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Senators Get Park Service To Retreat From Commercial Climbing Ban In Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park Wilderness


At the request of three U.S. senators, the Park Service has agreed to move slowly before deciding on whether to ban commercial climbing outfitters in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Photo of Painted Wall in the park copyright by QT Luong,, used with permission.

Thoughts by the National Park Service to ban commercial climbing outfitters from wilderness areas in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado are being reined in after three U.S. senators raised concerns over the impact of a ban.

In a letter to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colorado), Mark Bennett (D-Colorado) and Max Baucus (D-Montana) pointed to both the popularity of climbing in the park and the inherent dangers associated with climbing there in pressing for the allowance of commercial guides.

"While most climbers in the park choose not to climb with a guide, many do utilize a guide, and we believe that given the extremely challenging nature of climbing in the Black Canyon, the option to climb with a guide should be available," the senators' letter reads. "Without guided climbs and the technical assistance and expertise provided by a guide, we believe many of our constituents would not be able to experience a climb in the Black Canyon."

In response, Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels told the senators that the Park Service would withhold imposing a ban at this time. "This issue will not move forward without much more internal deliberation and then close collaboration with all interested parties, including your offices," Mr. Wessels wrote. 

"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," Sen. Udall said the other day in a press release. "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."

The Park Service currently is working on a backcountry and wilderness management plan for Black Canyon.


What was the reason behind thinking of banning commercial guides?

Lee, neither letter specified, but it probably had to do with the prohibition against "commercial activities" in official wilderness.

Enforcing the prohibition on comercial activites in designated wilderness sounds like a mighty fine idea to me.

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