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Credibility and Ethics

Author: jmaher
Date: October 28, 2003
There has been much talk and discussion lately about various people and groups getting themselves busted for climbing where private property owners and governmental agencies, as well as others, do not want us to be climbing. Owners of private property are mostly concerned about liability issues. They are afraid that if we hurt ourselves, they will somehow end up on the short end of things and find themselves held responsible. Governmental agencies have that same concern and, in addition to that, are very quick to make rules against things that they do not understand. Tree climbing is something that most of them do not understand. Environmentally concerned individuals who are neither the property owner nor the governmental agency responsible for the property are dubious about our climbing because they perceive our climbing as being damaging to the tree.

Tree climbers need to be very concerned about this situation. As long as we remain unconcerned, more and more areas are going to be closed to us as we become more visible. The sport is growing and the more of us that are out there climbing, the more we are noticed. It has been only a few years since the few recreational climbers who were out there were able to go quietly about their climbs, knowing that hardly anyone would even notice. That is no longer the case. Most of those getting themselves busted are small groups who are being anything but quiet and unnoticed. As more climbers head into the trees, more noise and more notice will be inevitable, and authority will be unable to ignore our presence, and that will result in more busts and a weakening of relations between tree climbers and those who have, or are responsible for, the trees.

There are two ways that this problem can be resolved and we must implement both of them simultaneously in order to be successful. First our activity needs to be accepted by the outdoor adventure community, which is another way of saying that we need to address the issues of credibility and accreditation. We must become recognized as something other than rogue adventurers. The second is to adopt a code of climbing ethics that will emphasize our non-adversarial relationship with the trees we climb. Then, let the public know about these things through a program of education and an introduction to our activity that will allow us to be perceived positively.

As more information and ideas are amassed this topic will be addressed further. Those with specific ideas for a solution to this situation are encouraged to contact us. All input will be appreciated.

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