Arches National Park Management Plan
The National Park Service (NPS) has announced that the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for Arches National Park’s Climbing and Canyoneering Management Plan was signed by the Acting Intermountain Regional Director on December 13, 2013.
This decision was reached after review of the environmental impact analysis and consideration of public comments on the Environmental Assessment released in June of 2013.
Canyoneering and rock climbing activities in Arches National Park will be actively managed and monitored to maintain desired resource and visitor experience conditions. Monitoring data will be used to determine whether desired conditions are being met. A variety of management strategies will be utilized (such as trail delineations, group-size limit changes, seasonal route closures, additional permit requirements, and placement and replacement of fixed gear) to help maintain these desirable conditions.
Rock climbers will be encouraged to complete a free online self-registration process and groups will be limited to five persons. Canyoneers will be required to complete the free online self-registration process for all routes except for those in the Fiery Furnace. Fiery Furnace permits will still need to be obtained at the park’s visitor center. Canyoneering groups on the Fiery Furnace and Lost Spring Canyon routes will be limited to six persons, while group size elsewhere will be limited to ten persons.
While establishment of new routes will be allowed, installation of new fixed gear on new and existing routes will require a free special use permit. In order to minimize resource impacts, the park will actively seek input and assistance from the climbing and canyoneering community in assessing the suitability and quality of new fixed gear placement proposals, and replacement of existing fixed gear.
Climbing, scrambling, or walking upon, wrapping webbing or rope around, or rappelling off any named and unnamed arch with an opening greater than three feet will be prohibited in the park.
The signed FONSI and public comments may be viewed on the Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/arch_CCMP_FONSI
Climbing and canyoneering regulations and route information will be posted on the park’s official website, and permits will be available online by early spring.
With rapid growth in the popularity of climbing and canyoneering,the NPS recognized a need far a
systematic assessment of potential impacts and an evaluation of potential management strategies far mitigating impacts.
Climbing and canyoneering activities have been largely unregulated aver past years. Park management did not know the full extent of climbing and canyoneering use and the impacts on the park’s resources, and potentially, with other visitors.
Selected Action – Alternative B
Active Management, is the preferred alternative and NPS’s selected action because it best meets the purpose and need for the project as well as the project objectives to:
1) Implement management strategies, which protect the park’s resources and values while providing opportunities for climbing and canyoneering.
2) Monitor the status of natural resources, climbing and canyoneering routes and use patterns as a basis for future decision making for maintaining desired conditions.
3) Establish appropriate levels of canyoneering and rock climbing use,.
4) Identify opportunities to provide educational venues and materials for rock climbing and canyoneering activities.
5) Engage the climbing and canyoneering community in cooperative stewardship of park resources, values, and visitor experience opportunities.
Under the preferred alternative, climbing and canyoneering activities will be actively managed and monitored to maintain desired resource and visitor experience conditions. Monitoring data will be used to ensure desired conditions are being met. If desired conditions are not being met, the following management strategies will be considered: Trail delineations, group-size limit adjustments, seasonal route closures, additional permit requirements, and placement and replacement of fixed gear.
Effects on Canyoneering
Social trails to and from canyons will be clearly stated to minimize impacts. Some trails will be marked. Others maintained and signed. Maps will show the proper approved routes. Side trails will be blocked off.
Canyoneering groups in the Fiery Furnace and the Lost Spring Canyon routes will be limited to six persons per group. Elsewhere, canyoneering groups will be limited to 10 persons per group. Larger groups must split and use different routes or use the same route at different times of the day to avoid queuing at rappel sites and to minimize impacts on resources and on other visitors.
A free user permit system will be implemented to enable monitoring of visitor use numbers, group sizes, and locations of use. The free permit process will be convenient and will benefit users by providing educational information on safety issues, route access, and low-impact ‘Leave No Trace'(LNT) techniques for off-trail travel in the backcountry. In the future, the permit system may be accessible online.
With the exception of entering the Fiery Furnace, permits will be available outside the park Visitor Center at an information/registration board.
Canyoneers will be required to complete a free self-registration process at the park VC or at the Lost Spring Canyon trailhead for the Undercover I MMI routes to allow NPS to gather information about levels, locations, and timing of canyoneering use in the park.
Establishment of new routes will be allowed. The following guidelines for new routes are provided to maximize visitor safety and minimize potential impacts on park resources and values:
1) Travel to and from routes must be within dry wash systems or on rock.
2) Use of retrievable anchor systems will be encouraged.
3) No new fixed gear can be installed without a special use permit.
Indicators of visitor use will be based on data provided by the user permit system and will be augmented by trail counters and observations made during periodic patrols by staff or partners. Indicators of resource conditions could include raptor nest site occupancy; desert bighorn sheep habitat occupancy; evidence of disturbance to other wildlife, sensitive soil, vegetation, water, cultural and geologic resources; and sound-scape characteristics.
Specific canyoneering routes will be closed (seasonal or permanent) to address a specific resource condition
To ensure protection of the geologic features for which the park was established, it will be prohibited to climb, scramble or walk upon, wrap webbing or rope around, or rappel off any named or unnamed arch with an opening greater than three feet.
Use of deadman anchors is prohibited. A deadman is a buried object (e.g., a large rock or log) that functions as an anchor for an attached rope. The action of digging a hole to bury an object for use as an anchor will be prohibited.
Bathing and immersing human bodies will be prohibited in water sources that do not have water flowing both in and out at the time of the activity. Swimming and wading also will be prohibited in water sources that do not currently have water flowing both in and out, except in cases where it will be necessary to enter the water source in order to traverse a route.
The replacement of fixed anchors will be allowed when necessary to enable a safe rappel when no other means of descent is possible, to enable emergency retreat, and during self-rescue situations.
All trash will be packed out and disposed of in a refuse receptacle (i.e., trash can or dumpster) (36 C.F.R. 2.14).
Toilet facilities will be used when available (36 C.F.R. 2.14). In undeveloped areas, the disposal of human body waste within 300 feet of a water source, campsite, road, or trail is prohibited. Leaving or burying toilet paper is prohibited. Provision and use of a bag system or portable toilet will be recommended.
The park will establish a proactive educational and outreach program. There will be a climbing/canyoneering educational display at the Visitor Center to display closures and regulations and to promote ‘Leave No Trace’ techniques and sound climbing and canyoneering ethics. The park will provide information to climbers and canyoneers before they arrive. This will be accomplished through the development of climbing and canyoneering-specific educational literature that could be distributed at the Visitor Centers, mailed, or posted on the park’s web page. The park will ensure that information posted on official NPS internet sites about canyoneering routes will be accurate and up-to-date.
Additional information: The Coalition of American Canyoneers Position Statement of July 9, 2013