The announcement came in a March 29 letter written by National Park Service Regional Director John Wessels addressed to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who previously expressed concerns about a proposed ban on guided climbing in the wilderness zone.
In his letter, Wessels stated the National Park Service is currently drafting a Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan for the Black Canyon National Park. The plan is currently in draft form and is being produced by an interdisciplinary team that includes “technical experts” from the park, the regional office and other park officials who have similar wilderness issues.
The draft plan includes one option to eliminate commercial climbing in one zone of the park known as the Inner Canyon Wilderness Zone, while commercial guiding would continue to be permitted in other areas of the park. But after hearing Udall’s concern over the commercial climbing ban in the Inner Canyon Wilderness Zone, Wessels stated his department decided to hold off on that option for now.
“We are not proceeding at this time with new restrictions on commercial guiding in the Inner Canyon Wilderness Zone,” Wessels stated in his letter to Udall. “This issue will not move forward without much more internal deliberation and then close collaboration with all interested parties, including your offices.
“We appreciate that a plan like this is of considerable significance to the climbing community and other park advocates and supporters.”
Udall was encouraged by the response.
“I applaud the National Park Service on its decision not to move forward with a guided-climbing ban in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park,” Udall said. “This is not only a spectacular area, but also a world-class climbing destination, and guided climbing continues to play a role in both supporting the local economy and promoting the safe and responsible use of our outdoor resources. I am also pleased that the park service has pledged to work with stakeholders before making any decisions that would limit guided climbing in the future.”
Wessel went on to state that his office is reviewing public comments on the draft plan as it works toward producing a final version of the plan.
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