reliant on being the fastest or strongest. What's more - bolted anchors minimize the impact of human travel by keeping all travel on durable surfaces (as opposed to natural anchors which often cause tree damage or erosion to the ground around a tree).
Canyoning is a sport that reinforces all of the "executive function" skills we want our kids to learn but that we all lost when we got iPhones. It teaches teamwork, resilience, perseverance, practice, humility, and care for your community. I believe this to be true far more in canyoning than in many other outdoor sports. Policy that supports these values, and that ensures that our stunning natural places are accessible to more than just wealthy athletes is critical at a time when these things are at risk.
I'm also pleased aboutt the BOLT Act, the SOAR Act, and creating a recreation inventory that will help agencies identify and protect important outdoor recreation on public lands. I am also happy to see the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership included, as well as making FICOR permanent.
If there’s anything else I can do to support the package as your constituent, please let me know. I've been so pleased to see the outdoors be a priority in the last Congress, and I hope we can do more this Congress. Thank you for your consideration!