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Several significant climbing management plans on the horizon for Yosemite
6/15/2011

In May, Access Fund policy director Jason Keith met in San Francisco and Yosemite Valley with new Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher and stakeholders interested in Yosemite National Park matters. Up for discussion were three upcoming management plans that could impact climbing access and camping (including the iconic Camp 4) in Yosemite Valley, the lower Merced River Gorge, and Tuolumne Meadows. Half Dome permits, various conservation projects park wide, transportation planning, and many other issues were also on the table. Of primary concern to climbers is the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan (MRP), with preliminary plan alternatives slated for release this summer. This plan will design and implement carrying capacity policies for the Valley that protect the Merced river.

In addition, Yosemite National Park will soon ask for public comments to a wilderness stewardship plan. This plan is significant for climbers because everything above 4000 feet is federally-protected wilderness. Currently climbing in the park is mostly governed by Yosemite’s specific regulations which currently outline climber-friendly policies for fixed ropes, human waste, and bivouacs. This new Yosemite-wide wilderness plan would likely implement the National Park Service’s new policy on wilderness fixed anchors (Director’s Order #41) and may also provide direction related to climbing access trails, staging areas, parking, and camping. See the access Fund’s position statement here. We’ll be asking for your comments soon!

The Access Fund also met with Yosemite National Park biologist Sarah Stock, who oversees the park’s progressive wildlife management program, in consultation with climbing rangers, to limit the scope of climbing closures. Look for a story in an upcoming Vertical Times illustrating Sarah’s successful work in Yosemite that has resulted in successful nesting and climbing access.

The Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Plan (TRP) will also develop a user capacity program to protect river values within ½ mile of the Tuolumne River. The TRP will also consider commercial use and the High Sierra Camp. Look for a draft plan this July and final plan by next summer. While not much climbing access will be affected in the TRP—most Tuolumne climbing is outside ½-mile management corridor—and much of the roadside parking for approach trails between the Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake will be addressed in the upcoming wilderness plan, this TRP will likely make changes to camping, Tuolumne Meadows facilities, parking, and transportation options. Yosemite planners are keeping the needs of climbers in mind as they plan to address parking locations along the road that climbers use to access many of Tuolumne’s classic multi-pitch granite domes.

Yosemite’s park staff has done an excellent job presenting the public with the many complicated issues and implications in these plans on their website. The Access Fund continues our multi-year partnership with Yosemite National Park and others stakeholders to craft appropriate policies for climbing access, approach and descent trails, conservation projects, camping, parking, and transportation options.



New Hope for Twin Sisters Climbing Access?
5/13/2011

The National Park Service (NPS) has begun the general management planning process for the City of Rocks National Reserve. Of particular interest to climbers is whether the NPS will reconsider the controversial closure of the Twin Sisters formation.

As an interim phase to the planning process, the NPS recently issued some preliminary alternatives for its General Management Plan (GMP), and is accepting public comments. These alternatives will become more defined when the draft GMP is released in 2012, so this comment phase is perhaps the best opportunity for the public to shape the plan alternatives, including those favorable to climbing and conservation, before planners become invested in their management scenarios.

This planning process is likely to be the last opportunity that the climbing community will have for the next 20 years to advocate for Twin Sisters climbing access. While park planners for the City of Rocks might revisit this Twin Sisters restriction in an ongoing unrelated climbing plan, the NPS has told the Access Fund and Congress that this general management planning process is where the Twin Sisters climbing restriction will be re-evaluated.

In the past, the Access Fund has asked for obvious compromises for Twin Sisters such as allowing climbing only during the months when historic pioneer wagons didn’t travel through the area (and contemporary history devotees rarely visit), but cultural resource managers at the NPS have consistently rejected even the most limited climbing opportunities at Twin Sisters.

The Access Fund is working with our network of climbing activists in Idaho to generate individual comments, as well as a sign-on letter that we will circulate before the June 1 comment deadline. Stay tuned to Access Fund e-news for your opportunity to influence this process!

For more history on this issue, see here and here.



New Study Shows Outdoor Recreation Key to 87,000 Arizona Jobs
5/6/2011

 The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has completed an economic study which shows that more than 87,000 Arizona jobs and $371 million in state tax revenues are supported by “human-powered recreation” such as climbing, hiking, mountain biking and camping.

The Access Fund was awarded a grant in 2010 to demonstrate the economic value of the human-powered recreation community in Arizona to encourage policy decisions supporting conservation and low-impact recreation on public lands. The Access Fund worked with an Arizona-based economist to study, document, and quantify the economic production of these activities from cradle to the grave. The scope of this study measured the total economic value these activities and associated industries bring to Arizona, including gear manufacturing, retail sales, travel, trade shows, and local businesses catering to recreational tourists (gas stations, food and beverage, camping and accommodations, retail establishments, etc.). Although this initial effort focused exclusively on Arizona, the Access Fund hopes to replicate this study in other states to demonstrate the value climbers bring as an economic force.

The report from two Arizona economists, both Arizona State University alumni, shows that legislative efforts to cut funding for public lands management and land conservation, which support human-powered recreation, could put greater pressure on Arizona’s hospitality industry and rural areas, which both depend on outdoor adventurers.

“Outdoor recreation is critical to Arizona’s hospitality and tourism economy,” said Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward Association, a 42-year old environmental public interest organization that counts many of Arizona’s largest corporations, small businesses and government agencies as members. “Our elected leaders must understand that Arizona’s recreation areas do more than fuel healthy lifestyles – they fuel our economy. Cutting our investment in state and national lands puts the brakes on any economic recovery here in Arizona.”

Specifically, the study shows:
• 38 percent of human-powered recreation outings result in an overnight stay.
• Human-powered recreation produces $5.3 billion in annual retail sales in Arizona and generates nearly $371 million in state tax revenue.
• Spending on human-powered recreation activities is responsible for 12 percent of Arizona’s total retail economy.
• Human-powered recreation directly supports nearly 87,000 Arizona jobs, and indirectly supports another 100,000 jobs.

“We know that climbers, hikers, bikers and boaters leave an important economic impact on the local economy, but we wanted to be able to quantify that impact as much as possible,” said Brady Robinson, executive director of the Access Fund.

Will Cobb, who heads the Northern Arizona Climbers Coalition, regularly sees the impact of outdoor recreation on local economies. “When someone takes their family or friends to a national park or recreation area in Arizona, they stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants, and spend money with local gas stations and retailers—to say nothing of the money they spend with tourism and outfitting businesses,” he said.

Several legislative efforts to cut public lands funding at the state and federal level threaten Arizona’s tourism industry, but none more directly than potential cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Some in Congress aim to drastically cut the 40-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides for local communities to use federal resources to preserve outdoor recreation areas for climbing, hiking, fishing, biking and other outdoor activities. LWCF uses no federal discretionary dollars and is deficit-neutral; the LWCF has been funded entirely by oil and gas royalties since its implementation. Cuts to LWCF would not reduce the federal deficit, but would be damaging to Arizona’s tourism industry.

The LWCF helps fund state projects submitted and suggested by the State of Arizona, relying on “local control” for development and implementation plans. Specifically, the LWCF includes several current and upcoming projects:

• The 2011 federal budget includes more than $13 million for six Arizona recreation projects, including the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and the Petrified Forest National Park.
• The 2012 federal budget includes nearly $8 million for Arizona projects including Shield Ranch and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
• Past LWCF projects include the Phoenix Metro Area Bikeway Development, bicycle trail developments in Flagstaff, the Scottsdale City Bikeways, the Tempe Sports Complex, the Municipal Golf Course in Casa Grande and Prescott City Park.

On the heels of the release of this new economic study, Arizona’s small business owners—many of whom rely on human-powered recreation—are asking Arizona’s elected officials to protect tourism-related jobs. To obtain a copy of the full report, click here.

“This report shows that preserving hiking and biking opportunities supports tourism jobs, which is a key part of an economic recovery in Arizona. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to help dig Arizona out of this hole and get our economy moving again. That means keeping our lands open and beautiful,” says Matt Brown, founder of outdoor travel company Rubicon Outdoors in Prescott, Arizona.

“Congress can get a lot wrong – but here it has an opportunity to do something right,” says Richard Fernandez, owner of Pesto Brothers Italian Restaurant in Flagstaff, Arizona. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is on the chopping block, but it shouldn’t be. This is a common-sense initiative that requires no tax revenue, yet the programs it funds are important tourism drivers that bring people into my restaurant. Protecting Arizona’s tourism economy should be a no-brainer.”



Access Fund Tells Congress “Common Sense” Budget Needed for Depts. Interior and Agriculture

Access Fund’s Executive Director Brady Robinson today testified before the House Appropriations Committee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, asking for adequate funding for the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to ensure sufficient access for Americans to parks and public lands. The hearing considered spending priorities for the FY 2012 budget.

“Americans should have access to public lands—from community playgrounds to Yosemite National Park—for recreational activities,” testified Robinson. “What’s more, this outdoor access supports a growing $730 billion industry—representing more than 6.6 million jobs and more than $88 billion in annual tax revenue. This isn’t just about saving the environment. It’s about saving private sector and small town jobs.”

The Access Fund’s testimony supports a common sense budget approach that will adequately fund Departments of Interior and Agriculture, focusing on activities that are essential to providing public recreation access to high quality public lands and waters.

Robinson said: “Our experience shows that adequate funding for federal land managers is required to support the access and enjoyment of the cherished public lands and rivers they manage…. indiscriminate budget cuts to these agencies would mean less access to and conservation of our public land.”

In his testimony, Robinson illustrated cases, such as for rock climbers, in which public access suffers when federal land managers have inadequate funding: “The Red River Gorge in Kentucky’s Daniel Boone National Forest contains one of the largest concentrations of high quality rock in the United States and attracts visitors from around the world, yet the Forest Service doesn’t have the resources to balance all of its obligations and still provide for the proper management of these world class climbing opportunities.” In such scenarios, local economies suffer.

In addition to representing the Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, Robinson testified for the Outdoor Alliance, a coalition of hiking, climbing, paddling, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing groups that work to ensure the conservation and stewardship of our nation’s land and waters through the promotion of sustainable, human-powered recreation on our nation’s public lands and waters.

The Access Fund’s testimony highlighted priorities for funding public land access and conservation for our national parks, forests, and bureau of land management areas. Robinson underscored that the Outdoor Alliance groups have extensive experience working with federal land managers across the country concerning recreation and conservation policies.

The Access Fund and Outdoor Alliance testimony also provided funding recommendations for National Park Service recreation management, US Forest Service roads and trails maintenance, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Wild and Scenic River protection, among other things.



What a Government Shutdown Would Mean for Climbers
4/8/2011

Like most Americans, you’ve surely heard about the looming threat of a government shutdown, which could take place tomorrow. But what does it mean for climbers?

Well, all 394 National Parks across the country would close at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning. Parks that have actual hours just won't reopen. At parks where people camp, gates will be closed, and recreational users will not be permitted to enter. Those people who are already in the park will be given 24 hours to leave. Large parks that contain public roads will be passable, but all gates and visitor centers will be locked and closed. Most park employees will not report to work. Law enforcement will remain to protect parks and the public.

Accordingly, every climber will be required to leave Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Shenandoah, Acadia, Grand Teton, Devils Tower, Arches, Canyonlands, Black Canyon, New River Gorge, Zion, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, City of Rocks, etc. However Rocky Mountain National Park may be an exception – see here. For a full list of National Parks, visit the NPS webiste. Sadly, local economies will lose out on approximately $32 million a day, as the National Park Service has approximately 805,000 visitors per day in April.

Also, National Forest System recreation sites and ranger stations across the U.S. that require a Forest Service employee to stay open will close. Some Forest Service law enforcement officers will still be working. Recreation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management will also technically be closed, although most of these areas require no entrance fees or don’t have much law enforcement. Those BLM locations that have an entrance gate, like Red Rocks, will close.

A good summary of the implications of a government shutdown can be found here.



Grant from Conservation Alliance Completes Jailhouse Fundraising Campaign
4/6/2011

The Access Fund is excited to announce that it has been awarded a grant from the Conservation Alliance to secure permanent public access to and long-term conservation of Jailhouse Rock climbing area near Sonora, California.

The Access Fund and local climbers began working with the landowners in August of last year when they learned that future access to this popular climbing area was at risk by a quickly approaching subdivision. It became clear that the Access Fund needed to launch a fundraising campaign to secure permanent access and conservation of the cliff line – the Unlock Jailhouse campaign was launched in November of last year. The Conservation Alliance grant brings a successful end to this fundraising effort.

Thanks to support from the climbing community and the Conservation Alliance, the Access Fund exceeded its fundraising goal, with $75,000 raised to secure a permanent access and conservation easement to the property. The funds will also allow the Access Fund and local volunteers to improve facilities and access, and create a long-term stewardship fund for the property.

The existing parking area and access trail will remain open for the immediate future. The Access Fund will be working with local climbers and the landowners this summer to install a new gate, parking area, trailhead, and toilet facilities, at which point the old access route will be restored to natural conditions and closed. Stay tuned for updated access information, including the code and important conditions of access, www.accessfund.org/jailhouse.

The Access Fund would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Conservation Alliance and all of the individual donors and companies who generously opened their wallets to make this climbing access and conservation victory possible.



Access Fund Announces First Round Grant Recipients for 2011
4/5/2011

In the first round of the Climbing Preservation Grant Program for 2011, the Access Fund awarded over $18,000 to support local climbing activism and conservation of the climbing environment. Presented two times annually, the Climbing Preservation Grant program provides financial assistance to the grassroots network and land managers across the United States. During this first round of grants, the Access Fund is supporting seven worthy projects.

Western Colorado Climbers Coalition – Mothers Buttress Driveway, Kiosk, and Parking Lot
A grant was awarded to Western Colorado Climbers Coalition (WCCC) for the construction of a driveway, parking lot, kiosk, and trailhead at the Mothers Buttress in Unaweep Canyon in Colorado. This project follows up WCC’s acquisition of the wall in partnership with a local landowner in 2009. The Colorado Department of Transportation is requiring off-road parking for public access. Once completed, the Mothers Buttress lot will be the second public access point for climbers in Unaweep Canyon.

Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition – Helping Hands of Hueco Tanks Clean Up
Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition was awarded a grant to cover costs of the recent Helping Hands of Hueco Tanks Clean Up, including permitting with the State agency, promotional materials, brushes, and spray bottles to remove chalk. Hueco Tanks is a sensitive climbing area that requires regular support and climber stewardship to maintain climbing access for future generations.

Idyllwild Climber’s Alliance – Adopt a Crag and Climber Festival
A grant was awarded to Idyllwild Climber’s Alliance to go toward an Adopt a Crag and Climber Festival at the historic Tahquitz and Suicide climbing area in Southern California. The organization has successfully partnered with San Bernadino National Forest on an annual Adopt a Crag event, and will use the grant money to expand outreach in the area and attract more climbers and recreational users to volunteer at this event by incorporating a barbecue to thank volunteers.

US Forest Service – Bulo Point Parking and Turnaround
US Forest Service has received a grant, in collaboration with local climbers, to go toward construction of a much-needed parking area and turnaround at the Bulo Point climbing area in Mt. Hood National Forest. In 2008 and 2009, local climbers and the Access Fund convinced the Forest Service to keep the road to this area open when it was slated for decommissioning. Plans were made to construct a turnaround and parking area at the trailhead but cost estimates by the Forest Service were prohibitive. A new design and budget were recently calculated and the Access Fund grant, along with pro bono services from the local climbing community, will allow the Forest Service to move forward.

Rocky Mountain Field Institute – Garden of the Gods Central Recreation Trails Project
A grant was awarded to Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) for extensive trail work at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The project will restore this high-use area by constructing 2,550 feet of new trail, reconstructing 2,100 feet of damaged trail, and rehabilitating 3,500 feet of undesignated social trails. Garden of the Gods is a highly impacted multi-use area that needs extensive stewardship work to meet demands of public access. RMFI has partnered with Access Fund in the past on successful trail work projects at Shelf Road, Crestone Needle, Castleton Tower, and Indian Creek and their standard of work is one of the best examples in the country.

Dishman Hills Natural Area Association – Big Rock Trailhead Parking
Dishman Hills Natural Area Association (DHNAA) was awarded a grant for road improvement and parking construction to access their 80-acre Big Rock parcel outside of Spokane, Washington. DHNAA is under contract to purchase 5-10 acres for a public parking area and turnaround for Big Rock access, which is expected to close in May. Some members of the public have been accessing Big Rock from this point already, causing some issues and requiring immediate action to establish legal access and parking.

Central Oregon Rocks – Community Outreach
A grant was awarded to Central Oregon Rocks (COR) to help with community outreach and promotion of their local climbing organization through materials such as banners and brochures. Formed in 2006, COR is taking an active role in addressing access issues and organizing clean-ups. COR is looking to expand their support and visibility with the local climbing community, partners, and land managers.  



Access Fund Announces 2010 Adopt a Crag Awards
3/31/2011

The 11th anniversary of Adopt a Crag was another great year with over 4,300 volunteers and 32,000 hours of work to improve and steward crags around the country. Since its inception in 1999, Adopt a Crag has been the largest climbing community volunteer initiative throughout the nation. Adopt a Crag events show land managers and the public that climbers take care of the places they climb. These stewardship efforts not only conserve our climbing areas, but also strengthen the reputation of the entire climbing community.

Each year, the Access Fund and its sponsors honor those organizers who went above and beyond. We are excited to present the 2010 Adopt a Crag awards to a deserving group of volunteers. We want to thank everyone who hosted or participated in an Adopt a Crag this year—it starts on the ground with your commitment and dedication to make this program a success.

Adopt a Crag of the Year Award – New River Alliance of Climbers
REI and the Access Fund are proud to present the 2010 Adopt a Crag of the Year Award to the New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC) for their incredible work year after year stewarding the expansive network of crags and trails in the New River Gorge. Of special note is their multi-week effort in August and September to clean up and rebuild the approach to Junk Yard Crag. The name says it all—in previous decades climbers had to scramble down a garbage dump to reach the popular crag. Now, fifty volunteer days later, NRAC and local volunteers have cleaned up the area and constructed a set of stairs dubbed The Great Wall of Junkyard. "The goal here was to build something that we’ll never need to revisit," says trail guru and NRAC President Gene Kistler. See photos of their accomplishments at www.newriverclimbing.net/local-updates/50-junkyard-trail-riser-project.

Conservation Award – Greg Sievers and Rocky Mountain National Park
CLIF Bar and the Access Fund are honored to present the 2010 Conservation Award to Greg Sievers for his long-standing leadership organizing the Annual Lumpy Trail Day. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the event, and Rocky Mountain National Park led a dedicated group of 60 volunteers to complete 413 volunteer hours of work. Over the last decade, the partnership has provided over 560 participants and 4,400 hours of service work at Lumpy Ridge. Volunteer trail crews are known to complete hard physical labor, but it all paid off this year with the improvement of over 500 vertical feet of approach trails that will withstand the test of time. We thank all the supporting organizations of this great event: American Alpine Club, Leave No Trace, Colorado Mountain School, and all the sponsoring companies for their donations.

Stewardship Award – Will Buckman and Devils Tower National Monument
REI, CLIF Bar, and the Access Fund are proud to present the 2010 Stewardship Award to Will Buckman and Devils Tower National Monument for their dedication in preserving this incredible formation in Northeastern Wyoming. Devils Tower sees over 400,000 visitors annually, and of these visitors, approximately 5,000 come to climb the tower. In 2010, trail crews restored approach trails to popular staging areas and routes along the base of the tower. We thank all the organizers and supporters, including the Devils Tower Natural History Association for hosting a thank-you barbecue for the volunteers.

A League of Their Own Award – Ken Yager and the Yosemite Climbing Association
We are once again honored to present the 2010 League of Their Own Award to Ken Yager and the Yosemite Climbing Association for the 7th Annual Yosemite Facelift. The event was an incredible success, with 1,001 volunteers who dedicated 17,000 volunteer hours to collect trash across 160 miles of roadway, 100 miles of trails, and 20 miles of river corridors. Of the 172,000lbs of trash, 80% was recycled. The Yosemite Facelift is an inspiration to the climbing community and a testament to land managers that climbers are stewards of our climbing resources nationwide.



20 Years, 20 Milestones: Access Fund Celebrates 20th Anniversary
3/18/2011

In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we invite you to look back with us on 20 great milestones that have helped shape the course of the Access Fund and climbing in America.

1. AF declares that it will support all forms of climbing
The 1980s brought turmoil to the climbing community around climbing ethics— everything from rap bolting to hangdogging. The climate was one of heated controversies, route destruction, bolt-pulling, and even fist-fighting among climbers. At the time, the activists who would later form the Access Fund were still part of the American Alpine Club, but they set the first guiding principle of the Access Fund (which still endures today): to defend all forms of climbing and to not discriminate between trad and sport, alpine and bouldering, or climbing styles—ground-up or top-down, hangdog, bolts or boltless. “We don’t take sides in ethical debates. We will defend climbing in all its forms,’” said Access Fund Cofounder Armando Menocal.

2. AF breaks away from the American Alpine Club
In 1990, the Access Committee within the American Alpine Club recognized that a dedicated organization was needed in order to effectively keep climbing areas open and protected. In the midst of the ethics debates, bolting restrictions, and areas being closed to climbing, the access problems were getting so big that a dedicated staff was needed to deal with them on multiple fronts. The official split took over a year, and in 1991 the Access Fund incorporated as its own organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment.

3. AF begins a tradition of land acquisition
In 1991, the Access Fund, working in collaboration with local climbers, purchased several rock formations from a private landowner in Unaweep Canyon near Grand Junction, CO. The acquisition provided strategic public access to adjacent BLM lands and protected a stunning 400-foot granite wall. The Unaweep acquisition kicked off a tradition of Access Fund land conservation efforts, leading to a total of 41 acquisitions supported in the last 20 years.

4. AF launches grants program
Early Access Funders launched the Climbing Preservation Grants Program in 1991 to provide money to organizations taking on projects designed to identify and work on the root causes of local climbing access and conservation issues. To date, the program has awarded 234 grants, across 35 states, totaling $891,426.

5. AF builds a legacy of climber activism in Washington, D.C.
The early access advocates formed the Access Fund in the early 90s, in part, because they were fighting efforts to prohibit bolting all over the country and they needed to go directly to the top. “I mean, you were just getting killed by a thousand cuts, to be fighting an anti-bolting thing. It was one Forest Service place after another, and then the Park Service … We needed to start dealing with the people who made the rules back in Washington, D.C.,” says Menocal. And so the Access Fund’s legacy of advocating for climbers in Washington, D.C., was born, and advocacy still remains critical to the mission today.

6. Jim Angell’s trail building crusade
In the mid-90s, founding Access Fund board member and master trail builder Jim Angell hit the road on a national trail building campaign. Jim taught many land managers how to build trails and mitigate climbers’ greatest environmental impact. Many of the trails we still hike today to reach our favorite crags—from the Gunks to Yosemite—have stood the test of time thanks to Jim’s work. “Jim’s trail work was one of the first real demonstrations to land managers that a well-designed climber access trail could minimize the most significant climber impact on public lands: social trails and erosion,” says founding board member Rick Accomazzo.

7. AF takes on controversial topic of climbing and cultural resource protection
In 1995, the Access Fund worked with the National Park Service and the Plains tribes to strike a compromise between climber access and the wishes of Native Americans at Devils Tower. An agreement was reached on a voluntary climbing closure of the tower during the month of June, when the majority of spiritual ceremonies are held. In the last 15 years, climbing has only grown in popularity, and land managers across the nation have been grappling to an increasing degree with how to protect cultural resources and still allow climbing. The Access Fund has worked on this issue at dozens of other areas across the country, including Indian Creek, Hueco Tanks, Red Rocks, Bishop, Joshua Tree, and others.

8. AF takes the lead on climbing management to protect cliff nesting raptors
In the mid-90s, land managers had no scientific studies related to climbing and its impact on nesting raptors, leading to substantial discrepancies in climbing restrictions across the country. Recognizing that the impact of climbers on nesting areas was due special consideration, the Access Fund consulted with biologists to identify the needs of nesting raptors and, in 1997, published Raptors & Climbers: Guidance for Managing Technical Climbing to Protect Raptor Nest Sites. This research has provided a foundation for negotiating dozens of climbing closures around the country.

9. AF takes on fixed anchors in wilderness
In 1997, the United States Forest Service (USFS) issued an outright ban on fixed anchors in wilderness, declaring them illegal. The Access Fund challenged the ban, and in 1998 an advisory committee was formed to find consensus on how to move forward. The Access Fund, as well as other advocates and leaders in the outdoor industry and other federal land managers, took part in this negotiated rulemaking process. The majority agreed on a basic framework for managing fixed anchors in wilderness: bolts, while a necessary tool for climbing, should be rare in wilderness; power drills are prohibited; bolt-intensive sport climbs are not compatible in wilderness; and prior authorization may be required for bolting. Eleven years later, no national policy has been implemented that dictates the use of fixed anchors in wilderness. However, the framework still guides federal land managers on the implementation of fixed anchor policies at the local level.

10. AF sues the federal government
In 1999, the Access Fund brought a lawsuit against the National Park Service to challenge a climbing ban on the Twin Sisters formation at City of Rocks in Idaho, arguing the fact that the park’s own studies showed no impacts from climbing. In 2005, the Access Fund sued the federal government a second time, going all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the U.S. Forest Service climbing ban at Cave Rock in Nevada. Once again, the Forest Service’s own studies showed no significant impacts from climbing, and the Access Fund argued that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution because it favored the religious preferences of the Washoe Tribe over everyone else’s privileges to access public land. While the Access Fund lost both lawsuits, its efforts forced federal land managers to do a better job of justifying closures. The land management agencies are well aware of the lawsuits that the Access Fund has filed, and they know how far climbers are willing to go to protect their rights to access public land. We’ve seen better decision making as a result.

11. Launch of the Adopt a Crag program
In 2000, the Access Fund officially launched the Adopt a Crag program to unite local climbing communities with land managers to conserve climbing areas. Historically, climbers have had a high standard of environmental awareness and stewardship. And the Access Fund clearly saw that climber stewardship had a great impact on positive relationships with land managers. Having just celebrated its own 10th anniversary, Adopt a Crag remains the Access Fund’s signature stewardship program, drawing an average of 4,000 volunteers a year to take care of the places we climb.

12. AF establishes best practices for climbing management planning
As the sport of climbing continued to grow exponentially, the Access Fund saw land managers across the country developing management plans that would have significant effects on future access. In 2001, the Access Fund published Climbing Management: A Guide to Climbing Issues and the Development of a Climbing Management Plan to educate and assist land managers on climbing management strategies that provide for climbing access while protecting resource values. In addition to this guide for land managers, the Access Fund provides guidance on draft climbing management plans around the country and hosts national climbing management summits to bring land managers together to share best practices.

13. AF takes on recreation fees
In 2001, Congress passed the controversial Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, which imposed fees on certain recreational users of federal lands. This was not an entrance fee but a use fee for simply walking, paddling, climbing, fishing, or biking on public lands. The Access Fund opposed the implementation of use fees to access wilderness and backcountry areas where significant administrative support is neither required nor desired by visitors, arguing that there should be no “pay-to-play” where “playing” costs virtually nothing. America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and open spaces are the heritage of every citizen and access to these lands should be equally available to all. The Access Fund continues to challenge recreation fees when they unfairly target climbers.

14. AF invests in grassroots network of local climbing organizations
When a local climbing access issue occurs, the best line of defense is almost always the local climbers who are familiar with the area and the issues. That is why, in 2004, the Access Fund worked to encourage, organize, and support local climbers to join together into local climbing organizations, offering one-on-one guidance, educational resources, stewardship programs, and grants to help get these local organizations up and running. Today, the grassroots network is stronger than ever, with over 90 dedicated local climbing organizations making victories happen all across the country.

15. AF helps found the Outdoor Alliance
In 2006, six of the largest human-powered recreation interest groups in the country—Access Fund, American Hiking Society, International Mountain Bicycling Association, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, and Winter Wildlands Alliance—formed a coalition to work on issues of mutual interest. The Access Fund found that the motorized recreation community often spoke on behalf of all outdoor users. Though climbers are not necessarily at odds with the motorized recreation community, our interests and priorities are distinct. “Forming the Outdoor Alliance did more than any other single thing to elevate the profile of the climbing community in D.C.,” says Policy Director Jason Keith.

16. Launch of TeamWorks initiative
In 2008, the Access Fund launched the TeamWorks program to help young gym climbers make the transition to responsible outdoor climbers and stewards. As the popularity of climbing continued to grow in the mid-2000s, indoor climbing gyms gave kids the opportunity to experience climbing in a relatively risk-free environment. This trend began spawning generations of talented young climbers, grown strong and bold inside the gym, who eventually turned to climbing outdoors—many of them without the ethic of outdoor responsibility. TeamWorks is a youth stewardship competition that challenges young climbers to host and participate in Adopt a Crag stewardship events, giving them the opportunity to work side by side with more seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and learn how climbers, the environment, and access are all connected.

17. Launch of the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign
Over the years, the Access Fund has seen more private climbing areas changing hands, some of them lost to cash-ready developers. In 2009, the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign was launched as the firstever multimillion-dollar revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations with the short-term financing and transaction expertise to act quickly to save threatened climbing areas. As a revolving loan program, money is loaned out, repaid, and then reinvested, allowing the Access Fund to recycle dollars to protect more climbing areas over time. In the past two years, the AFLCC has helped protect or enhance access at seven climbing areas in Washington, Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky, California, and West Virginia.

18. AF signs MOUs with all three major federal land management agencies
In 2009, the Access Fund held memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with all three federal land management agencies for the first time. Working to formalize these agreements for half a decade, the Access Fund signed its first MOU with the U.S. Forest Service in 2005, followed by the Bureau of Land Management in 2006, and the National Park Service in 2009. These MOUs are significant because they acknowledge the relationship that the Access Fund and the climbing community have with federal land managers. They help secure a “seat at the table” for climbers in discussions surrounding local and national policies that affect climbing.

19. AF becomes a nationally recognized member of the Land Trust Alliance
In 2010, the Access Fund Land Foundation (a separate entity set up to hold property and provide liability protection) was dissolved and all holdings were transferred to the Access Fund. This simplified organizational model sped up land transactions and maximized the effectiveness of the Access Fund’s private land protection efforts. This change also enabled the Access Fund to steward properties in compliance with Land Trust Standards and Practices. “We have stepped up our commitment to stewarding the climbing areas we’ve helped secure, as well as positioned ourselves to better protect threatened resources,” says Access Director Joe Sambataro.

20. AF grows to a $1 million organization with over 10,000 members
We’ve come a long way. In 1991, when the Access Committee of the American Alpine Club broke away to form the Access Fund, the organization consisted of a handful of committed activists and $10,000 from Yvon Chouinard. Over the years, other climbers saw the importance of what the Access Fund was trying to do and signed up to sponsor our work. Slowly but surely, individual climbers and companies in the climbing industry began to open their wallets, allowing the Access Fund to expand its work. Today the Access Fund is a thriving organization with a $1 million annual budget and is over 10,000 members strong, working to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment.

Here’s to a memorable 20 years, and 20 more to come!



Copy of 20 Years, 20 Milestones: Access Fund Celebrates 20th Anniversary
3/18/2011

In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we invite you to look back with us on 20 great milestones that have helped shape the course of the Access Fund and climbing in America.

1. AF declares that it will support all forms of climbing
The 1980s brought turmoil to the climbing community around climbing ethics— everything from rap bolting to hangdogging. The climate was one of heated controversies, route destruction, bolt-pulling, and even fist-fighting among climbers. At the time, the activists who would later form the Access Fund were still part of the American Alpine Club, but they set the first guiding principle of the Access Fund (which still endures today): to defend all forms of climbing and to not discriminate between trad and sport, alpine and bouldering, or climbing styles—ground-up or top-down, hangdog, bolts or boltless. “We don’t take sides in ethical debates. We will defend climbing in all its forms,’” said Access Fund Cofounder Armando Menocal.

2. AF breaks away from the American Alpine Club
In 1990, the Access Committee within the American Alpine Club recognized that a dedicated organization was needed in order to effectively keep climbing areas open and protected. In the midst of the ethics debates, bolting restrictions, and areas being closed to climbing, the access problems were getting so big that a dedicated staff was needed to deal with them on multiple fronts. The official split took over a year, and in 1991 the Access Fund incorporated as its own organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment.

3. AF begins a tradition of land acquisition
In 1991, the Access Fund, working in collaboration with local climbers, purchased several rock formations from a private landowner in Unaweep Canyon near Grand Junction, CO. The acquisition provided strategic public access to adjacent BLM lands and protected a stunning 400-foot granite wall. The Unaweep acquisition kicked off a tradition of Access Fund land conservation efforts, leading to a total of 41 acquisitions supported in the last 20 years.

4. AF launches grants program
Early Access Funders launched the Climbing Preservation Grants Program in 1991 to provide money to organizations taking on projects designed to identify and work on the root causes of local climbing access and conservation issues. To date, the program has awarded 234 grants, across 35 states, totaling $891,426.

5. AF builds a legacy of climber activism in Washington, D.C.
The early access advocates formed the Access Fund in the early 90s, in part, because they were fighting efforts to prohibit bolting all over the country and they needed to go directly to the top. “I mean, you were just getting killed by a thousand cuts, to be fighting an anti-bolting thing. It was one Forest Service place after another, and then the Park Service … We needed to start dealing with the people who made the rules back in Washington, D.C.,” says Menocal. And so the Access Fund’s legacy of advocating for climbers in Washington, D.C., was born, and advocacy still remains critical to the mission today.

6. Jim Angell’s trail building crusade
In the mid-90s, founding Access Fund board member and master trail builder Jim Angell hit the road on a national trail building campaign. Jim taught many land managers how to build trails and mitigate climbers’ greatest environmental impact. Many of the trails we still hike today to reach our favorite crags—from the Gunks to Yosemite—have stood the test of time thanks to Jim’s work. “Jim’s trail work was one of the first real demonstrations to land managers that a well-designed climber access trail could minimize the most significant climber impact on public lands: social trails and erosion,” says founding board member Rick Accomazzo.

7. AF takes on controversial topic of climbing and cultural resource protection
In 1995, the Access Fund worked with the National Park Service and the Plains tribes to strike a compromise between climber access and the wishes of Native Americans at Devils Tower. An agreement was reached on a voluntary climbing closure of the tower during the month of June, when the majority of spiritual ceremonies are held. In the last 15 years, climbing has only grown in popularity, and land managers across the nation have been grappling to an increasing degree with how to protect cultural resources and still allow climbing. The Access Fund has worked on this issue at dozens of other areas across the country, including Indian Creek, Hueco Tanks, Red Rocks, Bishop, Joshua Tree, and others.

8. AF takes the lead on climbing management to protect cliff nesting raptors
In the mid-90s, land managers had no scientific studies related to climbing and its impact on nesting raptors, leading to substantial discrepancies in climbing restrictions across the country. Recognizing that the impact of climbers on nesting areas was due special consideration, the Access Fund consulted with biologists to identify the needs of nesting raptors and, in 1997, published Raptors & Climbers: Guidance for Managing Technical Climbing to Protect Raptor Nest Sites. This research has provided a foundation for negotiating dozens of climbing closures around the country.

9. AF takes on fixed anchors in wilderness
In 1997, the United States Forest Service (USFS) issued an outright ban on fixed anchors in wilderness, declaring them illegal. The Access Fund challenged the ban, and in 1998 an advisory committee was formed to find consensus on how to move forward. The Access Fund, as well as other advocates and leaders in the outdoor industry and other federal land managers, took part in this negotiated rulemaking process. The majority agreed on a basic framework for managing fixed anchors in wilderness: bolts, while a necessary tool for climbing, should be rare in wilderness; power drills are prohibited; bolt-intensive sport climbs are not compatible in wilderness; and prior authorization may be required for bolting. Eleven years later, no national policy has been implemented that dictates the use of fixed anchors in wilderness. However, the framework still guides federal land managers on the implementation of fixed anchor policies at the local level.

10. AF sues the federal government
In 1999, the Access Fund brought a lawsuit against the National Park Service to challenge a climbing ban on the Twin Sisters formation at City of Rocks in Idaho, arguing the fact that the park’s own studies showed no impacts from climbing. In 2005, the Access Fund sued the federal government a second time, going all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the U.S. Forest Service climbing ban at Cave Rock in Nevada. Once again, the Forest Service’s own studies showed no significant impacts from climbing, and the Access Fund argued that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution because it favored the religious preferences of the Washoe Tribe over everyone else’s privileges to access public land. While the Access Fund lost both lawsuits, its efforts forced federal land managers to do a better job of justifying closures. The land management agencies are well aware of the lawsuits that the Access Fund has filed, and they know how far climbers are willing to go to protect their rights to access public land. We’ve seen better decision making as a result.

11. Launch of the Adopt a Crag program
In 2000, the Access Fund officially launched the Adopt a Crag program to unite local climbing communities with land managers to conserve climbing areas. Historically, climbers have had a high standard of environmental awareness and stewardship. And the Access Fund clearly saw that climber stewardship had a great impact on positive relationships with land managers. Having just celebrated its own 10th anniversary, Adopt a Crag remains the Access Fund’s signature stewardship program, drawing an average of 4,000 volunteers a year to take care of the places we climb.

12. AF establishes best practices for climbing management planning
As the sport of climbing continued to grow exponentially, the Access Fund saw land managers across the country developing management plans that would have significant effects on future access. In 2001, the Access Fund published Climbing Management: A Guide to Climbing Issues and the Development of a Climbing Management Plan to educate and assist land managers on climbing management strategies that provide for climbing access while protecting resource values. In addition to this guide for land managers, the Access Fund provides guidance on draft climbing management plans around the country and hosts national climbing management summits to bring land managers together to share best practices.

13. AF takes on recreation fees
In 2001, Congress passed the controversial Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, which imposed fees on certain recreational users of federal lands. This was not an entrance fee but a use fee for simply walking, paddling, climbing, fishing, or biking on public lands. The Access Fund opposed the implementation of use fees to access wilderness and backcountry areas where significant administrative support is neither required nor desired by visitors, arguing that there should be no “pay-to-play” where “playing” costs virtually nothing. America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and open spaces are the heritage of every citizen and access to these lands should be equally available to all. The Access Fund continues to challenge recreation fees when they unfairly target climbers.

14. AF invests in grassroots network of local climbing organizations
When a local climbing access issue occurs, the best line of defense is almost always the local climbers who are familiar with the area and the issues. That is why, in 2004, the Access Fund worked to encourage, organize, and support local climbers to join together into local climbing organizations, offering one-on-one guidance, educational resources, stewardship programs, and grants to help get these local organizations up and running. Today, the grassroots network is stronger than ever, with over 90 dedicated local climbing organizations making victories happen all across the country.

15. AF helps found the Outdoor Alliance
In 2006, six of the largest human-powered recreation interest groups in the country—Access Fund, American Hiking Society, International Mountain Bicycling Association, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, and Winter Wildlands Alliance—formed a coalition to work on issues of mutual interest. The Access Fund found that the motorized recreation community often spoke on behalf of all outdoor users. Though climbers are not necessarily at odds with the motorized recreation community, our interests and priorities are distinct. “Forming the Outdoor Alliance did more than any other single thing to elevate the profile of the climbing community in D.C.,” says Policy Director Jason Keith.

16. Launch of TeamWorks initiative
In 2008, the Access Fund launched the TeamWorks program to help young gym climbers make the transition to responsible outdoor climbers and stewards. As the popularity of climbing continued to grow in the mid-2000s, indoor climbing gyms gave kids the opportunity to experience climbing in a relatively risk-free environment. This trend began spawning generations of talented young climbers, grown strong and bold inside the gym, who eventually turned to climbing outdoors—many of them without the ethic of outdoor responsibility. TeamWorks is a youth stewardship competition that challenges young climbers to host and participate in Adopt a Crag stewardship events, giving them the opportunity to work side by side with more seasoned outdoor enthusiasts and learn how climbers, the environment, and access are all connected.

17. Launch of the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign
Over the years, the Access Fund has seen more private climbing areas changing hands, some of them lost to cash-ready developers. In 2009, the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign was launched as the firstever multimillion-dollar revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations with the short-term financing and transaction expertise to act quickly to save threatened climbing areas. As a revolving loan program, money is loaned out, repaid, and then reinvested, allowing the Access Fund to recycle dollars to protect more climbing areas over time. In the past two years, the AFLCC has helped protect or enhance access at seven climbing areas in Washington, Alabama, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky, California, and West Virginia.

18. AF signs MOUs with all three major federal land management agencies
In 2009, the Access Fund held memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with all three federal land management agencies for the first time. Working to formalize these agreements for half a decade, the Access Fund signed its first MOU with the U.S. Forest Service in 2005, followed by the Bureau of Land Management in 2006, and the National Park Service in 2009. These MOUs are significant because they acknowledge the relationship that the Access Fund and the climbing community have with federal land managers. They help secure a “seat at the table” for climbers in discussions surrounding local and national policies that affect climbing.

19. AF becomes a nationally recognized member of the Land Trust Alliance
In 2010, the Access Fund Land Foundation (a separate entity set up to hold property and provide liability protection) was dissolved and all holdings were transferred to the Access Fund. This simplified organizational model sped up land transactions and maximized the effectiveness of the Access Fund’s private land protection efforts. This change also enabled the Access Fund to steward properties in compliance with Land Trust Standards and Practices. “We have stepped up our commitment to stewarding the climbing areas we’ve helped secure, as well as positioned ourselves to better protect threatened resources,” says Access Director Joe Sambataro.

20. AF grows to a $1 million organization with over 10,000 members
We’ve come a long way. In 1991, when the Access Committee of the American Alpine Club broke away to form the Access Fund, the organization consisted of a handful of committed activists and $10,000 from Yvon Chouinard. Over the years, other climbers saw the importance of what the Access Fund was trying to do and signed up to sponsor our work. Slowly but surely, individual climbers and companies in the climbing industry began to open their wallets, allowing the Access Fund to expand its work. Today the Access Fund is a thriving organization with a $1 million annual budget and is over 10,000 members strong, working to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment.

Here’s to a memorable 20 years, and 20 more to come!



Mount Rainier Fee Increase Announced
3/17/2011
The Access Fund learned Tuesday that the National Park Service has implemented a $13 increase in the cost of an annual climbing pass (from $30 to $43) to climb Mount Rainier. This increase was effective March 15, 2011. The Park Service will offer a new annual Youth Climbing Pass for climbers 24-years of age and younger for $30.

According to Park Service Superintendent David Uberuaga, “This is the minimum increase required to sustain core management programs and services….We will seek to restrain future cost increases by incorporating recommendations and ideas provided by the public during the comment period.”

In September of 2010, the Access Fund learned that the park was set to raise the mountaineering fee, from $30 to anywhere between $43 and $58, without public notice or input from the climbing community. The Access Fund, along with its partners at the American Mountain Guides Association and American Alpine Club, lobbied to get a public process put in place for climbers and the general public to help the Park Service evaluate the current mountaineering program and identify the best and most cost-effective ways to service climbers.

The climbing community rose to the occasion, submitting comments and attending public meetings to help Mount Rainier National Park identify viable options for streamlining the mountaineering program and ways to pay for it.

Thanks to this open process, the park has implemented the minimum cost increase possible. And Mount Rainier National Park agreed that any future fee increases would not exceed cumulative consumer price index (based on inflation) without another fee proposal and public engagement process.

“The commitments made by Mount Rainier National Park are really positive, and they help to set a framework for the climbing community and the National Park Service to work together in the future to help determine the scope and cost of the mountaineering program,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “We applaud the open process.”

Thanks to everyone who got involved in this process to make the mountaineering program better and help prevent an even higher fee increase on Mount Rainier.



Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council Signs MOU with the BLM
3/12/2011

After a year working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to get a formal collaborative agreement in place around climbing management at Red Rocks, the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council (LVCLC) is pleased to report that it has signed an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the federal land management agency. The five-year agreement outlines a collaborative relationship between climbers and the BLM. Specific provisions state that the BLM will regularly attend LVCLC meetings, respond to climbers’ questions and concerns, and update the community in a timely manner on any agency actions related to climbing. The agreement also states that the LVCLC will advise the BLM on future planning efforts related to climbing, keep the BLM informed on national and local climbing issues, provide technical assistance, and perform periodic stewardship and maintenance of climbing areas. The agreement gets climbers an official seat at the table on climbing management issues at Red Rocks and is a real win for Las Vegas climbers.

Way to go LVCLC!



Access Fund Represents Climbers in Washington, DC
3/12/2011

In early March Access Fund representatives traveled to Washington, DC to advocate for climber interests on a number of pressing issues. The Access Fund’s trip focused primarily on longstanding issues that are finally coming to a head: National Park Service mountaineering fees and policies for managing fixed anchors in wilderness. Executive Director Brady Robinson and Policy Director Jason Keith met with Assistant Interior Department Secretary Will Shafroth, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and several Congressional offices with Park Service oversight responsibility to ensure that climber interests were heard, and that fair and appropriate policies were designed and implemented for climbing in national parks. Among other meetings, the Access Fund also met the US Forest Service on new protocols for recreation planning and management in national forests.

Faced with an unprecedented 150% fee increase for mountaineering at Denali National Park, as well as potential climbing fee increases at other National Parks, the Access Fund came to the U.S. capital seeking ways for the Park Service to limit its costs instead just increasing revenues to pay for current programs. “We don’t want to see Denali turn into a Mount Everest—a mountain only the wealthy can afford to climb,” said Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “At a time when we are encouraging Americans to become more fit and lead healthier lifestyles, our parks should be open to all Americans at the lowest cost possible. In fact, that’s what the law stipulates. We will do our part to accept appropriate fees in places, but the government must do its part to be as efficient and effective as possible—especially in this economy.” See the AF’s position on Denali fee increase.

The National Park Service is also revising its wilderness management policies including provisions related to climbing and the use of fixed anchors. The longstanding management issue, which will affect the crown jewels of US climbing such as Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Zion national parks, has for decades led to confusion among both land managers and climbers regarding whether the Wilderness Act permits or restricts the use of fixed anchors. The draft Park Service policy revision has the potential to solve this protracted and complicated problem, but the Access Fund talked with Congress and Park Service officials about some specific changes climbers would like to see that would limit unnecessary restrictions on climbers and minimize the administrative burden on local park managers.

The Access Fund’s recent meetings continue our multi-year relationships with many of the leading policy makers in the DC world of public lands management. Many members of Congress recognize our concerns related to increasing mountaineering fees, including Colorado’s Senator Udall, chair of the National Parks Subcommittee who reviewed our official comment letters and submitted them on our behalf to the Park Service. With respect to wilderness fixed anchors, our position is widely accepted by the climbing community, outdoor industry, and national advocacy groups that support national parks and wilderness. And indications are that the Park Service is receptive to our suggestions for balancing appropriate fixed anchor use with necessary resource protection without creating a bureaucratic nightmare for everyone. Stay tuned Access Fund’s Vertical Times, Enews, and Action Alerts for updates on our policy in Washington, DC and around the country.

Thanks to everyone who offered their comments on these important issues, and thanks too to our friends at the American Alpine Club and the American Mountain Guides Association for their support.



New raptor monitoring program in the South Platte will provide greater climbing access
3/12/2011

Home to the iconic Wunsch’s Dihedral and Center Route on Cynical Pinnacle, as well as Topographical Oceans on the Dome, the Cathedral Spires area will see a new change in climbing management by Jefferson County Open Space. Jefferson County has been a leader in raptor protection policies that provide a good balance between public access and wildlife protection, yet for many years, resource managers lacked the resources and legal access necessary to actively monitor the expansive Cathedral Spires area. As a result, a blanket closure was enforced from March 1st to July 31st every year.

We are pleased to announce that the County recently gained legal access from a municipal water district, which will enable annual monitoring at Cathedral Spires, preventing a blanket closure. A full area closure is expected from March 1st through the end of April. During this time, the County will locate active nest sites, evaluate the minimum buffer size, and implement spot closures.

We thank all of the local advocates that expressed their concerns about the closure with Jefferson County. In the last five years specifically, local climber Jason Haas of Fixed Pin Publishing took an active role in working with the county to address the issue. In addition, Jefferson County Park Ranger Mike Morin played an instrumental role in helping redesign the management plan with Jefferson County. The Access Fund assisted with outreach and site visits to the Cathedral Spires and will continue to advise on climbing management.

Stay tuned for an update in May regarding access to specific crags at http://status.accessfund.org. If you are interested in their volunteer raptor monitoring program, contact Jefferson County Open Space about joining a training session.

For more information, see the Access Fund's raptor management policy.



Jailhouse Unlocked: Community helps Access Fund reach initial fundraising goal
2/25/2011

The Access Fund is thrilled to announce the completion of the initial fundraising phase for Jailhouse Rock. In just over two months, climbers and conservationists from California and beyond have raised over $49,000—exceeding our initial fundraising goal.

In November of last year, the Access Fund announced that a permanent access easement and conservation easement had been secured to Jailhouse Rock near Sonora, California through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign. However more help was needed from the climbing community to raise funds to create a new access point, trailhead, parking facilities, and ensure long-term conservation.

Since the initial fundraising phase, the landowners have requested toilet facilities for Jailhouse Rock, and with input from the climbing community Access Fund is exploring the best option for these facilities. Access Fund has applied for a grant from a conservation foundation to cover a portion of the toilet facility costs. The application is pending. Stay tuned to www.accessfund.org/jailhouse for updates.

The Access Fund would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who generously opened their wallets to make this victory happen. A special thanks to Tom Addison for his fundraising leadership, Planet Granite and Touchstone Climbing and Fitness, as well as all of our corporate partners who donated raffle items. “We are so impressed by the spirit and generosity of the community coming together to protect a threatened crag,” says Access Director Joe Sambataro. Individual donations for Jailhouse Rock will still be accepted and put toward long-term stewardship of the area.

The existing parking area and access trail will remain open for the immediate future. The Access Fund will be working with local climbers and the landowners this year to install a new gate, parking area, and trailhead, at which point the old access route will be restored to natural conditions and closed. At that time, climbers will need a gate code to access the cliffs, since the area is leased for grazing horses. Stay tuned for updated access information, including the code and important conditions of access, www.accessfund.org/jailhouse.



ACTION ALERT: Climber Comments Needed to NPS Wilderness Fixed Anchor Proposal
2/22/2011

In January the National Park Service (NPS) released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies which cover a wide range of topics including provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—will be governed by this new policy. See the draft policy set forth in Section 7.2 of Directors Order 41 (DO #41). While DO #41 isn’t perfect, the approach is generally one that climbers, conservation organizations, and federal land managers have agreed upon for more than a decade. The Access Fund believes that climbers should support NPS management guidance that focuses on solutions, ends bolting controversies, and improves the management of NPS wilderness.

However, climbers should advocate for several clarifications and improvements to DO #41. Most importantly, we believe individual parks are best suited to determine whether prior authorization is to be required for new fixed anchor placements and we oppose a de facto ban on new fixed anchors pending completion of individual climbing management plans. While there are many in the climbing community who would prefer that the NPS simply allow climbers to self-regulate, this isn’t a viable policy for the NPS to adopt system-wide. Without some standard guidance, more regulation (including outright bans) are a real possibility. The Access Fund has worked with our partners at the American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guides Association, and the outdoor industry to outline position statement and recommended improvements to this new policy. We have also reviewed the results of over 1000 competed surveys from the climbing community and have incorporated many of these points into our position statement Thanks to all of you who took the time to complete the survey!

Please take a few minutes and write the National Park Service by March 10. You may find these bullet points helpful when drafting your own comments.



Background
While DO #41 isn’t perfect, the approach is generally one that climbers, conservation organizations, and federal land managers have agreed upon for more than a decade. For the most part (with some significant exceptions) climbers have been largely unregulated when it comes to placing bolts in designated Wilderness areas. Whether, when, and where to place bolts has been up to the individual climbers, something that the Access Fund has long supported.

While there are many in the climbing community who would prefer that the NPS simply allow climbers to self-regulate, this isn’t a viable policy for the NPS to adopt system-wide. Some climbers are loath to endorse any sort of government regulation of climbing activities. However, some federal land managers and citizens have taken the opposite position that all fixed anchors should be banned in Wilderness. It is important to view this proposed policy in the context of the last 20+ years of advocacy and uncertainty surrounding technical climbing in federal Wilderness areas. In the mid 1990's, the future of fixed anchors in federal Wilderness was uncertain—an outright ban seemed imminent on US Forest Service managed Wilderness. Some user groups, notably mountain bikers, have been categorically banned from Wilderness areas. In light of this, the NPS's acknowledgement that "climbing is in many cases a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness" and that the “occasional placement of a fixed anchor” is not incompatible with Wilderness is significant.

The Access Fund believes that some level of fixed anchor use must be allowed wherever climbing is allowed, and that the appropriate level of use should be established on an area-by-area basis. The government has authority under the Wilderness Act to permit fixed anchors in Wilderness, and this use should be permitted as climbing is one of the unique recreation opportunities Wilderness is intended to provide. The continued use of fixed anchors, if properly managed, will not degrade Wilderness resources and values. The use of motorized equipment, including power drills, is prohibited in Wilderness.

Essentially, this new draft management policy acknowledges the legitimacy of climbing fixed anchors but requires a process—established through climbing management plans adopted at each park—for the prior authorization of new fixed anchors within NPS Wilderness areas. The Access Fund believes that while prior authorization may be appropriate in some NPS Wilderness areas, individual parks are best suited to determine whether prior authorization is to be required for new fixed anchor placements. This will allow parks to address their own unique management challenges on their own schedule, allocate resources to the most pressing Wilderness management needs, and will eliminate the possibility of a de facto ban on new fixed anchors in parks where such a prohibition may be unnecessary. Although the proposed process has uncertainties and may place new restrictions on the placement of fixed anchors, the Access Fund believes DO #41, with our recommended changes, will go a long way to stop the cycle of inconsistent, arbitrary, and repeated bans on fixed anchors we’ve seen in individual parks over the last 25 years.



Access Fund Wants Your Input on NPS Fixed Anchor Proposal

The National Park Service has released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies. The update covers a wide range of topics including provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy. The Access Fund is soliciting input from the climbing community to inform our policy position on this critically important issue. Please take a moment to read our summary of the major take-aways of the proposed NPS policy, the history of the fixed anchor debate, and the Access Fund's advocacy strategy below -- then take the survey!

Important Elements of the Proposed Policy
The proposed policy acknowledges that "climbing is in many cases a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness" and that each park with significant wilderness climbing activities must prepare a climbing management plan. However, the policy calls for climbing to be restricted or prohibited if unacceptable impacts to wilderness resources or character occur.

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park's climbing management plan. The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most national parks currently do not require such prior-approval.

Background on the Issue
It is important to view this proposed policy in the context of the last 20+ years of advocacy and uncertainty surrounding technical climbing in federal wilderness areas. In the mid 1990's, the future of fixed anchors in federal wilderness was uncertain—an outright ban seemed imminent on US Forest Service managed wilderness. Some user groups, notably mountain bikers, have been categorically banned from wilderness areas. In light of this, the NPS's acknowledgement that "climbing is in many cases a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness" and that the “occasional placement of a fixed anchor “ is not incompatible with wilderness is significant.

The Access Fund believes that some level of fixed anchor use must be allowed wherever climbing is allowed, and that the appropriate level of use should be established on an area-by-area basis. The government has authority under the Wilderness Act to permit fixed anchors in wilderness, and this use should be permitted as climbing is one of the unique recreation opportunities wilderness is intended to provide. The continued use of fixed anchors, if properly managed, will not degrade wilderness resources and values. The use of motorized equipment, including power drills, is prohibited in wilderness.

Please take a moment to review a background document the Access Fund has prepared for the benefit of the climbing community, which includes our general position statement on fixed anchors. You may also read the text of the draft Director’s Order. If you need to brush up on your understanding of the Wilderness Act, you can do so here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilderness_Act.

Advocacy Strategy
The Access Fund recently met with a range of climbing advocates (including the American Alpine Club and the American Mountain Guides Association) and members of the outdoor industry to consider the current NPS proposal and develop a joint position statement with recommended modifications to the draft policy. An important part of our advocacy on this issue will be shaped by the specific opinions and ideas from individuals in the climbing community.

Please take a few minutes to let us know your thoughts through the following set of survey questions. If you would prefer to share your thoughts in a letter, feel free to send an email to comments@accessfund.org. We will use the comments we receive to inform our final policy position and recommended changes to the Director's Order. We will issue an action alert in mid-February, which will include an Access Fund position statement and an easy letter-writing tool for climbers to submit their own comments directly to the NPS. Thank you for your time and comments!

TAKE THE SURVEY

 



Climbing Saved – For Now – After Quarry Operation Halted at Rock Canyon, UT
1/13/2011

Rock Canyon, one of Utah’s oldest climbing areas 40 miles south of Salt Lake City outside Provo, recently had a major success in a legal dispute over whether the canyon’s rock could be mined. This popular climbing area hosts everything from classic 5.10's and 11's, to some of the hardest routes in Utah still yet to be repeated. Rock Canyon now boasts over 500 quality sport and trad lines on high quality quartzite and limestone, including the longest sport climbs in Utah (20+ pitches). However, over the last dozen years the partners owning the property fought over whether the landscape-quality rock could be quarried or whether Rock Canyon climbing and natural values should be preserved.

In 2003 one partner in the ownership group claimed mining rights to the mouth of the Canyon—which includes the area’s most popular and classic climbing routes—and attempted to turn the cliffs into a rock quarry operation. Meanwhile, the other partners granted a conservation easement to Provo City with restrictions on mining, and the dispute landed in court over land ownership. In November a court ruled that Provo City owned 50% of the property and halted the quarry operation. For the time being climbing remains protected.

“This is a major step forward,” says Tim Whipple from the Rock Canyon Preservation Alliance, a group of climbers and local citizens dedicated to protecting the Canyon. While this ruling is a great victory for climbers and others hoping to save the canyon, the threat of mining still exists since the ruling can be overturned on appeal and more legal battles are expected. Stay updated by checking out www.RockCanyonUtah.com.

 



Registration open for Red Rock Rendezvous
1/13/2011

Registration is now open for the Red Rock Rendezvous. Sign up for this great event, which benefits the Access Fund. Hope to see you there!



Gunks Climbers' Coalition raises $10,000 for Waterworks Bouldering Area, NY
1/13/2011

The Gunks Climbers’ Coalition (GCC) made its first payment in fulfilling its commitment to support the management and maintenance of the Waterworks bouldering area, which lies at the northern end of the Mohonk Preserve. The GCC has pledged a total of $50,000 over 10 years to support the creation of a master plan site design and long-term access management strategy that supports climbing and bouldering. Thanks to the generosity of the entire climbing community, as well as many non-climbers who donated to make this project possible.

Until the purchase by the Preserve has been completed, along with evaluative research to assess the protection needed for endangered species of plants and animals, as well as historical sites, the access will be afforded by online appointments through a website set up by the Preserve at www.eventbrite.com, and with property boundary limits pointed out by climber volunteers on location. The area is bounded by private land and respect for these
boundaries is essential if we are to enjoy the privilege of climbing here, as everywhere, when private residences are so close.

To find out how you can help contribute to the ongoing fundraising campaign, and to learn more about special access considerations to the Waterworks bouldering area, visit www.gunksclimbers.org.

 



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