Bob Oakleaf, retired nongame wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, peers through a spotting scope at a peregrine falcon eyrie in Sinks Canyon State Park. A via ferrata is proposed for the cliff. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

It’s not yet 9 a.m., but the sun shines hot on a July morning near the mouth of Sinks Canyon State Park in central Wyoming. With a spotting scope trained on the cliff across the canyon, Bob Oakleaf sits on a grassy knoll amid whining grasshoppers. 

“So you see that big slab that’s pasted up against the cliff?” Oakleaf instructs. “And then there’s a ledge at the base of it that extends off to the left? Well the eyrie’s back behind the bushes.

“Just a little while ago I saw [a] young poke its head out,” Oakleaf said.  

He is identifying the site of a peregrine falcon nest. The birds don’t make another appearance this morning, but Oakleaf, a retired wildlife biologist who served as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s nongame wildlife supervisor, has been watching the nesting pair and their offspring all spring, he said. 

He’s been observing the avian family, in part, because it may soon have new neighbors.

The cliff face has been envisioned for a via ferrata — a permanent cable and rung system that enables recreationists to “climb” vertical walls. Managers included the proposal in the newly updated Sinks Canyon State Park Master Plan after a group of Lander locals advanced the idea and gathered support for it as a recreational draw.

A via ferrata has been proposed for this cliff wall, seen here from Highway 131, in Sinks Canyon State Park. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

Oakleaf and others, however, believe nesting peregrines and a via ferrata are incompatible, stirring up a conflict in this small but popular state park over how to balance the twin goals of wildlife management and tourist-attracting recreation. 

It’s a story colored by unique jurisdictional arrangements, a beloved place and one species’ heartening rebound. It also underscores the broader issues complicating land management as multiple-use and outdoor visitation grow across Wyoming’s public lands

Many believe there is a middle ground to be achieved — the parties just need to work a little harder to get there. 

“I think we can get to the point where everybody’s happy,” said Jessi Johnson, government affairs officer for Wyoming Wildlife Federation. 

Many situations are black and white, Johnson said. This one is not. 

“We’re lucky that it’s not one or the other,” she said. “A lot of times that is the choice. But this is one where it can be both. We just have to be creative about it.”

Jurisdictional layers 

Sinks Canyon State Park is situated on 585 acres adjacent to national forest, BLM land and private land on the east slope of the Wind River Range not far from Lander. There, the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River cuts a path through a canyon of sandstone and dolomite cliff walls. At the eponymous “Sinks,” the river is swallowed by a complex of limestone caves, disappearing for a quarter of a mile until it rises downstream. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission acquired portions of what is now the park in 1939 and 1953 and managed the area as a winter game refuge. Game and Fish still owns the vast majority of the land, and assigns management through memorandums of understanding. Since Sinks Canyon State Park officially opened in 1976, Wyoming State Parks has been the primary manager of the area.

An RV in Sawmill campground in Sinks Canyon State Park. Almost 700,000 people visited the state park in 2020. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

As the land owner, however, Wyoming Game and Fish must approve all new facilities in the park. The land remains classified as wildlife habitat management area, a type of land acquired “in the name of the state for rearing and management of wildlife species, or to provide public hunting, fishing or trapping areas,” according to WGF. 

WHMA land is regulated for “the management and conservation of wildlife, wildlife habitat and public access” or “to manage public use and special use of such lands,” according to the agency. 

Growing into the future

Today, 45 years after it opened, Sinks Canyon State Park is a recreation hub used heavily by Lander locals and visitors. According to Wyoming State Parks, visitation to the park reached 699,490 in 2020 — a 76% increase over 2019.

Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails authorized the preparation of a new master plan in 2019. Until then, the 1975 Sinks Canyon State Park Development Plan had guided improvements in the park. 

“A lot’s changed since 1975, and the 2020 plan attempts to build on the improvements that they’ve made already,” said Kyle Bernis, Shoshone District manager for Wyoming State Parks. “And then to try and engage in a new direction for the future based on the needs and limits of the resources.”

The master planning process spanned more than a year and entailed public input meetings, steering committee meetings, small group interviews and an online survey. But it also wrapped up during the pandemic, moving some of the discussions to virtual forums. 

When the approved plan was released in October 2020, it laid out a vision of a park with better parking and more trails, a larger visitor’s center, more educational opportunities and some augmented recreation opportunities. The most novel was the via ferrata.

This map shows the proposed location of a via ferrata in Sinks Canyon State Park. (Sinks Canyon Master Plan)

The plan’s stated foundation was built around two major planning principles. The first is “Keep the Canyon Wild,” and the second is “Leverage Economic Development in the Valley.”

The inherent conflicts of those two principles have come to a head around the via ferrata. 

Good for Lander’s bottom line

Lander resident Sam Lightner has been climbing in the region since the 1980s. Along with authoring a Wyoming climbing guidebook, Lightner has established many routes, including in Sinks Canyon. 

Several years ago, he said, he was chatting with climbing buddies about a well-worn topic: “What could we take advantage of for outdoor recreation that … might get more tourists to stop here?” 

If Lander could intercept some of the tourists who pass through enroute to the national parks and other destinations each summer, he said, it could reap big economic benefits. 

Someone heard about a via ferrata — Italian for “iron path” — in Colorado that was a huge boon to its nearest town, Lightner remembers. They brainstormed and identified a spot for a similar project in Sinks Canyon. Later, he said, he floated the idea to then-candidate Mark Gordon, who Lightner said lit up at the idea.

A man hooks into the via ferrata at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort)

Lightner is quick to point out that a via ferrata and climbing are different activities; the purpose of a via ferrata is to draw a separate crowd from the climbers who visit Sinks. 

Lightner approached Sinks Canyon State Parks and WGF, he said, and the momentum began to grow. 

The particular cliff is suitable for several reasons, Lightner said. First, it’s an easily accessible north-facing wall, which means it will stay cool in the summer months. 

“It’s also the cleanest wall,” Lightner said. “It has ledges but it doesn’t have just completely fractured rock all over the place.”

But, he said, WGF stipulated that the project couldn’t infringe on wildlife. Lightner has witnessed how falcon nesting and climbing can coexist during his decades of scaling cliffs, he said. In his experience, climbers are respectful of wildlife closures. 

The proposal came to the state park in a more formal fashion from the Wind River Outdoor Recreation Collaborative — which Lightner worked with — Bernis said, and was submitted as part of the master plan process. 

Lightner and other advocates have raised about $33,000 to build the via ferrata, he said. They have identified a preliminary route that is still subject to change. 

In order to be finalized, the via ferrata needs cultural approval from the State Historical Preservation Office, Bernis said. It will also go through a National Environmental Policy Act evaluation process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before a request for proposal is issued for a concessionaire to run it. 

“Again it’s a proposal,” Bernis said. “Until all the clearances are given and it’s built … it’s not built.”

WGF’s seat at the table

WGF had a major seat at the park master planning table as the landowner, said Jason Hunter, Lander region wildlife supervisor. Agency staff assessed the via ferrata — as it did other plan components — and determined that as long as it is subject to necessary stipulations, it would be appropriate, Hunter said. This included evaluating potential peregrine impacts, he said, and opting to enforce mandatory closures during nesting season. 

“We came back with the conclusion, as long as there was no activity during the nesting period, and until the birds fledged, that there would not, or we didn’t feel there would be, a negative impact on the birds,” Hunter said. 

Along with mandatory closures, the agency can closely monitor any bird activity, Hunter said. 

A peregrine falcon perches on a rock outcropping. The raptors nest in rocky cliffs. (National Park Service)

Within the WHMA constellation around the state, Sinks Canyon is unique, WGFD Habitat & Access Supervisor Brian Parker said at a community coffee event in June. Extensive infrastructure and heavy use both already exist in the park. 

“That’s the lens in which we view this project,” Parker said. “We feel like we can really effectively manage the wildlife aspect of it.” 

Oakleaf, who worked for WGFD for 37 years, is not convinced of that. He believes a deeper analysis needs to take place before proceeding with a project designed to attract many users to a previously pristine habitat, he said.

Peregrine conflicts were brought up during planning public meetings, according to the master plan documents, but many in attendance supported the via ferrata. 

Then, this spring, the peregrines nested on the cliff in question for the first time in at least a couple years, fueling louder critique. 

Peregrines’ comeback story

Oakleaf knows peregrine falcons more intimately than the average bird-watcher. He spent much of his career working with the once-imperiled raptors. 

When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, Oakleaf said, the peregrine was its poster child. The bird’s population had plummeted across the U.S., and it had been listed as endangered in 1970 under the ESA’s predecessor. 

When he moved to Lander in 1977 as a young wildlife biologist, Oakleaf said, there were no known peregrines in Wyoming. He became involved with the reintroduction effort led by The Peregrine Fund.

The effort eventually released close to 400 birds in the state, Oakleaf said. Reintroduction in Sinks Canyon started in the early ‘90s. 

“And it took,” he said. At least one pair has been nesting in the canyon since 1994, he said. It is one of four pairs he has observed in the greater Lander region.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the peregrine from the list of threatened and endangered Species in 1999. The bird is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Wyoming by the WGFD.

Oakleaf finds the raptors, who mate for life and are the world’s fastest aerial animal, fascinating. “I come up here all the time,” he said. “I get my peregrine fix in Sinks.”

Bob Oakleaf, retired nongame wildlife supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, was instrumental in the recovery of peregrine falcons in Wyoming. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

As climbing has exploded, Oakleaf said, the pair’s options have dwindled to two cliffs. One is the cliff envisioned for the via ferrata. 

He is baffled by Game and Fish, he said, which he believes needs to undertake a more rigorous assessment. Many people probably take peregrines’ recovery for granted these days, Oakleaf said, but he believes a via ferrata will eventually drive the raptors away because they are sensitive to nearby disturbances. 

“What will eventually happen, and it won’t be overnight, they’ll eventually stop trying” to nest in the canyon, he said.

Reaching compromise? 

Some people believe State Parks and WGFD need to take a step back and reexamine the topic.  

One is Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) who grew up in Lander climbing in Sinks Canyon. 

As a hotel owner, he has a stake in the tourism industry. But he’s also concerned about the overdevelopment of Sinks Canyon in an era when Wyoming’s state parks are being overwhelmed with visitors, he said. 

“I just argue that this isn’t like a marina in Glendo or Fontenelle or maybe even Hot Springs State Park, which is totally commercial. This is different,” Case said. “Last year tipped everybody off about what is happening with outdoor recreation in the COVID world.”

Piled on that are stories of skyrocketing real estate and thin worker opportunities in places like Jackson Hole, he said. “I’m like, ‘do we really want to be next?’ I don’t want to be next, and I’m in the tourism business.” 

Support independent reporting — donate to WyoFile today

Case hopes WGF says “‘it looks like there’s more opposition than we thought. Let’s figure out what’s going to work for the future,’” he said. 

Oakleaf concurs. “Outdoor recreation up into this point has had fairly minimal impact on the landscape,” he said, “but that has all changed in recent years.”

Lightner believes there are two extreme sides. “And there’s probably some truth to both of our sides,” he said. Somewhere in between … is the real, and we can make the in-between work.”

All human activity has an impact, he said. “But if you just mark the entire east slope of the wind rivers, all cliff bases are out of bounds to humans? You’re gonna have humans get resentful, including me,” he said. “So I don’t think that the ‘no, you can’t go there, period’ is the right approach.” 

Hunter of Game and Fish has been a bit surprised by the late-in-the-game objections, he said. But he said the agency is open to answer questions and hear concerns. 

“We have talked to a few people that have brought up concerns and typically when we let them know what protections we’re putting in place, it tends to alleviate the concern,” he said. “I think if, as long as you know all the information out there, I feel like it’s something that most folks have been supportive of.”

Katie Klingsporn

Katie Klingsporn is WyoFile's managing editor. She is a journalist and word geek who has been writing about life in the West for 15 years. Her pieces have appeared in Adventure Journal, National Geographic...

Join the Conversation

19 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Apparently there is also a proposal to use Shoshone names for some of the routes. If this project goes through and naming plan happens, firstly I hope it is okayed by the tribal council and not a unilateral decision made by one historic preservation officer. Secondly, I hope some of the funding from this project is allocated to the tribes. If not then this will be another example of modern colonization: whites appropriating and exploiting Native American culture for their own benefit. Regardless, this type of naming tactic is a way for whites to feel good and anti-racist when it is actually exploitive. If they are not using Shoshone culture for financial gain and really want to look like they are acting in support of local tribes, I would like to see these same white men organize to remove racist names for locations in Lander, like Squaw Creek and Indian Lookout. Do some projects that are for no gain to themselves and truly benefit the tribes. “Let us forcibly take your land, then build on it, charge people money, then give it Shoshone names to make it all seem okay.” What a shady business.

  2. In the early 90s we had Peregrines colonizing cliffs near Dubois. A second site was colonized a few years later. As a Raptor Biologist I was thrilled and spent hours observing them. I shared this experience with my son and an ornithologist from California (Chico State). Both loved it as much as I did . For the last few years the falcons have not been seen at these nesting sites. The pair and their offspring that nest in the Sinks should be given every deference. I certainly miss these birds when they disappear.

  3. Tourism has very few winners. It is a race to the bottom of the economic breakfast bowl. The quick-fix, go-to playing card for public entities in need of tax dollars rarely goes over as planned. The richest county in America, Teton County, is constantly demanding Federal tax dollars to pay for all its problems. 100’s of millions.

    Lander has tourism, and plenty of climbing tourism. Has life improved in a significant way for Lander’s blue collar working class as a result? Nope. Some of the lowest wages in the nation keep too many in poverty in Fremont County, WY.

    Industrial tourism means soggy crumbs for Lander’s working poor. There is no affordable housing in Lander for more low-wage workers. And importing more labor (and it will be imported visa workers if you’re expanding tourism), will just harm Lander’s struggling class with lower wages and higher rents. Short-term rentals will replace housing for locals. Unlike Jackson, Lander doesn’t have the same depth of wealth to tap for supporting social services and community needs.

    As for the birds, climbers and birds are well managed in GTNP. I doubt it would be difficult to manage a tourist-focused fee-based via ferrata. Concessionaires sneaking people up? Doubt it. The JH Mountain Resort has its VF and it is popular but you don’t see people poaching it when closed.

  4. The controversy concerning the proposed development of a new climbing area at Sawmill Creek campground seems to be increasing. With more people now aware of the project, most are expressing concern.
    It seems inevitable that this big beautiful wall is calling out to be climbed, but there are some obvious things to think about. Here are my thoughts:

    1, At this campground, the canyon is narrow. There isn’t much more available space to create a larger parking lot. People reserving the picnic shelter and using the playground can easily fill up the area.
    2. Building the proposed trail and footbridge in this heavily bouldered area would involve a substantial amount of heavy equipment and temporary disruption. This would be expensive work.
    3. The existence of the Peregrine Falcon nesting site very much polarizes opinions about the proposal. Given the years of work it’s taken to reestablish these raptors in Sinks Canyon, I feel it would be best to leave them alone.
    4. How many people who are drawn to the site will be willing to pay a vendor? Is the project going to be cost-effective, or will it fizzle, leaving its expensive infrastructure behind?
    5. This bridge and trail will open up the south side of the canyon to foot traffic. No more pristine areas in the canyon will remain. A new “nature trail” to connect to the warming house will be inevitable.
    6. How will the maintenance of the new feature be paid for in the future?

    My proposal is to start out with a more modest scheme. Why not construct the Via Ferrata on one of the walls in the existing climbing area further up the canyon, and see if this location will draw the anticipated crowds? All the above-mentioned concerns would be avoided. The economic benefits to the community would still be there, as this seems to be the driving force behind the push for this development.

    I have enjoyed this canyon for many, many years but now, most of the time, I have to go somewhere else to avoid the crowds of people using the canyon during the tourist season. Let’s plan development for all, not just for a special group.

    Respectfully,
    Ron Shaw, Lander

  5. Discussion of specifics, not generalities, will tell us whether putting the via ferrata on that cliff is a bad or a good idea. Lauren Throop brings up one specific: how will a seasonal closure be enforced? I know, from lots of years of playing in Wyoming, that some subset of recreationists violate voluntary closures, maybe out of ignorance and maybe out of a don’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude. I seriously doubt that a voluntary closure would work in this case. So, Ms. Throop’s question needs an answer.

    Another specific is how long the seasonal closure should last. Fortunately in this case, there’s Bob Oakleaf to ask — someone who knows falcons inside and out and also has observed this eyrie for years. Other Lander birdwatchers also observe these birds and likely can provide their observations. Suppose this information shows that the closure needs to run from April (or maybe even March) through July. Would having a via ferrata there be worthwhile?

    Mr. Lightner’s comments suggest a third specific topic to investigate, when he cites his observations that climbers and falcons can co-exist. What is it about those cases that separates them from the cases where birds were driven away? Is reliable information available about this? Anecdotes are useful mainly as a starting point.

    Finally, what about other possible sites for a via ferrata? Have any been examined? Mr. Lightner describes advantages of this site, but if no others have been examined, they should be.

    Answers to specific questions like these should be the basis for deciding whether or not this really is a win-win situation. I”m concerned that the people in the Wyoming Game and Fish Dept. and Wyoming State Parks, who apparently will be mainly responsible for making a final decision, seem to already believe it is.

    George Jones
    Laramie

  6. Hey, go right ahead and overdevelop one area after another in Wyoming, it’s the murican way! Sinks Canyon will just join that sorry list.

  7. It always saddens me when the only comments on an article are the extreme negative. Thank you Katie for your fair and balanced reporting…

    Like it or not we humans are a part of this landscape and, as you read, a very big part of Sinks Canyon. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Oakleaf and many others the peregrine falcon has moved away from the endangered species designation (put there by use of DDT, not by human proximity) to a much lower protected status. Peregrines are now thriving in areas of human activity, like many cities even. There is room for all and evidence has shown that seasonal closures can work very well for cliff usage in peregrine areas. The recreation thrives and the birds thrive… it is a win, win.

    Sinks Canyon is the hub of recreation in the Lander Valley and the perfect place for this new activity. The impact will be very, very low – much less than the highway running down the spine or the mountain bikers, hikers, snowmobilers, climbers, campers and horseback riders that recreate every day in this area. This adventure hike will be a wonderful addition to our canyon and I welcome it. It will be an economic boom for our community and great for our park, our town and our state. It is my hope that our state representatives will support the economy of Lander and I will support those that do.

    I commend the State Park for having following good, open procedures for considering this project. I attended a couple of these open houses and they were very well publicized and organized.

    I know that change is scary and hard for many. Personally I love it. Change and difference is what makes Lander the great community that it is. See you all at the public hearing in September. I am sure we can walk this path together.

    1. What are the seasonal closures being discussed? Would the apparatus be dissembled in the spring and summer? Or will it be staffed to ensure no one uses it during breeding season?

      Commercial entities and development have a federal mandate not to negatively impact raptor breeding sites, particularly those of sensitive species like peregrines. Unless there’s a way to ensure it’s not used during the breeding season (and voluntary closures do not work in the climbing world – see Devil’s Tower), I don’t see how this is compatible with that mandate.

      Thanks for the great reporting Katie.

    2. “Like it or not we humans are a part of this landscape…”

      Not for much longer at the rate the species continues to pursue its self-destructive instincts, and its greed. With us gone, maybe a decent top species will eventually evolve, assuming that in our stupidity we don’t destroy everything else on our way out. Maybe the new species won’t refer to destruction as “improvements”.

    3. Mike- It is condescending to assume that opposition to the Via Ferrata is fear of change. The public has not been provided documents on the specific details of the project, the impacts on the canyon and resources, details of the facility and infrastructure, the total cost, or a complete economic evaluation. How will it be kept inaccessible when closed? Is security, as in chainlink and lighting, part of the plan? And the State Parks has stated that contracts for the concessionaire will be solicited once it is built. How is that smart economic planning?

      This is not about fear of change. This is about not going in and changing and defacing the last untouched parts of the park and doing so without full transparency. You and Sam have both sidestepped the peregrine issue as well. I ask you to look closer to the facts in that regard.

  8. Most people do t have the skills to climb in these areas. When we start installing these features we deface them, we invite folks w/o the skills to climb there to clip into a false sense of security when they are simply not ready for it. There is plenty of terrain to learn on.

  9. Don Rardin
    Lander

    There are already too many people using the sinks. It’s starting to feel like big traffic jam.

    If this area is officially a wildlife refuge, I don’t understand how this plan meets the scope of the game and fish responsibility.

    1. Agree. When I first moved here (2002), I enjoyed the place. It was nice and quiet. That changed within a few years. The last time I even passed through the canyon and out the other side along the loop was 10 years ago. Doubt I ever do it again.

  10. Open Letter to Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources:
    I am alarmed at the apparent decision made by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department and Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources to establish a tourist “climbing route” (via ferrata) past a pair of nesting peregrines in Sinks Canyon State Park. The rationale that it’s good to habituate nesting peregrines to nearby human beings defies all conservation and wildlife management practices. This is an in-your-face political exercise that violates all rules and regulations governing the protection of wildlife species. Wildlife decisions must never be based on political philosophy.
    When I moved to Wyoming 52 years ago, before the Endangered Species Act, the WGFD’s main purpose was to control predators throughout the state in order to promote the non-resident harvest of Wyoming’s big game resources. Without predators, the Wyoming landscape literally moved in all directions with prey species that weren’t being preyed on. The WGFD has always resented the notion that non-game species should be protected and be considered a part of an intact ecosystem. In 1970 the “duck hawk,” Wyoming’s peregrine, was listed as vermin with recommendations to shoot on sight. The fact that the WGFD’s mission has gone from controlling predators to managing game as well as non-game species has always rubbed certain elements in the Game Division of the WGFD the wrong way. By law, WGFD management decisions must be based on science and biology, not political ambitions.
    If this ridiculous concession goes forward anywhere near the peregrine eyrie, peregrines will abandon the site, and the WGFD is well aware of that fact. It will deprive the general public of an outstanding opportunity to continue to observe this iconic raptor in its natural habitat. It will reflect on WGFD and Wyoming State Parks in the worst way possible; this is exactly the wrong thing to do.
    This decision must be reconsidered and tabled, while the public and interested parties have an opportunity to re-evaluate all perspectives and concerns.

  11. Sinks Canyon State Park was bought as a wildlife refuge. It should remain a wildlife refuge. There are plenty of other site options for the via ferrata, and I will support one of those locations. I can not and will not get behind this one.

    Also, if climbers “respect wildlife closures”, then do explain to me how they have already caused irreparable damage to the fledglings this year. What’s more, they have not only invaded this site, but have also been compromising the one I p at Fossil Hill. That is a voluntary closure that was COMPLETELY ignored. Trusting people to “do the right thing” doesn’t work anymore. Those days are gone. People are now only concerned for their personal agendas.

    Finally, as others have said, the opposition to this has been hushed and the whole project has been far more secretive than it should be. I personally have written letters to the Game & Fish commission, and received some ridiculous “now now, it’s all okay” reply from none other than Nesvik himself. Give me a break. It’s not okay!! Quit pretending it’s okay.

    (Lander born and raised, offended from afar, will be furious if the peregrines are gone when I get to come home.)

  12. First of all, I’d like to thank Katie Kingsporn and WyoFile for publishing this article. Until recently, this proposed project has been kept under wraps and hardly anyone knew about it. Even now, I’d happily wager that the majority of Lander residents haven’t heard of it.

    Second of all, there are a few errors and misconceptions stated in the article that I’d like to address: 1) This is not “the first time in years” that the falcons have nested on this cliff. In fact, they have nested on this cliff 4 times in the last decade, 2) no one is proposing to close off the entire eastern slope of the Wind Rivers. There are a great many cliffs on nearby State, BLM, and US Forest Service lands that are currently in use by climbers and have been for many years that are not a threat to nesting raptors. The via Ferrata could easily be placed at any one of these alternative sites, 3) since the cliff in question is not on federal land and peregrine falcons are no longer on the Threatened and Endangered Species List, there is no requirement to conduct a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) evaluation, and 4) “Climbers are respectful of wildlife closures.” While this statement is most certainly true of most climbers, two weeks ago, a climbing group scaled the cliff in question, disturbing the eyrie (nest). One or more of the young falcons prematurely attempted to fly from the eyrie and plummeted to the ground. The fate of this (these) young birds has as yet not been determined.

    The Wyoming Game & Fish Department should not have been at all surprised by these “late-in-the-game objections,” since the proposed project has been kept so secretive. Now that the facts are finally coming into the light of day our concerns have not been alleviated; in fact, the complete opposite is true. The cart has gotten miles ahead of the horse on this project. The public needs to know the true facts concerning this project and be allowed to comment prior to it going any further.

  13. Excellent piece, Katie. I’m shocked that this wildlife-hostile proposal has gotten this far. More commercialized human exploitation of our already tourist-clogged Sinks Canyon is anathema to wildlife conservation and protection. Invading the only known nesting site of the threatened peregrine in the canyon for the clearly stated purpose of boosting tourist numbers and dollars is the sort of “thinking” that wildlife activists are battling across the US and around the world.