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.
Access Fund Responds to Resolution Copper’s Recent Announcement of Workforce Reductions
Some of you have probably seen the recent announcement by Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) stating their intent to scale back most activities at the RCM mine due to uncertainty in the legislative and regulatory environment. This mine is located adjacent to the rock climbing areas at Oak Flat in central Arizona.
The announcement reads, in part: RCM “will reduce its overall budget from about $200 million in 2012 to about $50 million in 2013, which will result in the loss of approximately 400 jobs or about 75 percent of its overall workforce….To justify further development, we need more certainty around legislative and regulatory activity affecting Resolution Copper.... Specifically, approval of the land exchange we’ve been seeking since 2005 constitutes the critical path forward. Our efforts at RCM will be directed toward working to obtain the certainty we need.”
While we at the Access Fund are very sympathetic to those who may potentially lose their jobs, this statement links the upcoming workforce reduction to uncertainty caused by RCM’s inability to get their land exchange bill (HR 1904) passed in the United States Congress which would convey ownership of Oak Flat’s popular climbing areas to RCM for a massive copper mine. In reality however, Rio Tinto, the parent company and majority owner of RCM, simultaneously announced it was cutting back some $7 billion dollars in development and operations costs worldwide over the next two years due to a global weakening in commodity demand.
Resolution Copper’s recent announcement is thus a politically motivated attempt to gain sympathy for layoffs that they would most likely be making anyway and to pressure Congress to move their problematic legislation through the Senate. We should not let RCM succeed in this misinformation strategy.
Resolution Copper bemoans the fact that eleven versions of their land exchange bill have failed to pass through Congress over the last seven years, but RCM has only themselves to blame. If RCM had put a larger portion of their lobbying efforts into finding meaningful compromise with Oak Flat recreational users, environmental advocates and Native Americans, they might have obtained a land exchange or other authorization for their new mine. Instead, inflexibility on RCM’s part has caused them to insist on terms and conditions for their mine that are highly favorable to them at the expense of all other interested parties.
A few remarkable examples of RCM's unwillingness to be reasonable include:
- An insistence on employing a mining method which will destroy the entire Oak Flat area and with it cause the destruction of a heavily used federally protected recreation area, while alternate mining methods which would preserve the surface and lead to greater job growth are dismissed out of hand,
- An attempt to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and any responsible environmental analyses before a land exchange takes place,
- Removing the Secretary of Agriculture’s ability to make a genuine determination whether this land exchange is “in the public interest” as required by most federal land exchange laws, and
- The disregard of the cultural and traditional interests of Native Americans who use the Oak Flat area and consider it sacred.
Please let your senators know that the Oak Flat land exchange bill (HR 1904) is a bad piece of legislation and should not be passed in the current lame duck session of Congress. Please also tell your senators that HR 1904 should expire with the 112th Congress and that RCM must address all of the substantial problems in the current bill before Congress considers any future proposals. To find your US Senators, see this link.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition Partners with the Access Fund to Acquire Hospital Boulders
The Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) is pleased to announce that it is under contract to acquire the Hospital Boulders in northeastern Alabama. The Access Fund is providing a bridge loan of $75,000 from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) to finance the acquisition. The SCC is now asking the climbing community to show their support and help fundraise $80,000 to complete the purchase.
Climbing access has historically been “low profile” at Hospital Boulders, with limited access and details distributed only by word of mouth. The SCC was outbid at an auction to purchase the boulder field five years ago with negotiations for access ongoing ever since. The current landowner, a private developer, recently put the property up for sale again, with plans to auction it to the highest bidder. “The threat of losing the area to another private landowner or developer was very real,” says Josh Reyes, SCC board member. “We did not want to be sent back to square one with access negotiations, facing the very real possibility of having access permanently revoked.”
“We had to move fast to get the land under contract before it went to auction,” says Access Fund southeast regional director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “Our close working relationship with the SCC was key to getting the AFLCC funds released quickly to save this bouldering area.”
Just north of Gadsden and less than 30 minutes from Horse Pens 40, the Hospital Boulders boasts 150-200 high quality sandstone boulder problems, and even some short traditional, sport and top rope climbs on the west brow of Lookout Mountain. The area, with its spectacular scenic views, still has potential for many more first ascents.
The SCC and the Access Fund are working together to finalize the purchase of this local bouldering area from the private developer. The sale is expected to close in mid-November, placing Hospital Boulders in climber-friendly hands forever. The SCC will own and manage the property in perpetuity.
The Hospital Boulders acquisition marks the twelfth successful AFLCC project since the inception of the revolving loan program in 2009. It will make the seventh successful acquisition by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition.
The 39-acre tract sits conveniently off I-59, just past Mountain View Hospital at the end of Scenic Highway in Gadsden, AL. Access is optimal with an SCC-owned road that leads to a parking area less than a minute from the boulder field. There are additional boulders located just outside the SCC property, and the SCC will be working with the landowner of this adjacent property to open up the entire boulder field in the future. Visit www.seclimbers.org to donate now and learn more about access.
Access Fund Partners with Brooklyn Boulders for Climbing Access
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has partnered with Brooklyn Boulders (BKB) climbing gym in a joint-membership venture geared towards providing outdoor stewardship opportunities and education to climbers in the Northeast.
In this first-of-its-kind partnership, Brooklyn Boulders encourages its members to join the Access Fund by splitting their membership cost 50/50. Brooklyn Boulders members will be able to purchase an Access Fund membership through the gym for $17.50, and BKB will then pay the other half.
“Brooklyn Boulders wants to be an industry leader in preserving our precious climbing resources, while exposing new people to the sport of climbing,” says BKB Head Instructor Rocco Bocchicchio. “This program is an effort by BKB to "pay it forward" for the impact the new climbers our facility creates will inevitably have on outdoor climbing resources, while encouraging all of the climbers in our facility to be proactive and positive stewards to the outdoors.”
Access Fund and BKB will kick off their partnership at a special gym event on Friday October 26, 2012 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. The first 100 people to purchase an Access Fund membership will receive a limited edition AF x BKB t-shirt. Access Fund Southeast Regional Director & National Affiliate Director Zachary Lesch-Huie will be present for a town hall style Q&A session, and the gym will also offer a La Sportiva shoe demo and free climbing assessments by their professional instructors all night.
Kudos to BKB for being such a great partner in climbing access and conservation!
Access Fund Acquires Holy Boulders – Asks for Further Support
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Holy Boulders in Southern Illinois. However, more help is needed from the climbing community to fundraise and transfer the property to a long-term owner.
While private landowners have historically allowed climbing access at the Holy Boulders, known for its Fontainebleau-like perfect sandstone friction and aesthetic lines, they decided to sell the property, putting the boulders at risk of indefinite closure.
With a narrow window of opportunity to protect the Holy Boulders, local climbers Dave Chancellor of Climb So Ill and Leif Faber of the Illinois Climbers Association reached out to the landowners and the Access Fund to help protect this hidden gem of the American bouldering community. After months of working with the landowners and local climbers, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect the Holy Boulders through a multi-phased conservation project.
The Access Fund has secured temporary ownership of the Holy Boulders using funds from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, a revolving loan program designed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. However Access Fund now needs help from the climbing community to raise an additional $185,000 to secure permanent ownership of Holy Boulders and transfer it to a long-term owner that will keep climbing access open for future generations. Suitable long-term owners might include the Illinois Climbers Association or Shawnee National Forest, however more work is needed to identify long-term ownership and management of Holy Boulders.
“The climbing community must now come together to protect one of Illinois’ best climbing resources,” says Chancellor. “The Access Fund has stepped up and now we need your help to raise $185,000 to put the Holy Boulders in climber friendly hands forever.”
Please make a donation to the Protect What’s Holy campaign today to ensure long-term access to the Holy Boulders (www.accessfund.org/holyboulders)! With your support, we can protect and steward the Holy Boulders forever.
Holy Boulders History
The Holy Boulders have attracted professional climbers and strong athletes from around the country. The area features 150 developed problems and potential for hundreds more that climbers of all abilities can enjoy. “My first impression of the Holy Boulders was incredible,” says professional climber Jimmy Webb. “The rock quality is second to none and is probably some of the best sandstone I’ve ever climbed on.”
The Holy Boulders sits on a 78-acre tract of farm and forestland that the Tripp family has owned for over 47 years. In 2004, local climber Aaron Brouwer discovered the Holy Boulders from aerial photographs and introduced himself to the landowner. After initial concerns of liability, the family gave climbers verbal permission to climb at the boulders. For eight years climbers maintained a positive relationship with the Tripp Family, offering small tokens of appreciation and keeping information word-of-mouth so as not to jeopardize access. In May of 2012 climbers spotted For Sale signs on the property and learned that the landowners were planning to sell the property.
“Climbing is a finite resource,” says professional climber and Holy Boulders regular Matt Segal. “Especially areas like the Holy Boulders that are so special. It’s really important for us to take initiative and try to protect these areas for future generations.”
The existing parking area and approach off Macedonia Road remains the current point of access for the Holy Boulders. Please remember that parking and the initial approach are on Shawnee National Forest. Do your part to keep the Holy Boulders area beautiful by following Leave No Trace principles. The property still bears windfall damage from an inland hurricane in 2009 and volunteer help is necessary to improve trails and install a new trailhead in the near future. View a map of the property and stay tuned for updated access information at www.accessfund.org/holyboulders.
Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of climbers Matt Bliss, Phillip Carrier, Dave Chancellor, Leif Faber, Jim Thurmond, Jason Kehl and many others, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible.