Williamson Rock Update
Williamson Rock was Southern California’s premier summer sport climbing destination until it was closed to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF). In December 2005, the Angeles National Forest restricted access to Williamson Rock as a result of lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations (collectively referred to as “CBD”). The CBD successfully challenged the Forest Service’s 2005 revised forest plans for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padre and San Bernardino National Forests. CBD’s suit succeeded because Biological Opinions regarding the 2005 revised forest plans failed to issue Incidental Take Statements for the MYLF as required by the Endangered Species Act. The Access Fund, Friends of Williamson, and local climbers immediately started working with the Forest Service on ways to protect MYLF habitat and re-open Williamson Rock.
In September 2009, the Forest Service proposed a plan to re-open Williamson Rock to climbing with restrictions meant to protect critical habitat of the MYLF. Unfortunately, around the same time the Station Fire burnt much of the Angeles National Forest, including habitat of the MYLF. The Forest Service decided that given the loss of other MYLF habitat in the Station Fire, Williamson Rock could not be re-opened as proposed. In June 2011, the Court issued an injunctive Order that judicially closed Williamson Rock until an amended Biological Survey concerning the MYLF is completed (there was a 6 month deadline from the date of the Order and then 60 days to implement the decision). Shortly thereafter, Angeles National Forest attempted to institute a 3-year administrative closure of Williamson Rock to protect MYLF habitat. Allied Climbers of San Diego (ACSD), a local climbing organization and joint member of the Access Fund, stepped up to administratively appeal the 3-year closure.
The Angeles National Forest withdrew the decision to close Williamson Rock for 3 years and ACSD’s appeal was dismissed as moot. Currently, Williamson Rock remains closed to protect the MYLF and will likely not re-open until the 2005 Biological Opinions and revised forest plans are amended. ACSD has worked with MYLF expert Dr. Ronald Knapp, who has opined that if managed properly, climbing is not a threat to the MYLF population of Williamson Rock. The Forest Service requested and received additional time to amend the 2005 Biological Opinions and revised forest plans. The Access Fund and Allied Climbers of San Diego will continue to work on getting Williamson Rock re-opened, but there is no quick solution.
Access Fund Responds to Resolution Copper’s Recent Announcement of Workforce Reductions
Some of you have probably seen the recent announcement by Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) stating their intent to scale back most activities at the RCM mine due to uncertainty in the legislative and regulatory environment. This mine is located adjacent to the rock climbing areas at Oak Flat in central Arizona.
The announcement reads, in part: RCM “will reduce its overall budget from about $200 million in 2012 to about $50 million in 2013, which will result in the loss of approximately 400 jobs or about 75 percent of its overall workforce….To justify further development, we need more certainty around legislative and regulatory activity affecting Resolution Copper.... Specifically, approval of the land exchange we’ve been seeking since 2005 constitutes the critical path forward. Our efforts at RCM will be directed toward working to obtain the certainty we need.”
While we at the Access Fund are very sympathetic to those who may potentially lose their jobs, this statement links the upcoming workforce reduction to uncertainty caused by RCM’s inability to get their land exchange bill (HR 1904) passed in the United States Congress which would convey ownership of Oak Flat’s popular climbing areas to RCM for a massive copper mine. In reality however, Rio Tinto, the parent company and majority owner of RCM, simultaneously announced it was cutting back some $7 billion dollars in development and operations costs worldwide over the next two years due to a global weakening in commodity demand.
Resolution Copper’s recent announcement is thus a politically motivated attempt to gain sympathy for layoffs that they would most likely be making anyway and to pressure Congress to move their problematic legislation through the Senate. We should not let RCM succeed in this misinformation strategy.
Resolution Copper bemoans the fact that eleven versions of their land exchange bill have failed to pass through Congress over the last seven years, but RCM has only themselves to blame. If RCM had put a larger portion of their lobbying efforts into finding meaningful compromise with Oak Flat recreational users, environmental advocates and Native Americans, they might have obtained a land exchange or other authorization for their new mine. Instead, inflexibility on RCM’s part has caused them to insist on terms and conditions for their mine that are highly favorable to them at the expense of all other interested parties.
A few remarkable examples of RCM's unwillingness to be reasonable include:
- An insistence on employing a mining method which will destroy the entire Oak Flat area and with it cause the destruction of a heavily used federally protected recreation area, while alternate mining methods which would preserve the surface and lead to greater job growth are dismissed out of hand,
- An attempt to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and any responsible environmental analyses before a land exchange takes place,
- Removing the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to make a genuine determination whether this land exchange is “in the public interest” as required by most federal land exchange laws, and
- The disregard of the cultural and traditional interests of Native Americans who use the Oak Flat area and consider it sacred.
Please let your senators know that the Oak Flat land exchange bill (HR 1904) is a bad piece of legislation and should not be passed in the current lame duck session of Congress. Please also tell your senators that HR 1904 should expire with the 112th Congress and that RCM must address all of the substantial problems in the current bill before Congress considers any future proposals. To find your US Senators, see this link.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition Partners with the Access Fund to Acquire Hospital Boulders
The Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) is pleased to announce that it is under contract to acquire the Hospital Boulders in northeastern Alabama. The Access Fund is providing a bridge loan of $75,000 from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) to finance the acquisition. The SCC is now asking the climbing community to show their support and help fundraise $80,000 to complete the purchase.
Climbing access has historically been “low profile” at Hospital Boulders, with limited access and details distributed only by word of mouth. The SCC was outbid at an auction to purchase the boulder field five years ago with negotiations for access ongoing ever since. The current landowner, a private developer, recently put the property up for sale again, with plans to auction it to the highest bidder. “The threat of losing the area to another private landowner or developer was very real,” says Josh Reyes, SCC board member. “We did not want to be sent back to square one with access negotiations, facing the very real possibility of having access permanently revoked.”
“We had to move fast to get the land under contract before it went to auction,” says Access Fund southeast regional director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “Our close working relationship with the SCC was key to getting the AFLCC funds released quickly to save this bouldering area.”
Just north of Gadsden and less than 30 minutes from Horse Pens 40, the Hospital Boulders boasts 150-200 high quality sandstone boulder problems, and even some short traditional, sport and top rope climbs on the west brow of Lookout Mountain. The area, with its spectacular scenic views, still has potential for many more first ascents.
The SCC and the Access Fund are working together to finalize the purchase of this local bouldering area from the private developer. The sale is expected to close in mid-November, placing Hospital Boulders in climber-friendly hands forever. The SCC will own and manage the property in perpetuity.
The Hospital Boulders acquisition marks the twelfth successful AFLCC project since the inception of the revolving loan program in 2009. It will make the seventh successful acquisition by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.
The 39-acre tract sits conveniently off I-59, just past Mountain View Hospital at the end of Scenic Highway in Gadsden, AL. Access is optimal with an SCC-owned road that leads to a parking area less than a minute from the boulder field. There are additional boulders located just outside the SCC property, and the SCC will be working with the landowner of this adjacent property to open up the entire boulder field in the future. Visit www.seclimbers.org to donate now and learn more about access.
Access Fund Partners with Brooklyn Boulders for Climbing Access
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has partnered with Brooklyn Boulders (BKB) climbing gym in a joint-membership venture geared towards providing outdoor stewardship opportunities and education to climbers in the Northeast.
In this first-of-its-kind partnership, Brooklyn Boulders encourages its members to join the Access Fund by splitting their membership cost 50/50. Brooklyn Boulders members will be able to purchase an Access Fund membership through the gym for $17.50, and BKB will then pay the other half.
“Brooklyn Boulders wants to be an industry leader in preserving our precious climbing resources, while exposing new people to the sport of climbing,” says BKB Head Instructor Rocco Bocchicchio. “This program is an effort by BKB to "pay it forward" for the impact the new climbers our facility creates will inevitably have on outdoor climbing resources, while encouraging all of the climbers in our facility to be proactive and positive stewards to the outdoors.”
Access Fund and BKB will kick off their partnership at a special gym event on Friday October 26, 2012 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. The first 100 people to purchase an Access Fund membership will receive a limited edition AF x BKB t-shirt. Access Fund Southeast Regional Director & National Affiliate Director Zachary Lesch-Huie will be present for a town hall style Q&A session, and the gym will also offer a La Sportiva shoe demo and free climbing assessments by their professional instructors all night.
Kudos to BKB for being such a great partner in climbing access and conservation!
Access Fund Acquires Holy Boulders – Asks for Further Support
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Holy Boulders in Southern Illinois. However, more help is needed from the climbing community to fundraise and transfer the property to a long-term owner.
While private landowners have historically allowed climbing access at the Holy Boulders, known for its Fontainebleau-like perfect sandstone friction and aesthetic lines, they decided to sell the property, putting the boulders at risk of indefinite closure.
With a narrow window of opportunity to protect the Holy Boulders, local climbers Dave Chancellor of Climb So Ill and Leif Faber of the Illinois Climbers Association reached out to the landowners and the Access Fund to help protect this hidden gem of the American bouldering community. After months of working with the landowners and local climbers, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect the Holy Boulders through a multi-phased conservation project.
The Access Fund has secured temporary ownership of the Holy Boulders using funds from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, a revolving loan program designed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. However Access Fund now needs help from the climbing community to raise an additional $185,000 to secure permanent ownership of Holy Boulders and transfer it to a long-term owner that will keep climbing access open for future generations. Suitable long-term owners might include the Illinois Climbers Association or Shawnee National Forest, however more work is needed to identify long-term ownership and management of Holy Boulders.
“The climbing community must now come together to protect one of Illinois’ best climbing resources,” says Chancellor. “The Access Fund has stepped up and now we need your help to raise $185,000 to put the Holy Boulders in climber friendly hands forever.”
Please make a donation to the Protect What’s Holy campaign today to ensure long-term access to the Holy Boulders (www.accessfund.org/holyboulders)! With your support, we can protect and steward the Holy Boulders forever.
Holy Boulders History
The Holy Boulders have attracted professional climbers and strong athletes from around the country. The area features 150 developed problems and potential for hundreds more that climbers of all abilities can enjoy. “My first impression of the Holy Boulders was incredible,” says professional climber Jimmy Webb. “The rock quality is second to none and is probably some of the best sandstone I’ve ever climbed on.”
The Holy Boulders sits on a 78-acre tract of farm and forestland that the Tripp family has owned for over 47 years. In 2004, local climber Aaron Brouwer discovered the Holy Boulders from aerial photographs and introduced himself to the landowner. After initial concerns of liability, the family gave climbers verbal permission to climb at the boulders. For eight years climbers maintained a positive relationship with the Tripp Family, offering small tokens of appreciation and keeping information word-of-mouth so as not to jeopardize access. In May of 2012 climbers spotted For Sale signs on the property and learned that the landowners were planning to sell the property.
“Climbing is a finite resource,” says professional climber and Holy Boulders regular Matt Segal. “Especially areas like the Holy Boulders that are so special. It’s really important for us to take initiative and try to protect these areas for future generations.”
The existing parking area and approach off Macedonia Road remains the current point of access for the Holy Boulders. Please remember that parking and the initial approach are on Shawnee National Forest. Do your part to keep the Holy Boulders area beautiful by following Leave No Trace principles. The property still bears windfall damage from an inland hurricane in 2009 and volunteer help is necessary to improve trails and install a new trailhead in the near future. View a map of the property and stay tuned for updated access information at www.accessfund.org/holyboulders.
Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of climbers Matt Bliss, Phillip Carrier, Dave Chancellor, Leif Faber, Jim Thurmond, Jason Kehl and many others, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible.
Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition Makes Final Payment on Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve!
The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC) made final payment on their Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) loan, completing eight years of fundraising for their purchase of the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP). Situated in southeastern Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau, the 750-acre preserve contains over 300 sport and traditional rock climbs and includes crags such as Bob Marley, Drive-By, The Dark Side, Gold Coast and numerous others. The area is extremely popular, attracting climbers from across country and world.
RRGCC purchased the PMRP in 2004. Through their annual Rocktoberfest event, major donors, , two Access Fund grants, and other grassroots fundraising, RRGCC paid down a significant portion of their original seller-financed loan. Despite this progress, they remained at risk of losing the property and all funds donated by climbers to the seller if they missed an annual payment. So, in 2010 the Access Fund provided RRGCC with a $65,000 AFLCC loan to pay off their original loan. This saved RRGCC approximately $10,000, and eliminated any risk of losing the climbing preserve.
The RRGCC is the sixth organization to fully pay back their AFLCC loan, returning funds to the revolving loan program where the Access Fund will loan the money out again to save another threatened climbing area.
“We congratulate RRGCC on this long-fought success,” said Joe Sambataro, Access Fund Access Director. “We’re a proud partner of RRGCC, and look forward to working closely together on future acquisition projects in the Red.”
Way to go RRGCC!
Egregious Wilderness Climbing Violations at Joshua Tree
Within the pristine wilderness of Queen Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park sits a beautiful area called The Underground Chasm. Earlier this year, a climber noticed that the approach steps to Underground Chasm were chipped into the rock, and the routes also appeared to be “enhanced”.
Prior to 1998 there were no regulations for bolting in the Wilderness of Joshua Tree and as a result many ‘sporty’ routes appeared on Queen Mountain. However in 1998 the Park prohibited placing or replacing any bolts in Wilderness, pending a formal management policy. Now existing bolts may be replaced one-for-one and new bolts require a permit. A subsequent Park Service investigation of The Underground Chasm discovered hundreds of illegally placed bolts, fixed rope, burnt Joshua Trees, stashed camping and climbing gear, chipped steps and damage to other nearby trees and plants—all misdemeanors individually punishable by a mandatory court appearance and $5,000 fine.
The Friends of Joshua Tree and Access Fund have worked hard for decades to establish a positive relationship with the Park, and egregious wilderness violations like these jeopardize access to Joshua Tree Wilderness for all climbers.
Fortunately the Park reached out to the Access Fund and Friends of Joshua Tree for help instead of summarily closing the area to climbing. In June, representatives from the Access Fund and Friends of Joshua Tree toured the Underground Chasm with Park staff, then met with the Joshua Tree Superintendent to discuss how to respond. The discussion ranged from doing nothing, to removing all the illegally placed bolts and banning all climbing (and bouldering) within Joshua Tree Wilderness. Given the number of violations, clear connection to climbers, and budget challenges, removing all of the bolts and banning climbing in the area was an option that the Park seriously considered.
Luckily, the years of relationship building and stewardship that climbers have invested in Joshua Tree helped mitigate the situation, and the decision was made to: 1) Use the incident to educate climbers about proper wilderness ethics; 2) Evaluate the illegally established routes under the Park’s permit application protocol; and, 3) Only remove those routes that would not have been granted a permit. Thankfully, the illegal acts at the Underground Chasm will not (at least for now) affect climbing access. However, if such blatant violations continue, the Park will have to consider policy changes that could significantly reduce climbers’ access.
The Friends of Joshua Tree, Access Fund, and the Park are highlighting the Underground Chasm story this October at Climb Smart 2012. The Climb Smart program is a national climber awareness campaign designed to promote safe climbing and individual responsibility. Please join the festivities this October 19th through the 21st that kick off the Joshua Tree climbing season with three full days of clinics, guest athletes, climbing education, Park service projects, and multimedia presentations. For more information on Climb Smart 2012 visit http://www.friendsofjosh.org/.
Access Fund Announces Second Round Grant Recipients
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $18,000 in this second round of the 2012 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Each year, the Access Fund awards up to $40,000 in grant money to local climbing communities with worthy projects that preserve or enhance climbing access. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program is an example of membership dollars at work in local climbing communities across the country. Again this round, Access Fund members got the opportunity to review qualifying grant projects and rate them, providing valuable input to our grant selection committee as to which projects they want their dollars to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
American Alpine Club: Vantage Toilet Project
Together with the Washington Climbers Coalition and the Mountaineers, the American Alpine Club will receive funding to install a permanent toilet facility at Vantage to mitigate climbers’ impact and promote stewardship of the area for years to come. An arid climate and high volume of climbs make Vantage a popular climbing and camping destination in central Washington. Traffic has been increasing for years, despite the lack of a proper toilet facility within ten miles of the area. Now, the impact of climbers on the fragile desert landscape is becoming evident through the accumulation of human waste and a permanent facility is necessary.
Boulder Climbing Community: Front Range Trail Team
The Boulder Climbing Community will receive funding for a 3-person team of trail building experts to improve heavily impacted access trails to climbing areas in the Boulder, Colorado Front Range area. Working closely with land managers and volunteers from the community, the team will establish sustainable trails that reduce the impact of climbers in areas of Boulder Canyon, Eldorado State Park, and other areas in need.
Friends of Muir Valley: Muir Valley Restroom Facilities
The Friends of Muir Valley will receive funding to address a serious human waste issue threatening access to the Muir Valley Nature and Climbing Preserve. As user numbers continue to grow (over 30,000 in 2011), the toilet facility at the trailhead can no longer mitigate human waste alone. This has created unacceptable amounts of human waste deposited in a sensitive ecosystem. The solution is to build two small, waterless, unisex restrooms approximately one mile apart in the highest traffic areas of the Valley. These toilets would help maintain human and ecosystem health in this world-renowned climbing area.
Northern Colorado Climbers’ Coalition: Carter Lake/Fawn Hollow Trail Project
In an on-going effort to ensure continued climbing access at Carter Lake in Loveland, Colorado, the Northern Colorado Climbers’ Coalition will receive funding to create a unified trail system to improve access to the climbing resource and allow eroded slopes and social trails to re-vegetate. This phase of the project also includes a trailhead sign and kiosk that outlines the history of climbing at Carter Lake and Northern Colorado, clearly displays regulations for use of the area, and provides guidelines for climbers to follow to ensure continued access to the bouldering.
Somerset County Park Commission: Sourland Smackdown/Adopt a Crag
Working with local climbers, gyms, and outdoor shops, Somerset County Parks will receive funding for trail work supplies and materials to expand and improve the Devil’s Half Acre bouldering area in the Sourland Mountain Preserve of New Jersey. This project will add an additional 200 feet of access trail in order to minimize braided trails and reduce the environmental impact of bouldering in the park. Funding will also be used for a trash clean-up of the bouldering area. Sourland Mountain’s bouldering is an important resource for New Jersey climbers, where resources and legal access are few and far between.
Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition: Unaweep Canyon Trail Signage and Property Investigation
The Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) will receive funding to install permanent signage at Unaweep Canyon in order to foster Leave No Trace ethics, build support for the WCCC and Access Fund, and ensure proper insurance coverage for commercial and educational uses of the crags. WCCC will also receive funding to investigate and appraise other properties in Unaweep Canyon that show promising cliff lines and would significantly add to the area’s climbing resources if acquired.
Yosemite Climbing Association: Yosemite Facelift
Yosemite Climbing Association will receive a grant to help host the 5-day Yosemite Facelift, where members of Yosemite’s local climbing community and other volunteers from around the country work together to clean up as much trash as possible from Yosemite’s trails, roadways, river corridors, campgrounds, lodging areas, and climbing areas. There are also several special projects planned, including the removal of abandoned infrastructure, non-native species removal, old dump site removal, and climbing trail restoration. This grant will help bring hundreds of climbers together to give back to one of the most cherished climbing areas in the world, year after year.
Auburn Quarry Fundraising Goal Met
The Access Fund and Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS) are pleased to announce the successful completion of the fundraising campaign to open Auburn Quarry outside of Sacramento, California.
CRAGS has long been working with California’s Auburn State Recreation Area to lift the 9-year ban on rock climbing at the Cave Valley Climbing Area (the “Auburn Quarry”). The park managers have agreed to allow rock climbing at the Quarry, but due to budget cuts the park will require CRAGS to establish and maintain basic services there. CRAGS has entered into an agreement with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to provide these critical services in the area to offset climber impacts.
Both the Access Fund and CRAGS contributed funds to help meet the terms of the new agreement, and on August 10, 2012 the Access Fund kicked off a fundraising campaign to help raise the remainder of the money. The climbing community responded quickly and generously, and in just under two weeks the community raised $9,520 to provide these services and restore climbing access early next month!
A special thanks to all of the individual donors and local businesses, including Planet Granite, Sacramento Pipeworks, and Stoneage Climbing Holds for generously responding to the call for help. “It's really gratifying to see how quickly, and how generously, the climbing community responded,” says CRAGS Board Member Brian Poulsen. “This strengthens my hope that permanent unrestricted climbing access is achievable, and CRAGS is committed to seeing that through.” Donors’ generous contributions will help CRAGS pay for garbage and toilet service and informational signs at the quarry, plus volunteer supplies and park support services.
Opening day is planned for Friday September 7, 2012. Climbers can access the Quarry on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. To maintain access, it is crucial for climbers to respect park rules, the environment, and safe climbing practices. CRAGS continues to work with the park to re-establish permanent climbing access every day of the week. Get involved as a volunteer by visiting www.norcalcrags.org.
Allied Climbers of San Diego Newest Joint Member Affiliate
The Access Fund is pleased to welcome Allied Climbers of San Diego (ACSD) as the newest joint member affiliate. Since forming in 2007, ACSD has led the way in protecting climbing access in the San Diego region of California. Access Fund is excited to expand our partnership with ACSD to include joint membership. You can join both organizations at the same time, with a single membership—benefits from both organizations for the cost of one! Joint membership starts at just $35!
Join or renew today!
Hawaii Crags Closed After Accident
Mokuleia Wall (or the Moke as the locals know it) is a basalt cliff on Oahu with sport routes 40 to 90 feet tall. In June of this year, a 12 year-old girl was critically injured at Mokuleia while participating in a summer camp climbing event sponsored by a local YMCA camp. The girl had to be flown out by helicopter, and the following day the State posted signs along the trailhead closing the area indefinitely.
Concerns raised by the accident at Mokuleia caused the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to close another crag, Makapuu, which sits on Oahu's windward (east) side. Liability appears to be the main concern in both closures. Both crags are important resources for Hawaii climbers, and the Access Fund is working with a group of local climbers and business owners on short- and long-term options for re-opening both crags. Big thanks to all of our Hawaii members who are helping out with this effort.
Stay tuned to Access Fund e-news for updates.
Jemez (aka Crystal) Cave Closing
In the latest Vertical Times, we reported that the Santa Fe National Forest and local Pueblo are concerned about climbing impacts at Jemez Cave (aka Crystal Cave) in New Mexico. Access Fund Affiliate the New Mexico Climbers’ Resource and Advocacy Group (NM CRAG) worked with local climbers to take proactive steps to address these concerns, removed all the fixed draws from the cave, met with the Forest Service and local Pueblo, and got the word out to the local climbing community.
We just got word that the Forest Service plans on issuing a temporary closure of Crystal Cave in October in order to perform an archaeological survey. Impacts to the cave’s nationally significant archeological resources are the major concern. NM CRAG held a public meeting with the local climbing community yesterday to review the current status. While the official closure date is projected to be mid October, NM CRAG and the Forest Service are requesting that climbers voluntarily refrain from climbing at Crystal Cave at this time. The Access Fund continues to work with NM CRAG, local climbers, and the US Forest Service to address this issue.
Visit Mountain Project and watch e-news for future updates.
Trout Creek Closure Lifted
Back in February of this year, we reported that the BLM issued an emergency closure at Trout Creek, Oregon’s premier destination for pure crack climbs, due to golden eagle nesting activity in the area. After discussions with Access Fund, Friends of Trout Creek, American Alpine Club, Mazamas, and Crag Law Center, the BLM agreed to change the emergency closure to a voluntary closure and use local climbers in a monitoring program. We are happy to report that climbers complied with the closure, and local climbers helped monitor nest sites.
However, we are sorry to report that the nest site failed—through no fault of climbers. Access Fund Regional Coordinator Eric Sorenson was asked by the BLM to rappel into the failed nest to collect information that the BLM used to gain a better understanding of golden eagle mortality. The voluntary closure has been lifted, and climbers are once again able to access Trout Creek. A huge thanks goes out to local climbers who showed restraint by respecting the closure and volunteering as monitors, which helped to facilitate a solid working relationship with local BLM officials. The Access Fund continues to work with the BLM while an environmental assessment is developed, to determine the best strategy for managing climbing access and future golden eagle nest sites.
For local updates, visit Friends of Trout Creek facebook page.
Auburn Quarry Climbing Ban Nearly Lifted – Your Urgent Support Needed!
Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento (CRAGS) and the Access Fund are excited to announce the successful negotiation of an agreement with California’s Auburn State Recreation Area to lift a 9-year ban on rock climbing at the Cave Valley Climbing Area (the “Auburn Quarry”). Although the agreement must be approved by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, CRAGS anticipates that approval is imminent. Climbing access is now contingent on CRAGS providing critical services in the area to offset climber impacts. CRAGS and the Access Fund are working to raise $9,520 to provide these services and restore climbing access early next month! Please visit www.accessfund.org/auburn to make a contribution--100% of your donation will support the climbing area.
The Auburn State Recreation Area is a large public park on the American River, 35 miles northeast of Sacramento. The Cave Valley climbing area is an old limestone quarry near the river. Efforts to build a large federal dam there were halted in the late 1970’s. Quarrying and dam-construction activities left large features that are suitable for climbing. Over the years, climbers have established numerous sport routes of varying difficulty.
Photo by Jerry Dodrill
In April 2003 the California Department of Parks and Recreation issued an order prohibiting technical rock climbing in the park. Local climbers formed CRAGS in 2008, in affiliation with the Access Fund, to re-establish climbing access at Auburn Quarry. For four years CRAGS members have attended meetings and wrote letters arguing that rock climbers have been unfairly singled out. The park managers have now agreed to allow rock climbing at the Quarry, but due to budget cuts the park will require CRAGS to establish and maintain basic services there.
CRAGS has contributed funds and received a generous grant from the Access Fund to help meet the terms of the new agreement. CRAGS needs to raise additional funds by September 7th to open the Quarry to climbing. Your tax-deductible donation will help CRAGS pay for garbage and toilet service and informational signs at the quarry, plus volunteer supplies and park support services. Once CRAGS reaches this goal, climbing will be allowed at the Quarry on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. To maintain access, it is crucial for climbers to respect park rules, the environment, and safe climbing practices. CRAGS continues to work with the park to re-establish permanent climbing access every day of the week.
“CRAGS has worked for years to re-open Auburn Quarry to climbing, and the Access Fund is proud to see their hard work paying off,” says Access Fund Policy Director RD Pascoe. Please help in this final push to open Auburn Quarry by donating at: www.accessfund.org/auburn. Get involved as a volunteer by visiting www.norcalcrags.org.
Stop Vermont Fish & Wildlife Climbing Ban
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) is currently considering a rule that would ban climbing on all of their managed lands. We need your help to convince VFWD to add climbing as an authorized activity!
Take Action Now!
Access Fund and American Alpine Club Partner to Continue Legacy of the Hueco Rock Ranch
Access Fund and American Alpine Club Partner to Continue Legacy of Hueco Rock Ranch
The Access Fund and American Alpine Club (AAC) are pleased to announce that the iconic Hueco Rock Ranch will stay in climber-friendly hands with new ownership by the AAC. The Ranch is the primary lodging facility and guiding headquarters for climbers visiting the stunning bouldering and climbing of Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site outside of El Paso, TX.
The Hueco Rock Ranch has a long history—it was originally built as a personal residence by Todd Skinner in the mid-nineties with friends John and Carol Gogas and climbing stars such as Scott Milton and Fred Nicole. Rob Rice took ownership of the Ranch in 2000 and became the first commercial guide under the new set of climbing requirements, beckoning in a new generation of climbers to enjoy this historic climbing mecca. “The place was built by climbers—for climbers—and has been a hub for the climbing community since day one,” says Rob Rice.
Last fall Rice, now living in Arkansas full-time, reached out to Access Fund for assistance in finding a climber-friendly buyer who could manage the Ranch onsite. Working with Rice and fellow landowner Scott Rohde, Access Fund reached out to the AAC whose vision of supporting the climbing way of life by providing lodging facilities and logistical support seemed a perfect fit for the Rock Ranch.
“Not only is the Hueco Rock Ranch important historically, it has played an important role in climbing access to Hueco Tanks,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “Through the Ranch, climbers have fostered and maintained a positive relationship with Texas State Parks. Maintaining strong climber management of the Ranch is important for all climbers, even those who choose to stay elsewhere during their visit.”
Staff from the Access Fund and AAC worked closely together to make the purchase of the Rock Ranch possible. The Access Fund provided leadership and acquisition expertise, as well short-term funding from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign. Access Fund went under contract to purchase the Ranch in May, and at closing, assigned the properties to the AAC for long-term ownership and management.
“Lodging options within walking distance from great climbing supports the climbing lifestyle we all enjoy—and this purchase of the Hueco Rock Ranch can only expand the types of climbing that we’re able to support,” says AAC Executive Director Phil Powers. “We hope to create a facility that meets climbers’ needs and adds opportunities for climbers to gather and share their stories.”
This project has been a great partnership between the Access Fund and American Alpine Club. “Preservation of the Hueco Rock Ranch uniquely fits the missions of both organizations and we are glad to share this victory with the local, national, and international climbing community,” says Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund.
The AAC is undertaking improvements to the Ranch this summer—committing over $15,000 to completely clean and renovate the structures and tent camping facilities. An AAC staff member will be onsite overseeing these improvements. Future plans include additional renovations and new structures like a shower house and community cooking pavilion in the style of the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch (GTCR) and New River Gorge Campground (NRGC). The AAC will also hire an onsite Hueco Rock Ranch Manager. The hiring process will begin this summer with the Job Description posted on the AAC’s Jobs page.
The Rock Ranch is also closely tied to Route Fitters (RF) guiding operation, which holds a concession to operate trips in the park. For the foreseeable future, Rob Rice and RF are prepared to continue operations out of the Ranch. The AAC plans to complete its improvements by early autumn of 2012. Campers will be able to make reservations online, and walk-in campers will always be welcome at the Rock Ranch. Both AAC and Access Fund members will receive discounted rates.
Special Edition Sterling Rope to Benefit Access Fund & American Alpine Club
The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting America’s climbing, is pleased to announce that Sterling Rope has just unveiled a special edition rope to benefit Access Fund and the American Alpine Club (AAC). The green 9.8mm Velocity rope from Sterling’s Evolution series is the company’s best-selling, high performance rope.
This special edition rope features a unique color pattern of bright green, gray, and black (colors of the Access Fund and AAC) to celebrate the two organizations that support the American climbing community, raising awareness and money to support their missions. The special edition ropes are available in both 60- and 70-meter lengths.
A long-time supporter of the Access Fund, Sterling will donate $10 from the sale of each special edition rope to both the Access Fund and the AAC. The ropes are available for purchase at www.accessfund.org/shop or form www.sterlingrope.com, as well as at participating retail stores.
“Sterling Rope has been a long-time supporter of both the Access Fund and American Alpine Club and believes strongly in the great work they do,” says Sterling Rope Marketing Director John “JB” Branagan. “Offering this special edition product form our top selling Evolution Velocity 9.8mm rope is a perfect way to support these organizations, helping to raise awareness of their dedication to the climbing community and to their complimentary missions.”
New Hampshire Lawmakers Sign In Protections for Landowners who Allow Climbing
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that New Hampshire lawmakers today passed legislation that bolsters landowner protections for people who open their property to climbing.
After a concerted advocacy effort by New Hampshire climbers, House Bill 1551 was signed into law today, expressly naming rock climbing as an activity protected under the state’s recreational use statutes affording landowners a measure of liability protection.
New Hampshire climbers became aware that HB 1551 passed the House of Representatives in May without climbing specifically named as an activity afforded protection. New Hampshire law previously protected landowners who opened their land "for hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, horseback riding, bicycling, water sports, winter sports, snowmobiling, hiking, sightseeing, or removal of fuel wood" from getting sued if someone was injured on their property. However landowners who opened their property to technical climbing were not explicitly protected.
Local climbers rallied to submit letters and make phone calls to their Senators, asking them to amend the bill to include technical climbing before passing it. With leadership from Access Fund NH Regional Coordinator, Erik Eisele, climbers were able to secure a time to provide testimony at a Senate hearing on HB 1551. Local climber and community leader Tim Kemple Sr. provided the testimony, advocating for the amendment. The Senate responded and passed HB 1551 with the climbing amendment on June 1.
And today it was signed into law by Governor John Lynch. “This is an important piece of legislation for climbers,” says Eisele. “With landowners protected from liability if someone is injured while climbing on their property, it makes it much more likely that a landowner would consider public access to climbing.”
AF Welcomes East Idaho Climbers Coalition as Newest Joint Membership Affiliate
The Access Fund is excited to announce that it has combined forces with the East Idaho Climbers Coalition (EICC) to offer joint membership. The EICC works to build grassroots support for climbers' concerns and promote outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship in eastern Idaho. By combining memberships, you can support climbing on both a national and local level as well as receive benefits from both organizations for the cost of one.
Membership starts at just $35!
Already an Access Fund member in Eastern Idaho?
Renew as a joint member today!
CRAG-VT Re-Pays AFLCC Loan
The Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) made their final payment last week on their Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) loan.
The loan, given in July of last year, was for emergency stewardship action to repair the access road to major local crags (including Bolton Quarry, 82 Crag, and the recently acquired Carcass Crag) after it was washed out in a spring flood, blocking climbing access. The Access Fund amended its AFLCC loan policy last summer to allow for emergency stewardship funding, and CRAG-VT was the first organization to benefit from this amendment.
CRAG-VT is the fourth organization to fully pay back their AFLCC loan, returning funds to the revolving loan program where the Access Fund will loan the money out again to save another threatened climbing area.