U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Albuquerque, New Mexico
FINDING OF NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT (FONSI)
Technical Rock Climbing
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
The environmental assessment (EA) discusses the environmental consequences of technical rock climbing on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The EA is available in the Regional Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at Refuge headquarters located 12 miles northwest of Cache, Oklahoma.
Based on the analysis and evaluation as described in the EA, it is my decision to approve the proposed action.
The following four alternatives were considered in the EA:
1. Status Quo Management of Climbing (No Action) - With this alternative technical rock climbing would continue to be allowed during daylight hours throughout the portion of the Refuge open to the general public. No restrictions on participant numbers, climbing season, use of permanent anchors (bolts), or need for reservations or permits would be imposed.
2. Climbing Activity Prohibited Throughout the Refuge - All the Refuge would be closed to technical climbing, and field possession of technical climbing gear would be prohibited anywhere on the Refuge.
3. Climbing Activity Permitted Throughout the Public Use Portion of the Refuge with Limited Restrictions and Refuge specific Research (Proposed Action) - Technical rock climbing would be allowed during daylight hours throughout the Public Use Area of the Refuge with the following exception: the rock faces on the left side of West Cache Creek (facing downstream -- the north and east side) downstream from Boulder Cabin would be closed to all climbing activity while research is being conducted to determine ecological impacts of climbing on cliff habitat and associated wildlife of the Refuge. This closure would be for a period not to exceed five years after which results of the research would be utilized to re-evaluate the need for any area or seasonal closures. This alternative also prohibits sport rappelling in one area described in the EA. A Citizen' s Advisory Bolting Committee would be established to assist the Refuge Manager in regulating the practice of "bolting" (including replacement), and the use of power drills and other electro-mechanical or pneumatic devices would be prohibited in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. Finally, the alternative requires commercial or instructional operators who charge individuals for climbing activity on the Refuge to obtain Special Use Permits from the Refuge Manager.
4. Climbing Activity Permitted Throughout the Public Use Portion of the Refuge Except for Seasonal Closure of "the Narrows"- This alternative is identical to #3 except that all climbing activity would be prohibited in "the Narrows" (described in the EA) from the period from April 1 through June 30 for a period not to exceed five years while research is being conducted to determine ecological impacts of climbing on cliff habitat and associated Refuge wildlife,
The proposed action represents a reasonable means to ensure that this popular activity does not have a significant negative environmental impact or become incompatible with Refuge purposes, yet remains a viable activity which is critical for overall public and political support of the Refuge and Service. Based on the analysis and evaluation as described in the EA, it is my decision to approve the proposed action.
I have determined that implementation of the proposed alternative as discussed in the attached E.A. will not have a significant effect on the human environment within the meaning of Section 102 (2) (C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Accordingly an environmental impact statement will not be prepared.
This decision is subject to administrative review, pursuant to 36 C.F.R. 221.18.
Nancy M. Kaufman