A year round ban looms on some of Spain's finest Crags.
The Medi Ambient (Environment Agency) of Lleida has recently published a draft proposal detailing measures aimed at protecting certain species of flora and fauna on some of the most important cliffs of western Catalunya. If fully implemented, these measures would severely limit activity in what is generally regarded one of the finest climbing locations in Europe.
In reply to Doug: Petrocoptis montsicciana, indeed — thanks for spotting the spelling mistake.
You can see the full proposal at www.onaclimb.com
Click on the top news item on the home page: "Notícies sobre possibles noves restriccions d'escalada a Noguera i Urgell, a 25 d'Agost 2008...."
then download the PDF.
The only problem is that it's in Catalan rather than Castillian.
In reply to Pete O'Donovan: This may seem a silly suggestion but can the BMC be any help? They represent the interests UK climbers. A ban on climbing on major crags in the Catalunia area would have a impact on UK climbers. Even if they cannot provide direct help they may provide indirect help with their experience of drawing up access agreements in the UK ie. how to get expert advice to support your case etc. At the very least they can give support their Spanish equivalent climbing organisation.
I agree with your opinion, with the vast amounts of land, the ban seems ludicrous. And for the past few weeks I've seen huge amounts of vultures and hawks in Rodellar, and they seem to co-habit with climbers with no problem. Also they seem not to have contemplated the opinion of the climbers either, as in some part they just propose a total ban rather than finding a viable solution for everyone. I wonder FEEC has a strong voice as BMC has in UK.
I think there maybe a small bank of literature about raptors and climbers, in the UK and the USA. (BMC and Us Access Fund, and Burea of Land Management in US)
There are rarely all out bans, they are usually seasonal, and only include the area adjacent to the nests, if any at all.
Some species of raptors are not effected by human disturbance, humans in the vicinity, and it does depend where humans approach the nests - from below is not a problem in some cases, from above may disturb them, not sure if it is enough for them to leave the nest.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC:
The most telling line was Pete's comment that "initially local climbers were supportive". I think most sensible climbers are supportive of wildlife bans when they are placed for a region. However, some of these proposed bans are over the top. So it's great that a stink is being kicked up about it, hopefully a compromise can be reached.
A couple of extra point I'd like to make:
1) Catalan (and Spanish) climbers are, in my experience, much more careless with the crag environment than we are in Britain. I'm not talking about bolting (although the ethic of bolting a perfectly trad-climbable route is endemic), I'm talking about shitting at crags and leaving the paper in plain view, and general problems of littering. It may only be a minority that does such things, but it's a noticeable minority. This behaviour does not help with environmentalists.
2) Pete questions whether birds actually do nest near areas of human activity. We know from the annual Stanage Ring Ouzel ordeal that they most certainly do - and more importantly, that temporarily banning certain climbing areas *does* work in helping them nest and breed. Worth bearing in mind.
At the end of the day, I would fully support temporary bans on certain crags, given sufficient evidence that it would genuinely help nature that is being threatened. I suspect that the majority of climbers would agree with me. But blanket bans on quality crags for no real reason need to be opposed!
Well done Pete for writing the article and bringing it to our attention.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Thanks for all the comments folks. Some interesting points have already come up.
The Catalan equivalent of the BMC — the FEEC — will hopefully be putting forward the case for the climbers. Whether they have as much clout in Catalunya as the BMC has here is another matter.
I would partly agree with Alun that some of the local climbers do not treat the cragging environment with sufficient respect (the issue of indiscreet shitting makes my blood boil!) but I've found that visiting climbers from other continental countries are often little better. I'm afraid to say it usually seems to be a matter of age — the younger ones being the worst offenders. On the other hand, you have folks like Dani Andrada picking up other peoples litter and ciggy butts as he walks back to the car.
The point Alun raised about Ring Ouzels on Stanage, for me, illustrates the main difference between what's required for wildlife protection in the UK as opposed to a place like Catalunya. In Britain, barring the northern half of Scotland and some crumbling sea cliffs, every single piece of reasonably sound rock is climbed on. Every square metre of moorland and hillside has felt the weight of a walker's boot — and does so on a regular basis. If climbers and hill walkers in the UK were ruthlessly honest with themselves, they'd probably have to admit that the best thing for the re-generation of bird and plant life in our islands would be just to stay at home and watch nature programmes on the TV!
The situation in Catalunya is very different because (as detailed in the article) of the sheer amount of unclimbed rock and semi-wilderness there. I'm not saying that if climbing ceased completely at, say, Camarasa, there might not be a few more nesting raptors using the cliffs currently climbed on within a couple of years. But with such a huge number of potential nesting sites already available, often in far more secluded locations, I fail to see the need to add more.
The cliffs of Camarasa are also cited by the proposal as particularly important for one of the two plant species mentioned in the report. Ironically, if it weren't for the paths cut through the impossibly dense bands of shrubs and trees below the cliffs by climbers over the years (and now also used by walkers), the naturalists would never have gotten close enough to establish their presence in the first place!
Keep it coming guys.
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com: The 'problem' with Vultures is that their breeding/nesting season is so long. They start building the nests (or, more usually, repairing last years) in early December, and the chicks — a strange name for something of that size — may not fly the coup until the following August, or even September. Hence the proposed year-round ban.
The six month bans are for Eagles, Falcons and Hawks.
I'll have a look on the 'net for that article you mentioned.
I seem to remember that there was a situation very similar to that I France in the late 90's. An "arete Biotope" was drafted which was supposed to ban most crags in the Luberon area (Buoux, Lourmarin...). If you have contact with the FEEC (?) maybe they should get in touch with the FFME to see how they sorted out that particular issue. Just a thought.
In reply to ArnaudG: The agreement in the Luberon is actually mentioned in the proposal by the Medi Ambient as setting a precedent. They say that climbing was banned in all but a very small area. Do you happen to know any details of the restrictions currently in force and how strictly climbers adhere to them?
In reply to Pete O'Donovan:
Apparently the EU ban on leaving dead livestock out in the fields forced large numbers of vultures from Spain/The Pyrenees al the way to Belgium/The Netherlands in 2007 and 2008 in their search for food. Messures like these, to protect EU economic farming interests, affect the population of birds of prey on a far bigger scale then the few climbers operating at the base of clifs. Vultures nest mostly in overhanging choss, where no routes go. Given the enormous amount of rock, a peacefull co-habitation between birds/climbers must be possible.
Unfortunately climbers are perceived as an easy to target/blame group, wereas those responsible for truly having a big impact on nature (urban developpers, legislative geeks) never get targeted. In a way we (climbers) owe it to ourselves for not taking things into our own hands. Local climbers/clubs should work together with land managers, park autorities, the greens and have access-issues sorted out before problems arise. In nearby Germany nearly all climbing was banned in the early 90's for the same false reasons (sure we give climbers all the blame as eco-terrorist but hell no, we won't stop constucting the new autobahn) exept for those area's (Pfalz) where climbers acted first and developped a systems of temporarily (bird)bans by themselves. By doing so they were able to show that they, as climbers, were actively involved in protecting nature and managed to avoid totals bans.
So, get those locals climbers organised and get them to start writing there own plans for protecting nature! Show your good intentions and make the best of it. And stop shitting close to the crag!
I think you can contact Cédric Larcher for more information on the bans in place. As for the Luberon, people are still (have started again) climbing on the cliffs that are closed to climbing. Apparently the bans are not enforced, like the used to be. This is of course not a good solution as it will endanger the changes of finding a durable solution to the access issues.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: I’ve just uploaded a few pictures to more graphically demonstrate what I mean about there being no shortage of suitable habitat in the area, other than the cliffs currently climbed on.
— http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=97285: The Paret del Doll is located between Camarasa and Terradets. It’s about 500m high and, apart from a couple of semi-aid routes established on the upper tier back in the 1990s and rarely (I would guess never) repeated, it remains untouched.
— http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=97288: The 50m high pinnacle of El Bisbe near Santa Linya. There is one classic route up the pinnacle, rarely repeated due to the approach — an hours walk plus an abseil down a vertical gully. The huge cliffs opposite are untouched.
— http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=97284: La Serra de Carbonara, high above the Camarasa gorge. Two old semi-aid routes exist on this 200m wall, rarely (read never) repeated.
— http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=97287: An unclimbed 50-80m crag near Alos de Balaguer — one of many in the immediate vicinity. Difficult access and some sections of loose rock mean development is highly unlikely. A couple of kilometres down the valley, on some crags much nearer the road, about 50 routes have been established over the past couple of years. Now facing a year-round ban under the new proposals.
— http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=97286: Unclimbed 50m cliff near Abella de la Conca. Long approach + super smooth rock = no climbing.
If the Medi Ambient, rather than going for ‘easy’ targets had asked climbers to undertake never to develop these and the hundreds of other similarly wild/loose places in the west of Catalunya, I’m sure they would be met with a very positive response.
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Is there anything we can do to help support a climber based sensible response? The area you mention is my favourite climbing area, or better said region, I have been very happy climbing there. There is so much rock and so few people or climbers particularly foreign ones. Your article was extremely well written shows just how blinkered administrators can be. Do they not need a scientific environmental impact report first?
In reply to Oliver Hill: I reckon that just by responding to this topic you're helping. I've posted a link to one of my buddies in Catalunya and he'll make sure that the powers that be get to see it and hopefully realize the importance of this area to the wider climbing community. Thanks.
In reply to Pete O'Donovan:
My goodness Pete. The may be 'wild and loose', but you realise that by showing the photos of these cliffs you've just alienated the entire British climbing public, as they are now seething with jealousy!
> You can see the full proposal at www.onaclimb.com
> Click on the top news item on the home page: "Notícies sobre possibles noves restriccions d'escalada a Noguera i Urgell, a 25 d'Agost 2008...."
> then download the PDF.
> The only problem is that it's in Catalan rather than Castillian.
Thanks, with a bit of time I can just about read Catalan. I don't really know the sites but do know a bit about EU nature directives. The document tries to make a case by mentioning a few sites elsewhere where such restrictions have been introduced but doesn't mention whether they were effective, more worrying is the absence of any appreciation (or even mention) of the use of voluntary bans (as in the UK) or a justification for why these sites need such measures when most don't.
Neither the Birds Directive or the Habitats Directive (the two plant spp are listed on annex II & IV) require such draconian restrictions which have only been invoked for a handful of the 20 000 plus sites so far proposed/designated across the 27 countries of the EU
> (In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC)
> Perhaps this needs to turn into an international online petition showing the loss to catalunia in finacial terms of closing down climbing.
> Especially as Spain is entering a recession.
> (In reply to Pete O'Donovan)
> My goodness Pete. The may be 'wild and loose', but you realise that by showing the photos of these cliffs you've just alienated the entire British climbing public, as they are now seething with jealousy!
Just as well I didn't show 'em the good stuff then!
> (In reply to Pete O'Donovan)
> Thanks, with a bit of time I can just about read Catalan. I don't really know the sites but do know a bit about EU nature directives. The document tries to make a case by mentioning a few sites elsewhere where such restrictions have been introduced but doesn't mention whether they were effective, more worrying is the absence of any appreciation (or even mention) of the use of voluntary bans (as in the UK) or a justification for why these sites need such measures when most don't.
The document was prepared without any consultation whatsoever with the local climbers, that's what's really annoying. To return to the 'Ring Ouzel on Stanage'anology, it's as if we'd suddenly been presented with a proposal banning climbing along the whole length of the edge, with no effort made at exploring other options.
> Neither the Birds Directive or the Habitats Directive (the two plant spp are listed on annex II & IV) require such draconian restrictions which have only been invoked for a handful of the 20 000 plus sites so far proposed/designated across the 27 countries of the EU
This sounds interesting. Could you post a link to the relevant pages?
Thanks for bringing this to our attention. If there is anything that I can do to help please let me know. As you know Karin and I regularly enjoy long trips to many crags in this fantastic area, we would be devastated if this was to stop.
Although I was not directly involved, since the CroW Act we have recently negotiated access to a small venue in Teesdale that had been restricted for many years. It is called Holwick Scar and despite a strong lobby that wanted to block access the fact that we had a historical record of climbing going back over 40 years appeared to help prove that we could coexist.
Perhaps there are other similar instances that the BMC are aware of that could help insert some reason and balance into the forthcoming negotiations that I hope take place.
Like Steve and Karin I would also like to help. The areas that you mention in your article are fantastic and it would be a crime for them to be permanently banned. We can not let the views of two small minded individuals ruin the enjoyment that thousands of climbers have by visiting these areas. Also there would be some financial repercussions for the local community. Perhaps we should organise an online petition like the one that has been started for the potential quarrying in Zillertal.
Thanks for the link — lots to read and digest. One thing that immediately caught my eye was that the estimated number of Griffin Vultures across Europe was 9,000. Ridiculous! Last I heard was that there were in the region of 20,000 in N.E. Spain alone.
In reply to Steve Crowe: Hi Steve, I know how much you've enjoyed the area and thanks for contributing to the thread.
The concept of coexistance between climbers and wildlife, although well accepted here, appears to be alien to the authors of this proposal — possibly something to work on.
Incidentally, after sending a link to this article/thread to my climbing friends in Catalunya, earlier today one of them (Albert Cortés) emailed back to remind me of something that I’d forgotten about, but which reveals a degree of policy confusion within the local government in respect of the use of natural recourses.
The ‘Diputació de Lleida’ has a department whose remit is solely the promotion of all aspects of tourism in the province. They use the name ‘Ara Lleida’ (Lleida Now!) and apart from a strong on-line presence, also publish a glossy (free) magazine, printed slightly larger than A4 on high quality paper, and intended for distribution in tourist agencies throughout Europe. They’re particularly interested in outdoor activities and a couple of years ago ran an extensive (12 page) article on climbing in the area — text by Albert, photos by me. They were so enthusiastic about the subject they even used a climbing shot on the cover, and although contributions are generally accepted on a no-fee basis, proved very generous when asked if they would like to support the local bolt fund.
So one local government dept. is promoting climbing while another seems hell bent on stopping it!
Here’s a link to the Ara Lleida issue with the climbing article: http://www.lleidatur.com/cat/revista/revista31/index.html
I think that we should all email Ara Lleida and register our concern, there is an email link (email@example.com)on their website. Also we should all inform any contacts that we have in other countries. I have informed Gripped, the Canadian climbing Magazine, and will also make my Austrian contacts aware of the situation.
In reply to Pete O'Donovan: One of the nice things about this area appears to me to be the absence of many climbers and in particular foreign ones. As opposed to the Rockfax Costa Daurada area for instance. One if not the best climbing area in Europe all to myself, or at least so it seems sometimes, just a few Catalan climbers and birds for company. What do the Catalan climbers think about this? It is their country not ours. We need to support them, and only indirectly ourselves. I plodded my way thru the restriction notice on Onaclimb and it appeared that just about everywhere significant was restricted at least in the winter and spring climbing season. I did not notice any comments. Do you have any links to Catalan or Spanish forums or whatever discussing the problem, assuming they do see a problem? Actually if I where a Catalan I might well want to ban foreign climbers from this wonderful area! and that goes for Montserrat too. The Catalans, Basques and Spanish are the best climbers in the world, don't they want to preserve their squatters rights? Maybe still there is not a big enough base.
In general, the communication network between Catalan climbers is not as advanced as it is here in the UK — there's nothing like these (UKC) forums.
This proposal has only been published very recently, and I have the feeling that the locals can't quite believe what they see. It's as if they're slightly shell-shocked at the moment, and need a little time to sort out the best way to organize a suitable defense.
With regard to restrictions recently imposed in other sites across Catalunya, I'm almost certain that many local climbers have a laissez faire attitude. If they see with their own eyes that there are nesting raptors, they will avoid the area, but if not...... The policing of all these restrictions would be virtually impossible. As it is, I can't ever remember meeting an 'Agent Rural' (Ranger) more than 10 minutes away from the comfort of their 4X4s, so how they think they're going to police bans on crags an hour's walk from the road I'm not really sure. Of course, they would like climbers to police themselves, but this could only happen if climbers were consulted about which sections of rock to close in the first place, something they've shown no inclination to do, so far.
You're right in your remarks about how quiet it usually is in this part of Catalunya; apart from one or two localized hot-spots — Paret de les Bruixes, for example — it's often possible to climb all day on fantastic routes without seeing another party, or maybe, if it's a weekend, just a handful of climbers spread across a wide area. God only knows what the Medi Ambient would make of Stanage, The Pass or Langdale on a busy day!
As for the Catalan climbers themselves, apart from a few rare individuals, I've never met a friendlier, more outgoing bunch of people anywhere.
rehab2112 Sep 2008
In reply to Pete O'Donovan:
Thanks for putting us all in the picture, and giving us the chance to register support for the maintainance of a unique habitat for climbers, raptors and plants alike.
If FEEC are going to be campaigning then please let me know what I can do.
In reply to Pete O'Donovan: I suspect the majority of British mountain crags are included in sites under the habitats directive (see map at http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1515), fewer are protected under the Birds directive (http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-2598) but included are crags such as Shelter Stone, Creag Meagaidh and the Skye Cuillins. Have SNH introduced restrictions on climbing on any of those since I've been away ? if not, why do the Catalans need restrictions & not the Scots ?
In reply to Pete O'Donovan: I guess my point is that I would like to help any Catalan/Spanish effort and appreciate you letting us know about the problem.
One general way to help on all these environmental issues would be to have a code of practise put in place on flora/fauna restrictions. Objectives listed; number of species per crag, per area, per country, per world, per roadside viewing spot, etc. presently in place, desired number, threatend number etc. After all there are millions more extinct species than still living and the world survives. Does it matter if a few plants do not exist roadside but are all over the place a 100 yards away? I imagine all the basics of such impact statements have been put in place somewhere in some university and applied in some country, mabe even Spain. Maybe this work could be used to help our Catalan friends and get a scientific basis going which would allow scientific refutation. You get the idea. Iknow a few SSSIs in UK were set in place on very dodgy scientific grounds with no clear idea what the objective was, nor how anyone, (they never say WHO) would benefit from what was nominally being protected. Possibly with NIMBY intent. ER, actually I am probably wrong, but I am not an expert. There must be a Universal Code of Practise. if not a good PhD project!
In reply to Oliver Hill:
"I imagine all the basics of such impact statements have been put in place somewhere in some university and applied in some country, mabe even Spain"
You'd be amazed at how much basic data is lacking even in a small and well studied country like the UK, in remote areas of Spain even basic inventories for many species groups are lacking. But surely its for those wanting to impose bans to justify them (which in this case they clearly haven't)?
"There must be a Universal Code of Practise" No there isn't !
Only just seen the thread this would be a tragedy as both you & Steve say the crags in these areas are very quiet. We went with another family over Oct 1/2 term a couple of years ago. I appreciate that probably not a Spanish holiday but because we both had our small children with us we on visited easy access crags & took turns to climb but I don't seeing another climber during the week & the weekends were hardly busy surely we can co-exist.
Good article, but reading it with a devils advocate hat on, lacking in info about the birds and plants themselves. Bear with me - I work as an ecological consultant but know nothing about these particular birds or plants - I am left asking are these species important in this place and is this place really important for these species??
I realise it seems that the authorities have come up with the idea of banning climbing from thin air, but it is not enough to just say we have always climbed here and we have always seen these birds. You cant use the last statement to back the view that climbing has no effect on the birds (or the plants).
Im not sure if the info is out there, but for a robust case to be put to the Catalan authorities (assuming they will listen) it might be an idea to put forward an Ecological Impact Assessment- in the UK at least - there are standard guidelines for assessing impacts to "ecological receptors".
From what you say Pete, such an assessment would seem likely to come down on the side of the maintaining the status quo rather than restricting climbing, though there is always a chance it may not (but if this is the case, and if climbers do respect wildlife they should be prepared to live with the outcome).
Just an idea. Ideally you'd really need a decent Spanish ecologist/ornithologist and botanist to prepare such a thing, though someone from the UK could have a decent go if provided with the available facts. To be really unbiased, they'd have to be a non-climber too. And as I said at the start, this all assumes the authorities could be bothered reading such a document and taking it seriously....
Combine ecological argument with a decent economic argument and I'd have thought the two blokes would have a hard time justifying their decision to ban climbing, let alone policing it.
M Troussier15 Sep 2008
In reply to ArnaudG:
The situation in France is mainly OK for several reasons.
In every "département" you have a federal contact to work on the subject (and a national coordinator)since the 80's and local politicians know somtimes the benefit of climbing (Orpierre, verdon, Céuse etc...).
It exist a document (sign by parties) than put the responsability on the French federation.
But some problems are crucial (Presles for example) and our proposals are sometimes not strong enough to win against private property.
Environnemental policy are starting to be europeen as Natura 2000 and in many countries land manager have contact and the same way of thinking access and people (i'm just coming from Portugal where those problems start to appear in some national parcs)
The idea of a "european patrimoin of climbing" define by climbers and opposed by them, should be one direction of the international community (see what's happend in Zillertal after the roc trip).
We have internet http://www.ffme.fr/site/FALAISE_index.php we can organise such inventory (as UNESCO patrimoine).
Climbers from all countries.......
In reply to Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC: Many thanks to everybody for all the input — there are some very useful ideas coming through here.
According to one of my contacts in Catalunya, the current situation with the climbers of the region (Lleida) seems to be that they are waiting for the next draft of the proposal, which will apparently detail proposed measures in just one small part of the area in question — Sant Llorenç de Montgai and La Serra de Carbonara. The severity of restrictions planned for the cliffs here should be a good indication of what is to follow elsewhere.
I will update this thread as and when more information becomes available.