The Carolina Climbers Coalition work closely with USFS and NC Wildlife Biologists each year to ensure that peregrine falcon closures are accurate per eyrie sites, and help balance conservation of the species with reasonable access to climbing destinations. Thank you, climbers, for respecting these closure zones and for helping protect this amazing species. How has this collaboration been beneficial to both climbers and peregrines? Here are a few examples:
- Biologists and CCC volunteers monitor eyrie sites to see if they are in use or if chicks have hatched. If they are not in use or if chicks have fledged, closures are lifted earlier than Aug 15. In the case of areas like Short Off South last year, the closure was lifted in February.
- This year, CCC has worked with NC Wildlife biologists to collect specimens from the Big Lost Cove eyrie and Looking Glass Rock eyrie to help biologists predict reasons for nest failure or success. This work equates to multiple days in the field and computer for multiple volunteers and professionals.
- The CCC-owned Laurel Knob has an active eyrie. We have worked to identify proper closures, with biologist input.
- The entire North Face of Cedar was slated to be closed, CCC worked with biologists to narrow down the zone. 20 routes are seasonally closed now as opposed to 100.
- This year, there are not any climbing-related changes from previous years. This is largely in part to the peregrines maintaining their previous year's eyrie sites.
- One big change this year has been the inclusion of maps in the closure order. These closure zones are the same as previous years and outlined on the USFS website here. CCC was asked to preview closure maps by the USFS, prior to the release of those maps. Viewing and helping edit those maps prior to the USFS closure release was extremenly beneficial in getting accurate closure zones for climbers. Did we (CCC) and they (USFS) get the maps 100% GPS ground-truthed correct? Likely not, and we are open to feedback and will relay that feedback to USFS. Please note that we gave feedback on climbing-specific areas like Looking Glass, but not on areas without known climbing like Short Off North or Bynum Bluffs. USFS bringing us (CCC) to the table PRIOR to the closure order release is testament to our collaborative work with USFS, and beneficial to both climbers and peregrines. For example, before the CCC was able to help edit the map, USFS had the entire North Side of Looking Glass circled as closed, as well as a good portion of the Nose Area. We quickly corrected this prior to the order release and it is now a non-issue. This is the first year USFS released maps. If you see any discrepancies between the route closure zones listed and the maps, please email email@example.com. As you can imagine, this is a lot of work to get things right and we welcome help and input, and will do our part in relaying that input to USFS.
- CCC and NC Wildlife collaboration has lead to reciprocity and trust that has helped other areas outside of NC/ USFS lands. Recreational climbers following the closures has also lead to reciprocity and trust. Thank you climbers! Just last year, we were able to share our expertise in peregrine falcon climbing management with SC Department of Natural Resources. We worked with their biologists to take Table Rock SC's Main Wall out of the seasonal closure order for South Carolina. This is South Carolina's most revered, and most impressive wall, and it is now open to climbers year-round instead of season closures. Without our work with NC Wildlife and USFS, the closure zone would surely have remained for Table Rock's Main Wall.
- We were able to open Rocky Fork State Park's Whitehouse Cliffs to climbing in 2019, and have since then worked with the TN State Park system to monitor the cliff for potential peregrine falcon activity. There is a peregrine falcon seen in the region, and we have monitored the cliff for the last three years, which has meant 4-5 visits per year during the peregrine falcon closure observation time of February to March. The observation period's goal has been to see if there is an eyrie site on the cliff. Peregrines are seen in the area but an eyrie has not been viewed at Whitehouse. This is typical for the species, as they likley use the cliff as a hunting zone but not for their eyrie. When working with TN State Parks on opening these cliffs to climbing for the first time ever, we suggested this 2 month monitoring period as opposed to a 6 month blanket closure. They agreed, and much of that agreement was based on our past experience with NC Wildlife and USFS officials, showing that an eyrie site is not likely in the area.
- Ongoing work with Mountain Project and guide book authors to ensure closures are listed accurately in beta sites.
- "In 2021 across western North Carolina, 15 sites were occupied by peregrine falcon pairs and seven successfully reproduced with a total of 12 offspring."- USFS
Additional closures outside of USFS lands:
- Table Rock State Park Feb 1- Aug 14: Climbing right (east) of the Walker Buttress, including the Water Groove Wall, are closed to climbing during this period. Table Rock's Main Wall is now open to climbing year-round!
- Laurel Knob Feb 1- Aug 14: Routes between, and including, Fathom to Permission Granite are closed to climbing during this period.
- Rocky Fork State Park's Whitehouse Cliffs : this closure has been lifted. No eyrie is present and has not been for three years in a row.