On a big mountain a good guide can mean the difference between a life changing experience and basic survival.
The NPS is planning to reduce the amount of guides on Denali next season by 75%, in some cases cutting the employed guides from 54 to 13.
Slingfin received the following email today and it was so well written I felt the need to post the whole thing.
PASS IT ON!
The first round prototype of one of our new tents the "Hardshell" on Denali last May.
SAVE THE GUIDES!
“The NPS has Denali climber allocation up for final discussion. Thanks to all of you that commented last winter on this topic! They read the comments and came up with 3 alternatives to try and work from.
I really appreciated that they are trying to resolve this issue. Sadly, all of the alternatives they list include a baseline 25% commercial use. This percentage could drastically effects the future of guiding and guiding jobs on Denali.
25% equals 47 clients per concession and only 15 guide positions per season for AMS.
To compare: This year we led 94 clients on Denali and had 47 guide positions on Denali.
DEADLINE TO COMMENT IS THIS SATURDAY OCTOBER 15, 2011
We are still formulating our comments to this plan, and we need you (and your friends and family) to comment too! Comments must have a solid reasoning to be considered. Here are some points to consider. Scroll to the bottom to see our proposed solutions.
The Denali Park # 3 preferred alternative is good with exceptions of:
1. Limiting commercial capacity to 25% of 1500
2. The inclusion of mountain guides to the base allowable percentage
3. Lack of clear implementation plan.
Here is why:
1. Inadequate Range of Alternatives:
The base allowable commercial use of 25% is listed in all three alternatives. The 2011 EA and the 2006 BCMP do not acknowledge the significant economic impact that the reduction to 25% commercial use will have on the Denali mountaineering concessioners, their employees, park visitors, or surrounding local businesses. If the Denali National Park feels it must reduce base commercial use to 25% of total allowable use, then, NEPA requires an Environmental Impact Statement with socioeconomic studies. The NPS preferred alternative #3 does suggest the opportunity for increased use due to potential unclaimed permits, but offers no plan to implement that increased use to meet current visitor demand and no implementation of that plan.
2. Lack Of Conflict/ Ease of Using Current Methods:
Guided and individual climbers are not being displaced using current methods of regulating climbing activity, we suggest using the working current percentages, with moderate room for growth to accommodate the trend of increasing demand.
3. Decreased Job Opportunity:
In 2011, Alaska Mountaineering School (AMS) employed 47 guide positions. Decreasing guaranteed commercial opportunity to 25% would allow only 15 guide jobs on Denali for the season. Another Concessioner employed 54 guides, for their business model a reduction to 25% would provide only 13 guide positions available.
For all the concessioners estimates show that over 90 guide positions could be lost.
4. Decreased Stewardship:
Each guided expedition on Denali provides 21 days of education to clients; this encourages and results in excellent stewardship of the glaciated mountain environment and Denali National Park. In 2010 there were 169 guides on Denali educating the public. Reducing the guaranteed opportunity of commercial activity to 25% could result in a loss of 1,974 days of guided education on the West Buttress.
5. Decreased Cleanliness:
Field observations show that guided groups are cleaner and more responsible for a cleaner mountain environment. They are, in fact, bound to be cleaner by their concession contract and therefore are additionally accountable.
6. Decreased Visitor Opportunity:
In 2010, 1177 people climbed Mt. McKinley, of those 409 were guided climbers, a 25% limitation could result in 174 less guided park visitors. That is 42% of the people may not be able to climb Mt. McKinley with a guided team.
7. West Buttress Special Use Area Corridor
The area of Mount McKinley that we are discussing is the West Buttress, not the entire massif. The park BCMP acknowledged that the area is higher use and designated it as such by calling it the West Buttress Special Use Corridor, which is within the Old Park wilderness area.
The Parks BCMP sates that within this corridor park visitors will encounter:
• High Evidence of Human Use
• Landscape modifications
• Encounters with large groups
• High Camping Density
High Administrative Presence
We believe the original intent was to limit commercial use to 25% of potential use in the Wilderness Area outside of the Special Use Corridor (precisely why it was designated). This Corridor designation allows the NPS to be flexible within the acknowledged busier area of the West Buttress Route of Mt. McKinley, to accommodate park visitors wishing to join a guided expedition.
8. Don’t Count Guides
Guides are not recreating; they are working. Excluding guides from commercial percentage allows a smaller commercial percentage (closer to the BCMP figure) and greater park visitor safety. Including guides in the percentage will result in fewer guides on the mountain, decreasing overall quality of experience to all park visitors who climb because of the support guides provide for the entire visitor population. Mountain guides provide a multitude of positive contributions to the national park lands and all park visitors while climbing Mt. McKinley, which include but are not limited to: increased safety and hazard awareness, assistance to park rangers in SAR operations and maintenance of equipment on the mountain, LNT environmental ethics and practices, education of the natural and human history of the Alaska Range and surrounding terrain.
1. (Preferred) Include guided climbers only in the guaranteed opportunity of commercial use to 38% of total possible activity on the West Buttress of Mt. McKinley. To accommodate increased visitor demand in the future, utilize the NPS plan to share with concessioners unused climbing permits. Implement the plan with an equally divided, structured format, in order to offer the park visitors fair opportunity to climb Denali and to protect future opportunities. Include the plan of implementation within the mountaineering concession contracts.
2. Include guided climbers and guides in the guaranteed opportunity of commercial use to 50% (1982- present allowable use) of total possible activity on the West Buttress of Mt. McKinley. To accommodate increased visitor demand in the future, utilize the NPS plan to share with concessioners unused climbing permits. Implement the plan with an equally divided, structured format, in order to offer the park visitors fair opportunity to climb Denali and to protect future opportunities. Include the plan of implementation within the mountaineering concession contracts.”