Touchstone Blog Archive
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
  El Capitan Closure: Pregrine Falcon Nesting
After a number of years away from a nesting site on the the Southeast Face of El Capitan, a pair of peregrines have returned to their nest. In an attempt to protect the endangered species, the National Park Service has issued a closure of the area.

The park service stated:
Peregrine falcons are recovering from population decline. Their status is currently being evaluated nationwide as part of a 15 year monitoring program following their delisting in 1999 under the endangered species act. To protect this recovering species, the Superindent of Yosemite National Park is designating peregrine nesting cliffs as areas closed to visitor use including climbing and slack-lining activities until peregrine chicks have fledged and dispersed from those areas in 2010.

Closure includes all routes between and including South Seas/Pacific Ocean Wall,North Amreican Wall, and east to Native Son. Routes 4 pitches or less at the base of the Southeast face of El Capitan will remain open.

Climbing Ranger and liaison, Jesse McGahey discussed the issue on a number of internet forums to address the problems and questions that many climbers may have with the closure. Stating:

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
(209) 372-0360

For more information about the closure see Jesse's posts on Supertopo.

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