Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop Field Office officials are increasing its efforts to educate climbers and campers on how to enjoy, but not abuse, the natural resources as the number of visitors grows.
Over the past decade, the Bishop Field Office said it has experienced an increase in climbing and dispersed (car) camping activity in the Volcanic Tableland north of Bishop. Damage to cultural and natural resources also has increased as more climbers and other public land users visit the tableland and camp in the area.
“We are concerned about visitors leaving trash or human waste, building improper fires, camping in archeological sites or on sensitive vegetation and creating new roads, trails and parking areas,” said Becky Hutto, BLM park ranger.
Recreational interest in areas like the tableland is expected to continue or increase. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, California experienced a 20 percent increase in climbing from 2009 to 2010. The number of people car camping is expected to increase from 42 million to 62 million by 2050 in California alone.
The agency has undertaken a number of efforts to decrease the impacts climbers and other public lands users have on wild areas and improve the recreational experience for everyone in increasingly popular climbing and camping areas.
Visitors from all over the world enjoyed a beautiful day of climbing in the Happy and Sad’s bouldering areas managed by the BLM Bishop Field Office over the busy New Year’s holiday weekend. Rangers Eric Keefer and Becky Hutto traveled on foot and made contact with as many public land visitors as possible to talk about outdoor ethics.
The BLM is, in particular, interested in sharing information with users about outdoor ethics. In addition to the foot patrols, the agency is hosting a monthly “climber’s coffee” at the Pleasant Valley Pit Campground. The meeting provides a way for campers and climbers to meet BLM rangers and staff to discuss interests and concerns in an informal setting. The next climber’s coffee will be Feb. 17 from 8:30-11 a.m.
The BLM plans to improve educational information by updating web content and developing improved signage in key areas such as access points and the Pleasant Valley Pit Campground. Organizations like the Access Fund have also worked to improve conditions on the tableland by directly contributing to clean-up efforts. Volunteers have completed projects such as trail construction, campsite and social trail rehabilitation, and fire ring clean up.
Anyone planning a visit to the tablelands and is interested in helping the BLM is encouraged to follow these suggestions:
• Educate yourself about local conditions and leave no trace. Visit websites such as www.blm.gov/ca/bishop , www.weather.gov , www.lnt.org  and other area internet resources before you leave to help plan a great trip.
• Preserve the tableland by camping in one of the many campgrounds available in the area. At the BLM’s Pleasant Valley Pit Campground, fees are kept minimal to encourage use of this site. All fees go to improving the campground.
• Use existing parking lots and roads. In the Happy and Sad’s, use the lower parking areas. Better yet, carpool – parking is limited.
• Leave it better than you found it. Pick up your trash and trash left by others, including micro-trash such as tape or cigarette butts. Avoid placing crash pads on vegetation.
• Consider not having a fire. If you do, please use a fire pan and make sure you have a California Campfire Permit (available from most CalFire, BLM and Forest Service offices). Carry water and a shovel and completely extinguish the fire. Do not burn pallets. The nails and other hardware left behind are trash that can cause damage such as flat tires.
• Stay clear of raptor nest sites when climbing. A pile of sticks with “whitewash” may be a hawk, eagle or owl’s nest.
• Use a toilet when provided. If not available, deposit solid human waste in a cathole six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. In climbing areas, pack out dog waste.
• Be considerate of other visitors. Respect other climbers and users by avoiding loud voices and noise. Keep your dog under your immediate control.
Anyone who would like to volunteer to help preserve and protect areas like the tablelands through trail work and other clean-up efforts can contact Hutto at (760) 872-5008.