North American Wall Area Closure- Peregrine Nesting Area

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JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 10, 2010 - 12:22am PT
Edit: [Topic title should read North America Wall Area Closure]

After three separate multiple hour peregrine falcon surveys of the eyrie (nest) on the North America Wall NPS wildlife biologist have confirmed active nesting of a peregrine pair. The eyrie is very close to the North America Wall route around the border of Texas and Mexico if the NA was an actual map. To protect the active nest site the NPS has revised the previous “Area Protection –Peregrine Nesting Closure” that I posted here in the beginning of March. The closure is consistent with all of other area closures, and will be actively monitored to insure that successful breeding is still taking place.

The Southeast Face of El Capitan closure will cover all routes between and including “South Seas/Pacific Ocean Wall” East to “Native Son.” The language of the closure may be confusing so I’ll try to clarify. The first four pitches of all routes will be open. For example, you can climb the El Cap tree route even though the wall above is closed.

After three decades of DDT use peregrine falcon population plummeted throughout the world. Thankfully, in 1973 the use of DDT was banned, and in 1973 the peregrine was one of the first species listed as a federal Endangered Species. In Yosemite National Park from 1942 to 1977 no peregrine nesting occurred in Yosemite. The NA Wall eyrie is actually a historic nesting site. In 1978 the first successful nest site recorded after 36 years was confirmed by rock climbers on El Cap!

This is a pretty amazing story, and it is my hope that all of you recognize the significance of the full circle of success that the peregrines have enjoyed in Yosemite. Through the climbing community's respect for this incredible bird we have helped the peregrine falcon soar again as it continues to recover from the brink of extinction.

I'll follow up this post with a scan of the official closure. I expect some grumbling, and I will be active on this forum as well as others to try to answer questions and concerns.

Thank You in advance for your understanding and respect of this closure,

Jesse McGahey
Yosemite Climbing Ranger
jesse_mcgahey@nps.gov
(209) 372-0360


tooth

Trad climber
The Best Place On Earth
Apr 10, 2010 - 12:26am PT
thanks Jesse
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Apr 10, 2010 - 12:30am PT
thanks for the info, Jesse!
JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2010 - 12:54am PT
Here is the revised closure notice.
Here is the revised closure notice.
Credit: JesseM
JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2010 - 01:06am PT
I am curious, who were the original climbers to notice the active peregrine nest in 1978? Are they on this forum?

I checked out Don Reid's Yosemite Big Walls for the old closure area. In the old closure Tangerine Trip and Native Son were also closed. How many of you remember the old closures on El Cap?

The North America Wall eyrie was only successful twice more after the 1978 nest in 1980 and 1981. The last known successful peregrine nesting on El Capitan was in 1994. This was at the "Horse's Neck Eyrie" located below the NA Wall eyrie. During the winter of 94-95 a rockfall took out the Horse's Neck Eyrie, and there have been no documented successful peregrine eyries on El Cap until now.

Chris Mac, do you mind including the closure notice on the Yosemite Area Beta section of the site?
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:27am PT
When we climbed Mescalito, in '84the closure was in effect. The routes immediately east of us were closed and the peregrines serenaded us for three and a half days, it doesn't get better!
R.B.

climber
..
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:29am PT
So Jesse,

You may want to revisit your description of the peregrin's historical habitat: case in point

After three decades of DDT use peregrine falcon population plummeted throughout the world. Thankfully, in 1973 the use of DDT was banned, and in 1973 the peregrine was one of the first species listed as a federal Endangered Species.

In Yosemite National Park from 1942 to 1977 no peregrine nesting occurred in Yosemite. The NA Wall eyrie is actually a historic nesting site. (please expand this ... what are the details ... since when?) In 1978 the first successful nest site recorded after 36 years was confirmed by rock climbers on El Cap!

I find it quite interesting that the peregrin did not nest from 1942, but DDT was not typically commerically available until 1945 (see Wikipedia for citation -- In 1945, it was made available to farmers as an agricultural insecticide.)

So, even though the Perigrin has been historically listed as endangered, today I checked the National Wildlife Federal Website and have verified that the North American Peregrin is "NO LONGER AN ENDANGERED SPECIES."

[url="http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B0FU"]

Albeit that there may be other federal agencies that may have federal perigrine "endangered" designations ... I suggest that the NPS do it's homework before making a policy decision and acting to close a major recreational use in a national park .... without properly going through the proper public process, such as NEPA, etc.

I say this out of respect to the law, and expect the Govt. to make decisions by following the proper process. Just because there are birds on the wall, does not make the right for the NPS to arbitrarily close the wall, excessively.

For example, there really only needs to be about 1-2 routes closed on each side of the NA Wall ... So I would say more fairly, close the wall from Wall of early morning light/Space --- to the Atlantic Ocean Wall .... everything else should remain open, because there really has not been any conclusive studies (unless you can cite one for me) to show what buffer distance is minimally necessary from an active nest. So, for the sake of the entire climbing community, which include visitors from all over the world, please revisit this decision!

Respectfully. RB
Mike.

climber
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:33am PT
Thanks, RB.


Virtually every time I'm on Yo cliffs I see Peregrines. Based on observation, the species is doing well in Yosemite, including areas around SE El Cap.

This is needless human meddling.

In '92 there was a falcon nest to the west of the end of the God pitch on the Trip which was occupied and defended.

I just don't buy that NPS knows where every nest is, and I don't trust its assessment of the population, nor do I support the legitimacy of its actions.

BTW, It's North America Wall
JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2010 - 01:36am PT
Right on Jaybro! I love that route, one of my favorites on El Cap. Mescalito is still the first route open to the West of the closure. I don't think there is an independent line between the PO and Mescalito, but I'm probably wrong. Wall Of Early Morning Light (Open) starts further East than Mescalito, but then crosses at about the 8th pitch.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:40am PT
RB,

> there really has not been any conclusive studies (unless you can cite one for me) to show what buffer distance is minimally necessary from an active nest.

I agree there are probably no "conclusive studies", but this suggests the NPS's guess about a buffer distance is just as good as yours.

There may be some limited evidence on buffer distance, based on actions of the peregrines when climbers have been close to a nest in the past?

I agree, it would be good if somebody can explain why there are nesting closures even though the peregrines are no longer "endangered species".
Is there a similar classification like "threatened species" which is the reason?
[Edit: see Jesse's explanation below - it's a 15 year monitoring program, apparently due to end or be reconsidered in 2014-15]
WBraun

climber
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:47am PT
I remember everything back then in the late 70's

I climbed to the nest on El Cap two years in a row and swapped the eggs with fake ones.

When the chicks hatched climbed back up there and placed them in the nest while mom & pop peregrine are attacking me in full dive bomb force.

Did the same out at Wapama Rock, Hetch Hetchy.

In Hetch Hetchy we got to take the motor boat out there. "Way cool"
R.B.

climber
..
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:50am PT
Clint,

Good question ... even though I am not a wildlife biologist, I have heard stories of people climbing near active nests ... and they said ... if you climb too close ... they will dive bomb you and try to slash you with your talons. But they are only looking out for their chicks.

On the NWLS species listing:

Falco peregrinus Peregrine Falcon Birds Species of Concern
Falco peregrinus anatum American peregrine falcon Birds Delisted Taxon, Recovered

SO ... I don't even see the two probable species as being even "Threatened"

Hence, this is why I question the decision by the NPS.

PS - I saw Peregrins dive bombing cliff swifts and eating them when they were nesting when I did Mescalito in 1990. So it didn't seem to bother them from that route too much!

Edit: Werner, that is way cool, I have heard of California Condor nests having the same trick being done ... right on!
nature

climber
Tucson, AZ
Apr 10, 2010 - 01:52am PT
Maybe they just don't wanna deal with Werner having to rap in and do a recovery of climbers with throat slit by talon?
JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2010 - 02:08am PT
R.B. and Mike,

As it says in the notice I posted, peregrines were de-listed in 1999 under the Endangered Species Act, and now are in a 15 year monitoring program. Neither the NPS nor myself have claimed that the species is still listed.

I appreciate your right to opinions that the peregrines are fine, and that although we only had 8 breeding pairs in the park last year (a record during our monitoring) it sounds like you are saying these birds are actually fully recovered and don't need any more protection. Fortunately the National Park Service doesn't agree. The NPS is charged with managing the park's resources not only for recreational values, but to protect all of the plants and animals within.

Maybe 15 parties or so would have climbed routes within the closure from now until August 1st. So far I haven't observed anyone on that area of the wall this spring. So the question is, would you effect 30 people by requesting that they climb one of the awesome routes on El Cap outside of the closure or risk the success of these peregrine falcon's nest? Maybe you have a different set of ethics, but I would say we respect these undeniably rare raptors and their choice of nesting site.

At any rate, after August 1st the closure will be lifted, and you can jump right on Wyoming Sheep Ranch or Every Man for Himself or another one of your favorite routes within the closed area. The only route in the closed area that sees much traffic is the North America Wall, and even that route is climbed more in the fall when it is not seeping.

Some climbers ask me to close routes because swallows or other birds with really healthy populations are nesting in cracks. I just got back from J-tree, and they were closing routes with active nests of raptors that have never been listed. The superintendent of any park has the authority to close areas for resource protection regardless of whether or not a species has ESA status.

Thanks for catching the "North American Wall" error. I apologize for the typos.

Jesse
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 10, 2010 - 02:10am PT
> Did the same out at Wapama Rock, Hetch Hetchy.

> In Hetch Hetchy we got to take the motor boat out there. "Way cool"

Cool, Werner.
I bet it was Kolana Rock, though, instead of Wapama.
You can reach Wapama by trail; it's on the sunny side.
Kolana is on the shady side, with best approach by boat.
I've seen the peregrines that nest on Kolana fly across the reservoir and hang out on Wapama to feed.


Kolana Rock

[Edit:] Thanks, Werner - looks like a fun boat ride!


Wapama Rock (from near the dam)
nature

climber
Tucson, AZ
Apr 10, 2010 - 02:16am PT
Maybe 15 parties are so would have climbed routes within the closure from now until August 1st. So far I haven't observed anyone on that area of the wall this spring. So the question is, would you effect 30 people by requesting that they climb one of the awesome routes on El Cap outside of the closure or risk the success of these peregrine falcon's nest? Maybe you have a different set of ethics


No offense here Jesse, but I don't think your stated facts related to your idea of "ethics". They bring up a good point. One that should climb the chain and be considered. It's not about ethics. It's also not about if one or 42000 people would possibly climb in that area. It's deeper than that.

I'm all for erroring on the side of caution. Don't get me wrong. But valid points have been made and from a diplomatic point of view they should be considered in my opinion.

I'm sure you realize nobody wants to "shoot the messanger". The chain of command is multi-stepped. We appreciate your work in bringing the info down to us. But I don't think it's too much to ask of you to maybe attempt to bring our message back to the top. (at the same time we'd hate to ask you to do something that causes you to beat your head against the wall).
R.B.

climber
..
Apr 10, 2010 - 02:23am PT
Thanks Jesse,

I am respectful to the fact that the NPS must balance all uses and impacts in the park ... and with you being a climber, I would be preaching to the choir (... about the closures).

On Peregrin behavior that I have witnessed, the falcons are a tag team while raising their chicks. The one parent guards the nest, while the other parent soars for prey. If the soaring parent is unsuccessful, they swap and the other parent soars ... until they are sucessful with finding prey.

On the Capitan, I have seen the falcons bomb down on those extra maneuverable swifts and ... poof ... feathers fly everywhere and a meal for the day. The birds screetch loudly and sound just like a falling rock!

I agree that the routes in the closure area are some of the less popular walls on the Capitan, so you certainly have a valid point there.

Additionally, I realize that it is not your personal decision, you are following the Park Superintendant's orders.

Thanks for the Update, regards, RB.
JesseM

Social climber
Yosemite
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2010 - 02:24am PT
Cool Werner, I'd love to talk to you sometime about those days.

Clint et al.

Totally valid question about the buffer zone. My good friend Jeff Maurer, who died last year on the Third Pillar of Dana, is responsible for most of the extent of closures on the Yosemite peregrine nesting areas. He based his closures on site specific observation of perches used, line of sight from the eyrie, and behaviors of the peregrine pairs.

In this case we have opened up at least 2 previously closed routes from the old El Cap closures (Aurora, and Tangerine Trip). We have also allowed for climbing the first 4 pitches of any route. This means you could actually start climbing some of these routes a couple days before the end of the closure if you take it slow :) This is based on hours of observations, and we agree that the Trip and Native Sun seem to be too far away.

Nature,
We do want to err on the side of caution, and I will admit that. I will humbly say that the NPS wildlife team is doing the best it can with available data, studies, and monitoring observations to protect the peregrines. Given the recovery that they have had so far, I think it is fair to say that the NPS wildlife team has done pretty well.

Can you bullet the concerns as you see them? I will bring them back to the wildlife team.

Jesse
WBraun

climber
Apr 10, 2010 - 02:44am PT
Whoops you're right Clint!

Kolana Rock it is.
Mimi

climber
Apr 10, 2010 - 02:49am PT
Serenading is a good description of them up there.
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