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BLM revisiting policy on fixed anchors in wilderness areas

To bolt or not to bolt. That is the question.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Red Rock/Sloan Field Office used its Sept. 15 monthly open house at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Visitor Center to discuss setting policy on fixed anchors, or permanent bolts, used by rock climbers in wilderness areas.

Currently, the Red Rock Canyon Resource Management Plan does not allow fixed anchors in designated wilderness areas. Climbing routes were legally established many years ago, and using those old anchors can be a matter of life or death, said Nick Walendziak, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM.

"It’s not really enforced," said Scott Massey, vice president of the Las Vegas Climber’s Liaison Council.

Currently, when a bolt is deemed unsafe, climbers remove it and affix a new one to replace it.

Walendziak used slides to inform the dozen attendees at the evening presentation. He said studies began in September to address changing the policy. The first is a wilderness plan and the second a Resource Management Plan amendment that specifically addresses fixed anchors. Those studies are slated to be completed by January 2013.

A third plan will be undertaken in the undetermined future and will address routes and off-limit land, so areas with archaeological value or endemic flora will not be disturbed. Some of the verbiage will be borrowed from related policies.

"We’re not starting from scratch," said Mark Boatwright, archaeologist with the BLM. "We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water."

The wilderness areas include the roughly 50,000 acres of the La Madre area at the north end of Red Rock Canyon and the 25,000 or so acres of the Rainbow area, formerly known as the Willow Creek area.

"We look at resource protection, visitor safety and visitor experience," said Tim Wakefield, field manager for Red Rock Canyon. "Visitor safety is No. 1."

Because use of machinery is prohibited in wilderness areas, power drills cannot be used to affix anchors to the rock face. The CLC members said they had no problem with that and wanted to work with the BLM in seeing it enforced.

"If some schmuck’s out there with a power drill, we’re going to stop them," said John Wilder, adviser to the liaison board.

He complimented the BLM for allowing the CLC to replace as many as 60 old bolts that were deemed unsafe.

For more information, visit blm.gov.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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