The Public Comment Period for Yosemite’s Big Wall Permit System Closes Soon

This article originally appeared on Climbing

The National Park Service (NPS) is instituting a permanent Big Wall Permit Program in Yosemite starting in January 2023. The public comment period to provide input about the program closes on November 16. You can leave a comment HERE.

Climbers have vocally objected to the requirements for big wall permits since the announcement of the permanent program on August 26. Some believe that the park service ultimately intends to introduce a quota system for all climbers, and that this is just the first step in that process. Others are in support of the program and say that the waste left behind on popular routes has forced the NPS "to protect the wilderness character and natural conditions of Yosemite's big walls," which the NPS say is the major underlying impetus for the permanent program. Climbing Ranger Jesse McGahey states that the park service doesn't want to limit access, and they have no intention of implementing quotas on big walls.

  • Read our detailed coverage of the big wall permit proposal here.

The park service has hosted multiple virtual and in-person outreach events over the last two months. During these events, climbing rangers have answered questions and heard comments in an effort to bridge the gap between the park service and the climbing community.

The public comment portal is a great place to voice concerns about the plan's implementation. For instance, a persistent worry, from a climbing perspective, is that since permits must be gotten in person, during ranger work hours, the permit system makes access to big walls far more difficult, especially for climbers with limited time. However, several solutions have been proposed during conversations between climbers and climbing rangers: longtime local Jim Hornibrook, for instance, has proposed to "have year-round self-registration somewhere near El Cap Meadow, perhaps where the bear boxes are. Near the registration post would be several signs outlining important Leave No Trace ethics and big wall expectations in multiple languages." The solution could eliminate the need for climbers to pick up permits during business hours, saving time for climbers and resulting in a less expensive program for the park service. Hornibrook says rangers were open to the idea.

The final public outreach event is scheduled for Saturday November 12th at the Bishop Craggin’ Classic.

The public comment period closes on November 16. To learn more and to submit comments, visit the NPS public input portal.

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