Illinois Passes Landowner Liability Protections
Back in 2009, the State of Illinois changed its Recreational Use Statute, restricting private landowner liability protections to include only recreational hunting and shooting. This change weakened private landowner protections and contributed to the closure of privately owned Draper’s Bluff. We are happy to report that last month, the State of Illinois expanded its Recreational Use Statute to include “outdoor recreational use,” which includes rock climbing. This change will strengthen liability protections for private landowners in Illinois who open their land to climbing. Recreational Use Statutes are laws designed to encourage private landowners to open their properties to hunters, anglers, and other recreationalists by limiting the landowner’s liability. All 50 states have these laws.
Learn more about recreational use statutes
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition Teams up with Access Fund to Purchase New Climbing Area in Kentucky
The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) and Access Fund are thrilled to announce the acquisition of 309 acres in Beattyville, Kentucky. Named the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, the land includes several miles of cliff line, some of which has been developed but with the vast majority of it awaiting discovery and development. There is potential for more than a dozen individual crags and hundreds of high-quality routes.
The Miller Fork Recreational Preserve is located just seven miles from the popular Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) climbing destination in Lee County, Kentucky. The Miller Fork acquisition creates a brand new destination for climbers in the region, helping to relieve the access pressures and climber impacts on other crags in the Red River Gorge.
Previous owner and Lee County resident, Libby Roach saw the RRGCC’s involvement in community meetings, as well as climbing’s positive economic impacts on the local community. In early 2013, she approached the RRGCC with this land in the hopes of helping both the local community and the climbing community. “I care very much for Beattyville and Lee County. It is my hope that our decision to sell this beautiful land will only bring positive things to all.”
After being presented with the opportunity, RRGCC contacted the Access Fund for help. The two organizations worked together to finalize the purchase, with the Access Fund providing both a $10,000 grant and a $200,000 loan from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, the revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations with the funds and expertise needed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. The RRGCC pulled from its own funds to make up the difference and purchase the property for $245,000. The RRGCC is now calling on the community to show its support for this ambitious purchase by donating at the RRGCC’s website, www.rrgcc.org.
“The Access Fund is proud to support RRGCC's protection of Miller Fork's expansive climbing,” says Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “Their partnership with the local community and ongoing commitment to expanding public climbing access has created yet another major Red River Gorge climbing area.”
The RRGCC made history in 2012 when it paid off the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP), completing the largest land purchase ever by a local climbing organization. The RRGCC refinanced the PMRP loan through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign in 2010, saving the local community over $10,000 in interest and fees under the previous loan. Now, the more than 750 acres, 450 plus routes, and several dozen crags that call the PMRP home are secure and will always remain open to climbing.
“Like the PMRP, Miller Fork is going to change the game in the Red,” says Paul Vidal, President of the RRGCC. “Acquiring this property illustrates the strength of the climbing community in this region and its importance to the area. Without the community of climbers and businesses supporting us and pushing us to look to the future, we wouldn’t have been able to secure this climbing.” The purchase of the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve will be another step in securing access for climbers, while furthering the RRGCC’s mission of ensuring open, public access to ample, quality rock climbing opportunities. Like the PMRP, the RRGCC will own and manage the property in perpetuity.
More information, including information regarding trail and route development, will be forthcoming as the RRGCC develops and implements its infrastructure plan.
Access Fund Unveils New Risk Management & Landowner Support Program
Exposure to potential liability is often a concern of both private and public landowners when considering climbing access. Yet, the perception of risk associated with climbing is often overstated and misunderstood. The Access Fund is pleased to officially unveil a new program—Risk Management & Landowner Support to help provide land owners/managers with resources to help manage these risks and provide public access. While Access Fund has been providing some of these services for years, we hope that grouping these services into an official program will help to make our support more accessible to landowners, land managers, and local climbing organizations.
More information on this program.
Access Victory at Torne Valley, NY
Congratulations to the Torne Valley Climbers Coalition (TVCC) who, in partnership with the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC), negotiated climbing access at the Torne Valley area of Harriman State Park. The area was originally closed due to a long standing regulation by the property owner, however PIPC partnered with TVCC to develop a climbing management plan to address landowner concerns and officially open the area to climbing. In order for climbing to continue at Torne Valley, climbers need to follow the rules and restrictions of the area.
More information on rules & restrictions
Breaking News: NPS Releases Historic Policy Authorizing Fixed Anchors in Wilderness
After decades of work, the Access Fund received notice yesterday from National Park Service (NPS) that the agency has issued final national policy authorizing fixed anchors in wilderness. This policy—Director's Order #41—affects many of the country's most important climbing areas such as Yosemite, Grand Teton, Zion, Joshua Tree, and Canyonlands National Parks. The NPS included many of the specific provisions Access Fund advocated for during our 20+ years of work on this issue, such as programmatic authorizations (which allow new bolts by zone, not just case-by-case permitting for individual routes/bolts) and interim fixed anchor permitting prior to the establishment of dedicated climbing management plans. We are still analyzing the new policy, but first impressions are that this direction is good for both wilderness climbers and NPS managers. See a copy of the new policy. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis in the near future.
Climbing Ban at Castle Rocks, ID
The Bureau of Land Management announced last month that all rock climbing activity will be banned on its 400-acre portion of the Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area in Idaho, ignoring the proven Castle Rocks Interagency Climbing Management Plan drafted by climbers and BLM to protect cultural resources. The climbing management plan includes extensive provisions for identifying areas of concern and allowing climbing only in areas that will not negatively affect cultural resources. The BLM’s decision to ignore the same climbing management plan it helped create is totally unnecessary and unjustified. The Castle Rocks Interagency Climbing Management Plan has been used successfully by the Idaho State Department of Parks and Recreation. Further, the closure singles out rock climbers while allowing other unregulated activities such as hiking, hunting, and grazing. Please help show the congressional delegation and governor’s office that large numbers of constituents and the general public oppose this unnecessary and unjustified public land closure in hopes of pressuring the BLM to reconsider its decision.
Stay tuned for more information.
New York Climbers Achieve Access Victory at Dickie Barre
The Access Fund and Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) have worked for over four years to advocate for expansion of climbing opportunities at Minnewaska State Park in New York. We are pleased to announce that the Dickie Barre area was officially opened to climbing on April 30th. A huge thanks goes out to GCC for working alongside the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and the New York State Office of Parks to drive this victory. In a relatively short period of time, GCC was able to build trails (with a little help from the Access Fund Conservation Team), get the area surveyed, and organize the opening of this climbing area. Congratulations GCC!
Access Fund Hosts Southeast Regional Access Summit
Over the weekend of March 23 – 24, climbing advocates from all over the Southeast turned out to the Access Fund Southeast Regional Summit to discuss recent successes, challenges, and the future of Southeastern climbing. Dr. Bob Matheny, owner of Torrent Falls, graciously allowed the use of his property and cabin for the meeting, which drew representatives from The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition, Friends of Muir Valley, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, Boone Climbers Coalition, Carolina Climbers Coalition, and the New River Alliance of Climbers.
Get a full report on the summit from Dead Point Magazine!
Access Fund Announces First Round Grant Recipients
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $23,500 in this first round of the 2013 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 contributions to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
Gunks Climbers Coalition - Gym to Crag Transition Program
The Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) was awarded a grant for a program that will help new climbers make the transition to responsible outdoor climbing. The rock climbing and bouldering areas around New Paltz, New York see increasing traffic and climber impacts every year as first-time climbers from gyms in the New York metro area go there to climb outside for the first time. Many of these climbers are not yet familiar with established outdoor ethics or how to reduce and minimize their impact. GCC’s educational program will include videos, presentations, flyers, and incentives for active participation to help address this problem and provide a model for climbing communities around the country. The goal is to get to the root of this problem by educating climbers about best climbing and bouldering practices before they go outside for their first time.
Jenny Lake Rangers - Grand Tetons Human Waste Management
Jenny Lake Rangers of Grand Teton National Park was awarded a grant to help manage human waste in this world-class alpine climbing destination. In 2001, Restop bags were introduced to overnight campers as a voluntary alternative to the fly-out bucket system of human waste management on the Lower Saddle. In 2002, the buckets were removed and human waste pack-out became mandatory for all visitors on the Saddle, with bags provided free of charge and stocked by volunteers and rangers. This grant request seeks funding to cover the cost of the Restop bags. Compliance has continued at nearly 100% since 2003, which affirms the climbing community’s environmental commitment.
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition - Red River Gorge Acquisition
The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) was awarded a grant to help acquire 309 acres of undeveloped cliff line in the southern region of the Red River Gorge. The land includes over 18 individual cliffs and more than 250 potential new routes. This conservation project secured this climbing resource before it was threatened by closure, as well as increased the amount of available climbing in the region to help alleviate overcrowding on other privately owned nature preserves.
San Juan Mountains Association - Weminuche Wilderness Restop Program
San Juan Mountains Association and their partners at San Juan National Forest were awarded a grant to purchase Restop bags to distribute at the Needle Creek Trailhead in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado. The trailhead is the gateway to three fourteeners and a handful of technical climbs. Volunteer Wilderness Information Specialists distribute the Restop bags and educate visitors about the importance of packing out human waste in order to protect this high-use alpine area. In addition, the program provides additional information and seeks feedback through comment cards to ensure the program’s long term effectiveness.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) - Southern Cumberland Appraisal
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) was awarded a grant for the appraisal of a future land acquisition project. They are working with Conservation Fund and Land Trust for Tennessee (LTTN) to conserve a 670 acre cove in the Fiery Gizzard area of Tennessee’s Southern Cumberland region that hosts an extensive sandstone cliff line. Completion of this project would effectively protect 200 high quality routes at a range of grades, and preserve one of the largest climbing areas in the Deep South. The first step in acquiring the property is an appraisal, which SCC and LTTN share this cost 50/50. The Access Fund grant would go towards SCC's portion.
Wilderness Land Trust - Castle Crags Acquisition
The Wilderness Land Trust was awarded a grant to acquire 1,250 acres in the northern reaches of Castle Crags Wilderness near Mt. Shasta, California. The acquisition will provide public access to moderate multi-pitch granite, winter ice climbing, and backcountry skiing. The acquisition will also protect rare wildlife and plant habitat, cultural resources, and the Sacramento River and Delta watershed, which provides clean water for citizens of California. Climber support of this project contributes to a collaborative effort to protect the Klamath-Siskiyou Region and the Castle Crags Wilderness. Acquisition of these parcels are a high priority, since this is a time-sensitive opportunity to prevent future logging and provide improved public access
Hawaii Climbing Access Effort Hits a Roadblock
Last week the legislative effort to re-open Oahu’s state lands to climbing hit a roadblock. Our two remaining bills (SB 1168 & SB 1007) died when the House Judicial Committee refused to schedule a hearing. Despite this setback, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Attorney General appreciated our effort and are willing to consider alternate means for addressing liability concerns. Climb Aloha and the Access Fund are continuing to work with the State to find a solution. Although this was unfortunate, the fight is far from over. Stayed tuned for the latest news.
Your Help Needed to Protect Peregrine Falcons in Yosemite
The Peregrine Falcon is a fully protected species in California and a special status species in Yosemite National Park. To protect this raptor and the Yosemite climbing experience, the Park Service asks climbers to cooperate and support some route closures during nesting season when peregrines are most sensitive to human disturbance. To ensure that their nests are not disturbed and that nestling chicks can grow and disperse, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park temporarily closes cliffs to all human activity where peregrines are nesting. This includes climbing and slack-lining activities.
Closures begin March 1, 2013 and remain in effect until July 15, 2013, or until the chicks have fledged and left the area. Nest sites are monitored closely to provide current information on nesting status and to ensure prompt re-opening of the sites. Closures change according to current nesting status; check the Park’s website for the most current closure information before climbing in Yosemite.
Access Victory at Rib Mountain State Park, WI
Rib Mountain Sate Park just southwest of Wausau, Wisconsin hosts incredibly hard quartzite rock formations forged some 1.5 to 2 billion years ago. The area offers great bouldering, and climbers have visited Rib Mountain for close to twenty years. However in 2003, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began developing a long-range Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park and determined that: “Rock climbing will be prohibited in the abandoned quarry area as rock conditions havebeen determined to be unstable and unsuitable for climbing.” However conflicting information from the State made the status of climbing access in the rest of the park, particularly bouldering opportunities along the trail, unknown.
In June 2012, a local climber named Shawn Brunner attempted to secure official bouldering access in the Park and sought clarification from the Park’s Superintendent , who simply reiterated that: “Rock climbing or bouldering with ropes or other technical gear is not allowed in Rib Mountain State Park, and violators are subject to arrest and prosecution.” Unhappy with the response, Shawn started contacting Park officials to seek official approval to boulder. When DNR didn’t respond, he contacted the Access Fund for help.
The Access Fund reviewed the Master Plan with Shawn and identified a few things that helped bring DNR to the table. Shawn set up a meeting with the Superintendent, the Regional Director, and the Access Fund. The meeting went well, and DNR admitted that bouldering was never considered in the original Master Plan. Although DNR was concerned with the potential impacts associated with bouldering, they were willing to allow it if the Environmental Resource Department (ERD) approved the activity. Shawn created a map with GPS coordinates of all the bouldering at Rib Mountain, and passed it along to the ERD so they could visit the area and determine if bouldering could be allowed.
On January 11, 2013, the ERD determined that bouldering was feasible, and DNR will now allow bouldering at Rib Mountain State Park with crashpads and chalk. However roped climbing and fixed gear are still prohibited in the quarry. For more information, visit Vertical Midwest on Facebook.
Access Fund Announces 2012 Sharp End Awards
Each year the Access Fund recognizes individuals, organizations, and businesses that go above and beyond to volunteer their time and efforts to protecting America’s climbing. These recipients stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community, and the Access Fund is honored to present this year's awards to a worthy group of volunteers and activists.
Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award - Gene and Maura Kistler
The Access Fund is proud to recognize Gene and Maura Kistler with a Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award for years of climbing advocacy, stewardship, and service in the New River Gorge. Gene and Maura have dedicated hundreds of hours to stewardship efforts, worked with countless land managers, founded the New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC), served on the AF board of directors and as regional coordinators, and launched one the most successful and popular grassroots climbing events in the country—the New River Rendezvous. Through the Rendezvous, Gene and Maura continue to inspire climbers across the country with a grassroots event that has access as its underlying cause. Their energy and commitment to the climbing community has inspired many, and their work protects one of the country’s most important climbing areas.
Bebie Leadership Award - Matt Perkins
The Access Fund is honored to present a Bebie Leadership Award to Matt Perkins of the Washington Climbers Coalition. Matt has been a tireless advocate for climbing access in Washington for over 15 years. In 2012 alone, Matt worked to gain a reduced nesting closure near North Bend that drew full climber cooperation, advocated for reasonable fixed anchor policies in the North Cascades, helped raise money for a toilet at Vantage, and coordinated ten days of trail work at Index that involved 4 non-profits and a state agency. In addition, Matt was the face of the Washington Climbers Coalition in meetings with recreation groups and government agencies.
Reese Martin Award - Eric Sorenson
The Access Fund is thrilled to present Eric Sorenson with a Reese Martin Award for his climbing advocacy and stewardship in central Oregon. Cofounder of Central Oregon Rocks (COR), Eric has worked tirelessly to preserve and steward the many bouldering areas surrounding Bend. His leadership and collaborative approach has resulted in successful partnerships with local BLM and Forest Service offices, and preserved access to areas like the Widgi Boulders and Meadow Camp. Last year, Eric led a coalition of climbing advocacy organizations to work with the BLM toward more appropriate seasonal cliff-nesting bird closures at Trout Creek.
Sharp End Award - Bill Strachan
The Access Fund is proud to present Bill Strachan with a Sharp End Award for his many years of dedicated climbing advocacy in the Red River Gorge region of Kentucky. Bill serves as the executive director of the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition and has worked alongside other RRGCC advocates and volunteers toward the completion of the Pendergrass-Murray acquisition. He has faithfully represented climbers’ interests by showing up for every Forest Service meeting that affects climbing management. His commitment and involvement has also been key to RRGCC’s ongoing work with Daniel Boone National Forest to steward climbing areas, increase climbing access, and implement better climbing management overall.
Sharp End Award - Erik Eisele
The Access Fund honors Erik Eisele, Access Fund regional coordinator for New Hampshire, for his leadership in helping pass state legislation that supports climbing access. Avid climber, newspaper reporter, and North Conway local, Erik spearheaded a push to add climbing-specific language to NH House Bill 1551 to protect landowners who open their land for recreation and other uses. The law strengthens climbing access in NH and increases the likelihood that landowners will allow climbing on their land.
Sharp End Award - Sam Lightner Jr.
The Access Fund is pleased to honor Sam Lightner, Jr., for his dedicated and effective work as the president of the Friends of Indian Creek (FOIC). Even before taking the helm of FOIC, Sam worked proactively with local land managers at Indian Creek, Castleton, Arches, and elsewhere in the greater Canyonlands region to improve climber–land manager relationships, protect access, and organize stewardship projects. As FOIC president, Sam has greatly increased climbers’ ability to positively influence management proposals. His advocacy continues to strengthen climbing activism across southeastern Utah. And if you’ve ever rappelled off a bomber set of camouflaged bolts in the desert, chances are you’ve got Sam to thank!
Sharp End Award - Josh Reyes
The Access Fund is proud to recognize Josh Reyes for his work to permanently protect Hospital Boulders of Alabama and his service to the Southeastern climbing community. Josh has been an active board member of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition since 2007. He has consistently maintained positive relationships with the Hospital Boulders’ former landowners, with the goal of negotiating a purchase to protect the beautiful boulder field. Despite ongoing challenges, and nearly losing the boulders at private auction, his dedication and hard work paid off in November 2012 when Josh, along with SCC and the Access Fund, completed the purchase.
Sharp End Award - Black Diamond
The Access Fund is honored to present Black Diamond with a Sharp End Award for their unwavering commitment to preserving and protecting the climbing environment. A generous supporter of the Access Fund since our grassroots beginnings, Black Diamond has helped the Access Fund grow stronger and expand our advocacy. Over the years, Black Diamond has joined the Access Fund in political action to protect climbing, and they continue to lead the outdoor industry in preserving the wild and natural places we climb. We applaud the company’s community-minded vision and commitment to access and the environment.
Land Conservation Award – Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition
The Access Fund is excited to present RRGCC with a Land Conservation Award for its dedication to protecting 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. The area is extremely popular, attracting climbers from around the world. RRGCC purchased the PMRP in 2004 and fundraised for eight years through their annual Rocktoberfest event, major donors, and two Access Fund grants. In 2009, the Access Fund refinanced RRGCC’s remaining $65,000 seller-financed loan, eliminating the risk of losing the property if an annual payment was missed. With the support of climbers nationwide, the loan was repaid in October 2012. We congratulate RRGCC on this hard-won success!
Land Conservation Award – Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition
The Access Fund is proud to present the Western MassachusettsClimbers’ Coalition (WMCC) with a Land Conservation Award for its dedication to protecting climbing access at Farley Ledges. In December 2012, WMCC completed five years of fundraising for the Farley Ledges Preservation Initiative. Farley Ledges contain arguably the best climbing in southern New England between Rumney, New Hampshire, and the Gunks in eastern New York. WMCC’s 2007 acquisition of the area, after decades of troubled access, secured parking and critical access for climbers. WMCC paid down a significant portion of the original bank loan through annual fundraising events, major donors, an original Access Fund grant, and other grassroots fundraising. In 2009, the Access Fund refinanced the coalition’s remaining $30,000 bank loan. The WMCC successfully repaid the loan in December 2012, returning the money to the Access Fund’s revolving conservation fund where it will be available for future conservation efforts.
AZ Land Exchange Dies in Congress – Oak Flat Fight Continues
With the expiration of the 112th U.S. Congress, the current land exchange bill that would have conveyed the Oak Flat, AZ climbing areas to Resolution Copper Company died. The bill, known as HR 1904, was the 11th land exchange bill introduced into Congress on behalf of Resolution Copper since 2005, but due to significant opposition by the climbing community, environmentalists, and Native Americans, each of these bills have died before they could become law.
The Access Fund hired a dedicated staff member last year to fight the proposed land exchange. We are pleased to report that, for now, the Oak Flat area remains public land administered by the Tonto National Forest. However there has already been talk about introducing a 12th land exchange bill into the new 113th Congress that was sworn in on January 3rd.
The Access Fund will continue to work with local climbers, local conservation groups, and decision makers in Washington, DC to assure any future bills are in the best interest of the climbing community.
Hawaii Climbing Bans Spread
As previously reported, both Mokuleia Wall (aka Moke) and Makapuu on Oahu remain closed due to liability concerns after a girl was critically injured at Moke in June 2012. Initially, the closures were thought to be limited to these two crags. Unfortunately, in December four climbers were ticketed for climbing at a northshore area clearly distinct from the Moke, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) who manage these areas asserted that climbing is banned on all DLNR managed lands.
Despite months of efforts by the local climbing community and Access Fund to provide options for helping manage liability concerns, DLNR refuses to even consider allowing climbing until legislation is passed that provides immunity to the State for such activities. Local climbers immediately began contacting State representatives and the Governor’s office seeking support for legislation that will provide immunity for the State and hopefully lift the current climbing ban.
The Access Fund is working closely with locals to provide model immunity legislation, legal assistance, and climbing management expertise. The Governor’s office submitted a bill on behalf of DLNR that focuses on climbing specifically and State Representatives have submitted several bills with a broader focus. The main opposition to the bills will likely come from Hawaii trial lawyers, but the locals are rallying support.For more information check out Climb Aloha on Facebook.
SCC Works to Overturn Town Ban on Climbing at Signal Mountain
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) is asking the town of Signal Mountain, TN to overturn a 1992 ordinance prohibiting rock climbing within town limits.
Signal Mountain sits on a ridge immediately northwest of Chattanooga, a few miles from the renowned T-Wall. The climbing ban was put in place after a 1992 rappelling accident. Despite multiple attempts to overturn it, the ban remains. “It's an SCC priority to see climbing legitimized there as a safe and fun local choice for outdoor recreation,” said SCC Executive Director, Michael Wurzel. “There’s significant potential for tall, airy sandstone sport and trad climbing.” Signal Mountain’s town council is still considering SCC’s proposal and remains concerned about potential liability in the instance of a climbing accident or injury.
When they vote on the issue next week, it’s likely they will vote on a slightly modified version of the ban, one that changes the wording of the ban to be only for town-owned property, not private property within town limits. “This is a baby step in the right direction, but most of the climbing resources are on town property,” explained Wurzel. “Our goal remains complete removal of the ban, and we’ll continue to work in that direction.”
Outright bans on climbing in a city or town are extremely rare, and in fact many municipalities own climbing areas that flourish. For example, Eugene, OR; Rifle, CO; and Austin, TX all allow and manage climbing in their parks and open space. SCC and Access Fund will continue working to address the town's concerns and get the ban lifted.
Spring Grant Application Deadline Approaching
Got an access or stewardship project that needs funding? It’s not too late to submit a grant application for our spring cycle. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grant Program funds projects that preserve or enhance climbing access and conserve the climbing environment throughout the United States. In 2012, Access Fund awarded over $40,000 to 16 outstanding projects in thefirst round andsecond round of our grants program. You can help us identify and work on the root causes of local climbing access and conservation issues in 2013. If you have a project that fits the criteria, please read more about our grant guidelines and fill out an application.Grant applications are due March 1st.
Western Massachusetts Climbers’ Coalition Makes Final Payment on Farley Ledge
The Western Massachusetts Climbers' Coalition (WMCC) made the final payment on their Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) loan, completing five years of fundraising for the Farley Ledge Preservation Initiative.
Farley Ledge contains arguably the best climbing in southern New England between Rumney, New Hampshire and the Gunks in eastern New York. After decades of troubled access, their 2007 acquisition at Farley Ledge secured parking and critical access for climbers. WMCC paid down a significant portion of the original bank loan through annual fundraising events, major donors, an original Access Fund grant, and other grassroots fundraising. In 2009, Access Fund refinanced their remaining $30,000 bank loan, saving approximately $3,500 in interest and fees that can be invested in other projects that benefit the Massachusetts climbing community.
The WMCC is the seventh organization to fully pay back their AFLCC loan, returning funds to the revolving loan program so the Access Fund can loan the money out again to save another threatened climbing area. Congratulations WMCC!
2012 Conservation Team Tour Comes to an End
It’s a bitter-sweet time of year here at the Access Fund. The second tour of the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team has come to an end, and we've had to say goodbye to our amazing inaugural team members: Jeff Young, Jason Kaplan, and Dave Montgomery.
The Conservation Team’s stats for the year are impressive: they spent 250 days on the road, traveled over 31,000 miles, and toured 19 states—putting blood and sweat into 30 climbing areas by building 23 stone staircases, constructing 16 retaining walls, installing 15 drainage structures, eliminating 1,500 feet of social trails, cleaning 5 cliffs of graffiti, and cleaning 6 climbing areas of trash.
Their worked spanned the breadth of the country, with projects in the Northeast (Gunks, Northwest Branch), the Southeast (Laurel Knob, Obed, T-Wall, and Leda), the Lakes Region (Devil’s Lake, Barn Bluff), the Rockies (Eldorado, Indian Creek, Ruth Lake, Wild Iris), California (Lover’s Leap, Bishop, Idyllwild) and ending in the Northwest (Index, Q'emiln) – just to name a few. A huge thanks to the more than 700 volunteers who came out to help work on Conservation Team projects across the country.
Please join us in sending a huge thanks to Jeff, Jason, and Dave (our inaugural Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team crew). Your work has begun a legacy of climbing area stewardship that will last for years to come. Your fellow climbers appreciate the mountain of rock you’ve moved this year, the strain you placed on your backs, the lonely days on the road, and all the bloody fingers. We are looking forward to the 2013 tour with a brand new team who will carry on your legacy!
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.