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For the Love of Wilderness

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by ratagonia, Jan 15, 2023.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Wilderness
    Tremendous Value Rests in Untamed Places


    “In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”

    -Excerpt from The Wilderness Act of 1964

    What is Wilderness?


    Think about where you are at this very moment, reading these words. Think about the land beneath your feet, under your seat, and right outside your window. Chances are that your current location is like much of the rest of our planet today - dramatically altered and under the direct control of human beings, utterly unrecognizable in terms of its prehistoric qualities. These changes might have improved your current comfort, but something valuable and increasingly rare has been lost in the taming of where you are now.

    Consider your dependence on technology in your day to day life. How reliant are you on motorized or mechanized vehicles for your transportation needs? How long has it been since you’ve been without an outlet to charge your smartphone? How much do you depend on your furnace when it’s cold and your air conditioner when it’s hot? How able are you to thrive in the absence of grocery stores and permanent shelter? Are skills like these even relevant in your daily routine?

    Wilderness is the exception.

    The National Wilderness Preservation System is a network of over 111.7 million acres – more area than the state of California - of public land comprised of more than 803 wilderness areas administered for the American people by the federal government. These are special places where nature still calls the shots. Places where people like you, with an appetite for adventure, can find a sense of true self-reliance and experience solitude. They are final holdout refuges for a long list of rare, threatened, and endangered species, forced to the edges by modern development. They are the headwaters of critical, life-infusing rivers and streams. They are places where law mandates above all else that wildness be retained for our current generation, and those who will follow.

    “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

    - Proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson upon his signing of The Wilderness Act, September 3rd, 1964

    “…I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

    Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

    (from US Forest Service: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/wilderness )
    Kuenn, Scott Patterson, Ram and 5 others like this.
  2. a.c

    a.c canyonhermit

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    Last edited: Feb 2, 2023
  3. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Some excellent wordsmithing there, and he has some excellent points to make. Then again, the points he makes are philosophic, fun to contemplate, fun to debate, but in the end beside the point. As in, divorced from reality. By his convoluted definition, Wilderness can be found anywhere that the government is ineffective. His next wilderness trip should be to Kandahar province in Afghanistan - he should not plan on it being a long trip.

    And pretty much what I expect from Jim Stiles and the Zephyr. I am pretty sure Stiles HATES eve... well, no. I am VERY sure that Stiles loves to complain about everything. He is a curmudgeon, that is his JOB. He provokes. He pokes. And he postures, but he still lives in Moab, a place where he can complain about everything especially tourists, environmentalists and the modern world, and be treated fondly as a member of the community, a community fully entrenched in modern environmental tourism.

    And yes, this was penned by Loch, your neighbor, not Jim Stiles. Some excellent penmanship in it. Philosophically sharp. Rather divorced from what is actually happening on the ground, here in Utah and in canyoneering specifically. Then again, to this point this thread has been abstract so you may or may not know where I am going with this... "Utah, specifically canyoneering. How it relates to the preservation of Wilderness Qualities as the terms are used in the modern non-curmudgeon world." (I am the curmudgeon in this conversation, so please do not out-curmudgeon me!)

    Tom
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
    hank moon and kaceythebeluga like this.
  4. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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  5. a.c

    a.c canyonhermit

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    Tom, I largely agree with your opinion of Stiles. I do, however, appreciate his character for offering a different perspective and more so for his sound journalism. Last I knew he moved out of Moab several years ago and out of Utah a bit more recently; to KS, of all places!

    Given my druthers I'd see much more wilderness on our continent, and beyond. But since this topic is focused on canyoneering and its practitioners I won't rant in the wrong direction.
    By and large I think that canyoneering and many (most?) canyoneers support the preservation of Wilderness qualities, simply because of the human powered nature of the activity. However, I think that those who fly drones and bring similarly intrusive B.S. into the wilds are not supporting those qualities.
    I'd argue that ultimately nature still calls the shots on the entire planet, though more so once one is in the wilds.
    As for adventure, most misuse the word, though some find a truer experience. In canyons we're often very reliant on others beta. If it's insufficient or incorrect because of unexpected changes then true adventure may be what we're in for.
    I think of previously unknown keepers that remain hidden until just the right flood reveals them. Even when we expect them, intentionally descending into a canyon with keepers can definitely give one the chance to get a true sense of self-reliance.
    But when do we draw the line on self-reliance and preserving wilderness qualities before we drill holes for hooks or possibly worse, call SAR? Once they're involved, Wilderness qualities usually take a back seat.
    With regards to the rare species, et al, the hope for them obviously rests on the preservation of their habitat and if applicable, corridors that connect similar habitats. This alone is not enough for some canyon dependent species. It might require sacrifice on part of canyoneers in the form of seasonal or possibly permanent closures. While humans are arguably an integral part of most ecosystems, I have my doubts about our role in slot canyon ecology and our introduction of synthetic pollutants (e.g. neoprene, sunscreen, etc.).
    ratagonia likes this.
  6. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    I am very fortunate.

    I live on land that I neither settled nor purchased. Fourth generation squatter, if you will. I have been helping my oldest son this week with a remodeling project. His young family also lives on the property, in a house built by his great great grandfather. Times were tough back then, money scarce. Houses were constructed of materials from their backyard. Rough sawn lumber cut from native pines well over 100 years old. When a 2x4 measured 2 inches by 4 inches. Building standards were not the same… We’re remodeling (reconstructing) a small bathroom, built over a cellar literally hewn out of sandstone. Floor joists on 26 inch centers. They did the best they could.

    Tom, on the heels of this experience I have an even greater appreciation and sensitivity for defining progress.

    We truly need to continue carrying forward the vision, and hard work, of pioneers whose commitment to future generations outweighed immediate gratification.

    “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton



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  7. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    (discussion with a pro-bolt person):

    1. Canyoneering is a sport that takes place in a natural environment. This is generally stated as a wilderness sport. Dealing with NATURE is a valued aspect of the sport. De-naturing canyons decreases their value. Having beta available and having webbing in place for most anchors are minor de-naturings. Drilling holes and installing hardware are major de-naturings, to be avoided until necessary to preserve the environment. A wilderness ethic allows for recreation in wilderness settings using the minimum intrusions that allow safe passage. Many wilderness rock climbs use bolts where necessary. Many wilderness canyons use bolts where necessary. Bolts are not necessary in North Wash, and putting in unnecessary bolts devalues the canyons.

    2. Canyoneering is a sport that requires a certain level of competence to practice safely. Canyons cannot be made 'safe' by installing bolts - they still require some level of competence on the part of participants. The sooner participants learn that they need some degree of anchor savvy the better. Unnecessarily bolting 'beginner canyons' teaches beginners that any challenging anchors will be provided for them - which will get them in trouble when they find out that is not always the case. Competence needs to be installed in the participants, not in the canyons.

    3. Beginners learn anchoring from what they find in canyons. This is why I think it important for us competent persons to do a good job of cleaning up anchors EVERY time we go through canyons. Sloppy anchors teach participants that sloppy anchors are okay. Giant cairns teach beginners that cairns need to be giant. Beginners will develop competence faster (and become safer) if they see and use good anchors in canyons.

    4. The Tragedy of The Commons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons Canyons are a shared resource. You accuse me of deciding for everyone that the resource should be left as is. I accuse you (or the mad bolter) of deciding for everyone that the resource should be altered (aka Disneyfied) for reasons I find fallacious. While you profess the goal of making the canyon descent as simple as possible; my goal is to maintain the canyon as close as possible to its natural state. I suggest, given there are participants with both points of view, that maintaining the canyon in a fairly natural state is the more ethical choice.
  8. Brian in SLC

    Brian in SLC Brian in SLC

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    Discussion with an anti bolt person (ha ha):

    Access Fund - BREAKING: Protect America's Rock Climbing Act…

    Wilderness plays an important role in American climbing—past and present. Some of the most iconic climbing in the country is located within Wilderness, including areas like El Capitan, The Diamond on Longs Peak, Joshua Tree’s Wonderland of Rocks, and North Carolina’s iconic Linville Gorge. Climbers have always relied on the legal and conditional use, placement, and maintenance of bolts and other fixed anchors. These anchors help keep these areas pristine, while still allowing climbers to safely ascend and descend technical routes. The Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act would bring consistency to federal management of climbing in Wilderness areas across land management agencies, including the management of fixed anchors, bolts, and other hardware. It enjoys broad support from recreationists and conservationists across the country.

    Our very own congressman John Curtis:

    Representatives Curtis and Neguse both represent districts with strong climbing communities and economies that depend on the $12 billion climbing industry.
    “In Utah, recreation on public lands is a large and ever-growing industry,” says Congressman Curtis. “Ensuring access to these lands is vital not just for our economy, but also to ensure the millions of Americans who enjoy rock climbing can fully explore our nation’s national treasures."


    Every point in Tom's post above could be argued in the counter via the Access Fund's points. So...

    IMHO, pretty neat that my local congressman, who I don't agree with on many of his policies, co-wrote this bill in front of Congress.

    Text of bill not available yet...will be interesting to parse through it.

    Good times...

    -Brian
  9. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Me, anti-bolt? A strange way to look at it. I am pro-wilderness.

    My viewpoint on bolts and the law comes largely from AAC and Access Fund sources. The ethic I push forth is consistent with AAC and Access Fund positions. Changing the nature of climbs by adding bolts to established non-bolt climbs is considered thuggery in the climbing community - this is the sin I rage against.

    T
  10. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    After Fritz Wiessner's death in 1988, Hans Kraus wrote of his friend in the American Alpine Journal 1989:
    "He leaves a legacy even more important than his many climbing accomplishments: his respect and reverence for the hills. He felt that the climber and mountaineer is merely a guest in the mountain environment, which must be left pristine and undisturbed."
    Gooseberry likes this.
  11. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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