Joshua Tree National Park, California

Speak up by June 13 for Wilderness in Joshua Tree

Your help is needed to protect Wilderness at Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. The National Park Service (NPS) is soliciting comments on a new climbing plan for Joshua Tree, and needs to be reminded of the importance of protecting designated Wilderness from the installation of climbing bolts and other permanent fixed climbing anchors.

Congress designated the Joshua Tree Wilderness in 1976 and, after additions in 1994, the Wilderness now includes 595,000 acres of the total 792,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park. The area’s unique geological formations make it an attraction for climbers. The NPS is now considering adopting a new Climbing Management Plan for Joshua Tree to regulate climbing and to protect natural resources.

Rock climbing in designated Wilderness is an allowable recreational activity, but many climbers rely on installing bolts or other permanent fixed climbing anchors to assist in climbing challenging rock faces. These permanent fixed climbing anchors deface the rock walls, degrade the area’s wildness, and are prohibited by the 1964 Wilderness Act (though the NPS doesn’t always agree).

Your help is needed by June 13 to speak up for wilderness values in the forthcoming climbing plan for Joshua Tree. Thanks for your help in keeping the Joshua Tree Wilderness wild!!

Please go to the NPS planning website listed below, and answer the five questions about which the NPS seeks public comment. Feel free to copy and paste our suggested responses from below, but use your own words where possible.

Question 1:  Yes, visitors should be required to stay on official trails in order to protect plants, animals, fragile soils, and historic artifacts.

Question 2:  Section 4(c) of the Wilderness Act prohibits any “structure or installation” in designated Wilderness.  Bolts and other permanent fixed climbing anchors are included in this prohibition.  The National Park Service should accordingly prohibit all bolts and permanent fixed climbing anchors in the designated Wilderness portions of Joshua Tree National Park.

Question 3:  In designated Wilderness, bolts should not be replaced because they are prohibited by the Wilderness Act.

Question 4:  The park should prohibit rock climbing at sites that are culturally sensitive and/or of importance to Native American communities. The recent bolting up a petroglyph site in Utah shows the importance of protecting these sites.

Question 5:  Some rock faces may not be climbable in designated Wilderness without the use of bolts or permanent climbing anchors, and that’s OK if they are unclimbable. Humans don’t need to dominate and occupy every rock face in Wilderness, especially if climbers degrade the wildness of these areas and of these particular rock faces with permanent bolts.

Comments:  The National Park Service needs to strengthen its climbing policies nationwide to prohibit bolts and permanent fixed climbing anchors in all designated Wildernesses.

Help us protect Joshua Tree and Wilderness around the country. All first-time donations matched by a generous donor in Alaska!

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