What Will the New NPS Wilderness Climbing Policy Really Mean for Climbing & Bolting?
Back in May, we announced that the National Park Service had finally issued its official policy—Director’s Order #41—on fixed anchor use in Wilderness. The order ensures that there will be no permanent ban on fixed anchors in NPS managed Wilderness, which brought relief to many concerned climbers across the country. But there are some changes and new requirements, including prior authorizations, that climbers should be aware of. Access Fund Senior Policy Advisor Jason Keith blogs about what this new policy really means for Wilderness climbing and bolting.
Check out the full story on our blog.
Access Fund to Convene Education Summit
This November, Access Fund will convene leaders from local climbing organizations, gyms, pro climbers, and other climbing advocates in the Gunks of New York to tackle one of the most pressing issues facing our sport today: instilling climbers with a stewardship and low-impact ethic to protect climbing access. With the influx of climbers being introduced to the sport (often through an indoor gym setting), impacts to access, the environment, and user experiences are growing. This conference will bring together members of the broader climbing community to discuss and formulate strategies for educational outreach to lessen these impacts to our climbing areas.
Contact Ty Tyler for more details.
Climbing Access at Beddows Dome in Southern Colorado
The Southern Colorado Climbers Resource Action Group (SoCO CRAG) and the Access Fund are pursuing climbing access at Beddows Dome, a granite trad climbing area near Cañon City, Colorado. The property is managed by the Colorado State Land Board, which commonly leases land to raise money for state education initiatives. We have submitted a lease application to the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners and are awaiting the final hearing on September 5th. If approved by the Commission, a small portion of Beddows Mountain would be leased to SoCO CRAG and insured by the Access Fund, offering a new traditional climbing area to southern Colorado climbers, as well as a resource for other recreational groups like hikers and wildlife viewers.
Stay tuned for more details.
New Climbing Area Purchased in Arkansas
We are excited to report that the Jamestown Crag outside Batesville, Arkansas has recently been acquired for outdoor recreational use. The regionally popular area offers around 60 sport and trad routes on high quality sandstone. Previously owned by a paper company, access was never secure due to ongoing liability concerns. However Nomad Investments, an Arkansas-based organization whose mission is to promote outdoor recreation, recently purchased the area to secure access and further develop its recreational opportunities. "It's the biggest purchase of our organization's history," explains Nomad's Kyle Christopher. Access Fund and Arkansas Climbers Coalition are working with Nomad on climbing management for the area.
Stay tuned for more details.
Save Sandstone Bouldering!
Almost 10 years ago the Minnesota Climbers Association (MCA) worked with private landowners to gain access to the high-quality bouldering at Sandstone. But last fall, the MCA got word that the landowners were looking to sell the property, putting public access at imminent risk. The landowners generously agreed to give local climbers the first opportunity to purchase the land. With support from MCA and Access Fund, the Parks & Trails Council of Minnesota (PTCM) has agreed to purchase the property to be integrated into Banning State Park. However, PTCM needs our help to fundraise $30,000 for the acquisition costs and trailhead improvements by December 31, 2013.
Please help support this important acquisition!
The Conservation Team in Rumney, NH
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team recently headed north and paid a visit to Rumney, New Hampshire, one of the country’s premiere sport climbing destinations. Over the first two days, Eddie and Claire worked alongside the Rumney Climbers Association (RCA) and a dedicated group of more than 40 volunteers to cut a new access trail between Orange Crush and the Main Wall, construct three rock staircases, paint four information kiosks, and re-roof the first aid station. After the weekend, the Conservation Team stuck around and worked with US Forest Service representatives to harden some staging areas in heavily impacted areas. The Access Fund and the Conservation Team would like to thank all the volunteers, the RCA, and the USFS for a successful weekend.
Check the Team’s schedule to see if they’re planning to make a stop near you.
Access Fund Offers Joint Membership with Rumney Climbers Association
We are pleased to welcome the Rumney Climbers Association (RCA) as the Access Fund’s newest joint member affiliate. RCA has been working to secure access to the world-renowned sport climbing at Rumney since the early 1990’s. Access Fund is excited to expand our partnership with RCA to include joint membership. You can now join both organizations at the same time, with a single membership—benefits from both organizations for the cost of one! Joint membership starts at just $35.
Gold Butte Slated to Open for Climbing
The Access Fund has been working with Pitkin County officials and local climbers to reopen climbing access on the recently acquired Gold Butte climbing area near Aspen, Colorado. Previously owned by a private land developer, Gold Butte is now county-owned, and will provide a nice local crag for Aspen area climbers to enjoy. However, before climbers can enjoy Gold Butte, the Access Fund, Pitkin County officials, and local climbers from the Roaring Fork Climbers Coalition need to finalize a Climbing Management Plan, develop new access trails to the crag, and address fixed hardware concerns. Gold Butte is expected to be open for climbing by the end of the summer.
Stay tuned for updates.
Illinois Passes Landowner Liability Protections
Back in 2009, the State of Illinois changed its Recreational Use Statute, restricting private landowner liability protections to include only recreational hunting and shooting. This change weakened private landowner protections and contributed to the closure of privately owned Draper’s Bluff. We are happy to report that last month, the State of Illinois expanded its Recreational Use Statute to include “outdoor recreational use,” which includes rock climbing. This change will strengthen liability protections for private landowners in Illinois who open their land to climbing. Recreational Use Statutes are laws designed to encourage private landowners to open their properties to hunters, anglers, and other recreationalists by limiting the landowner’s liability. All 50 states have these laws.
Learn more about recreational use statutes
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition Teams up with Access Fund to Purchase New Climbing Area in Kentucky
The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) and Access Fund are thrilled to announce the acquisition of 309 acres in Beattyville, Kentucky. Named the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve, the land includes several miles of cliff line, some of which has been developed but with the vast majority of it awaiting discovery and development. There is potential for more than a dozen individual crags and hundreds of high-quality routes.
The Miller Fork Recreational Preserve is located just seven miles from the popular Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP) climbing destination in Lee County, Kentucky. The Miller Fork acquisition creates a brand new destination for climbers in the region, helping to relieve the access pressures and climber impacts on other crags in the Red River Gorge.
Previous owner and Lee County resident, Libby Roach saw the RRGCC’s involvement in community meetings, as well as climbing’s positive economic impacts on the local community. In early 2013, she approached the RRGCC with this land in the hopes of helping both the local community and the climbing community. “I care very much for Beattyville and Lee County. It is my hope that our decision to sell this beautiful land will only bring positive things to all.”
After being presented with the opportunity, RRGCC contacted the Access Fund for help. The two organizations worked together to finalize the purchase, with the Access Fund providing both a $10,000 grant and a $200,000 loan from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, the revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations with the funds and expertise needed to quickly save threatened climbing areas. The RRGCC pulled from its own funds to make up the difference and purchase the property for $245,000. The RRGCC is now calling on the community to show its support for this ambitious purchase by donating at the RRGCC’s website, www.rrgcc.org.
“The Access Fund is proud to support RRGCC's protection of Miller Fork's expansive climbing,” says Access Fund Southeast Regional Director Zachary Lesch-Huie. “Their partnership with the local community and ongoing commitment to expanding public climbing access has created yet another major Red River Gorge climbing area.”
The RRGCC made history in 2012 when it paid off the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve (PMRP), completing the largest land purchase ever by a local climbing organization. The RRGCC refinanced the PMRP loan through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign in 2010, saving the local community over $10,000 in interest and fees under the previous loan. Now, the more than 750 acres, 450 plus routes, and several dozen crags that call the PMRP home are secure and will always remain open to climbing.
“Like the PMRP, Miller Fork is going to change the game in the Red,” says Paul Vidal, President of the RRGCC. “Acquiring this property illustrates the strength of the climbing community in this region and its importance to the area. Without the community of climbers and businesses supporting us and pushing us to look to the future, we wouldn’t have been able to secure this climbing.” The purchase of the Miller Fork Recreational Preserve will be another step in securing access for climbers, while furthering the RRGCC’s mission of ensuring open, public access to ample, quality rock climbing opportunities. Like the PMRP, the RRGCC will own and manage the property in perpetuity.
More information, including information regarding trail and route development, will be forthcoming as the RRGCC develops and implements its infrastructure plan.
Access Fund Unveils New Risk Management & Landowner Support Program
Exposure to potential liability is often a concern of both private and public landowners when considering climbing access. Yet, the perception of risk associated with climbing is often overstated and misunderstood. The Access Fund is pleased to officially unveil a new program—Risk Management & Landowner Support to help provide land owners/managers with resources to help manage these risks and provide public access. While Access Fund has been providing some of these services for years, we hope that grouping these services into an official program will help to make our support more accessible to landowners, land managers, and local climbing organizations.
More information on this program.
Access Victory at Torne Valley, NY
Congratulations to the Torne Valley Climbers Coalition (TVCC) who, in partnership with the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC), negotiated climbing access at the Torne Valley area of Harriman State Park. The area was originally closed due to a long standing regulation by the property owner, however PIPC partnered with TVCC to develop a climbing management plan to address landowner concerns and officially open the area to climbing. In order for climbing to continue at Torne Valley, climbers need to follow the rules and restrictions of the area.
More information on rules & restrictions
Breaking News: NPS Releases Historic Policy Authorizing Fixed Anchors in Wilderness
After decades of work, the Access Fund received notice yesterday from National Park Service (NPS) that the agency has issued final national policy authorizing fixed anchors in wilderness. This policy—Director's Order #41—affects many of the country's most important climbing areas such as Yosemite, Grand Teton, Zion, Joshua Tree, and Canyonlands National Parks. The NPS included many of the specific provisions Access Fund advocated for during our 20+ years of work on this issue, such as programmatic authorizations (which allow new bolts by zone, not just case-by-case permitting for individual routes/bolts) and interim fixed anchor permitting prior to the establishment of dedicated climbing management plans. We are still analyzing the new policy, but first impressions are that this direction is good for both wilderness climbers and NPS managers. See a copy of the new policy. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis in the near future.
Climbing Ban at Castle Rocks, ID
The Bureau of Land Management announced last month that all rock climbing activity will be banned on its 400-acre portion of the Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area in Idaho, ignoring the proven Castle Rocks Interagency Climbing Management Plan drafted by climbers and BLM to protect cultural resources. The climbing management plan includes extensive provisions for identifying areas of concern and allowing climbing only in areas that will not negatively affect cultural resources. The BLM’s decision to ignore the same climbing management plan it helped create is totally unnecessary and unjustified. The Castle Rocks Interagency Climbing Management Plan has been used successfully by the Idaho State Department of Parks and Recreation. Further, the closure singles out rock climbers while allowing other unregulated activities such as hiking, hunting, and grazing. Please help show the congressional delegation and governor’s office that large numbers of constituents and the general public oppose this unnecessary and unjustified public land closure in hopes of pressuring the BLM to reconsider its decision.
Stay tuned for more information.
New York Climbers Achieve Access Victory at Dickie Barre
The Access Fund and Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) have worked for over four years to advocate for expansion of climbing opportunities at Minnewaska State Park in New York. We are pleased to announce that the Dickie Barre area was officially opened to climbing on April 30th. A huge thanks goes out to GCC for working alongside the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and the New York State Office of Parks to drive this victory. In a relatively short period of time, GCC was able to build trails (with a little help from the Access Fund Conservation Team), get the area surveyed, and organize the opening of this climbing area. Congratulations GCC!
Access Fund Hosts Southeast Regional Access Summit
Over the weekend of March 23 – 24, climbing advocates from all over the Southeast turned out to the Access Fund Southeast Regional Summit to discuss recent successes, challenges, and the future of Southeastern climbing. Dr. Bob Matheny, owner of Torrent Falls, graciously allowed the use of his property and cabin for the meeting, which drew representatives from The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition, Friends of Muir Valley, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, Boone Climbers Coalition, Carolina Climbers Coalition, and the New River Alliance of Climbers.
Get a full report on the summit from Dead Point Magazine!
Access Fund Announces First Round Grant Recipients
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $23,500 in this first round of the 2013 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Each year, the Access Fund awards up to $40,000 in grant money to local climbing communities with worthy projects that preserve or enhance climbing access. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program is an example of membership dollars at work in local climbing communities across the country. Again this round, Access Fund members got the opportunity to review qualifying grant projects and rate them, providing valuable input to our grant selection committee as to which projects they want their contributions to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
Gunks Climbers Coalition - Gym to Crag Transition Program
The Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) was awarded a grant for a program that will help new climbers make the transition to responsible outdoor climbing. The rock climbing and bouldering areas around New Paltz, New York see increasing traffic and climber impacts every year as first-time climbers from gyms in the New York metro area go there to climb outside for the first time. Many of these climbers are not yet familiar with established outdoor ethics or how to reduce and minimize their impact. GCC’s educational program will include videos, presentations, flyers, and incentives for active participation to help address this problem and provide a model for climbing communities around the country. The goal is to get to the root of this problem by educating climbers about best climbing and bouldering practices before they go outside for their first time.
Jenny Lake Rangers - Grand Tetons Human Waste Management
Jenny Lake Rangers of Grand Teton National Park was awarded a grant to help manage human waste in this world-class alpine climbing destination. In 2001, Restop bags were introduced to overnight campers as a voluntary alternative to the fly-out bucket system of human waste management on the Lower Saddle. In 2002, the buckets were removed and human waste pack-out became mandatory for all visitors on the Saddle, with bags provided free of charge and stocked by volunteers and rangers. This grant request seeks funding to cover the cost of the Restop bags. Compliance has continued at nearly 100% since 2003, which affirms the climbing community’s environmental commitment.
Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition - Red River Gorge Acquisition
The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) was awarded a grant to help acquire 309 acres of undeveloped cliff line in the southern region of the Red River Gorge. The land includes over 18 individual cliffs and more than 250 potential new routes. This conservation project secured this climbing resource before it was threatened by closure, as well as increased the amount of available climbing in the region to help alleviate overcrowding on other privately owned nature preserves.
San Juan Mountains Association - Weminuche Wilderness Restop Program
San Juan Mountains Association and their partners at San Juan National Forest were awarded a grant to purchase Restop bags to distribute at the Needle Creek Trailhead in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado. The trailhead is the gateway to three fourteeners and a handful of technical climbs. Volunteer Wilderness Information Specialists distribute the Restop bags and educate visitors about the importance of packing out human waste in order to protect this high-use alpine area. In addition, the program provides additional information and seeks feedback through comment cards to ensure the program’s long term effectiveness.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) - Southern Cumberland Appraisal
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) was awarded a grant for the appraisal of a future land acquisition project. They are working with Conservation Fund and Land Trust for Tennessee (LTTN) to conserve a 670 acre cove in the Fiery Gizzard area of Tennessee’s Southern Cumberland region that hosts an extensive sandstone cliff line. Completion of this project would effectively protect 200 high quality routes at a range of grades, and preserve one of the largest climbing areas in the Deep South. The first step in acquiring the property is an appraisal, which SCC and LTTN share this cost 50/50. The Access Fund grant would go towards SCC's portion.
Wilderness Land Trust - Castle Crags Acquisition
The Wilderness Land Trust was awarded a grant to acquire 1,250 acres in the northern reaches of Castle Crags Wilderness near Mt. Shasta, California. The acquisition will provide public access to moderate multi-pitch granite, winter ice climbing, and backcountry skiing. The acquisition will also protect rare wildlife and plant habitat, cultural resources, and the Sacramento River and Delta watershed, which provides clean water for citizens of California. Climber support of this project contributes to a collaborative effort to protect the Klamath-Siskiyou Region and the Castle Crags Wilderness. Acquisition of these parcels are a high priority, since this is a time-sensitive opportunity to prevent future logging and provide improved public access
Hawaii Climbing Access Effort Hits a Roadblock
Last week the legislative effort to re-open Oahu’s state lands to climbing hit a roadblock. Our two remaining bills (SB 1168 & SB 1007) died when the House Judicial Committee refused to schedule a hearing. Despite this setback, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Attorney General appreciated our effort and are willing to consider alternate means for addressing liability concerns. Climb Aloha and the Access Fund are continuing to work with the State to find a solution. Although this was unfortunate, the fight is far from over. Stayed tuned for the latest news.
Your Help Needed to Protect Peregrine Falcons in Yosemite
The Peregrine Falcon is a fully protected species in California and a special status species in Yosemite National Park. To protect this raptor and the Yosemite climbing experience, the Park Service asks climbers to cooperate and support some route closures during nesting season when peregrines are most sensitive to human disturbance. To ensure that their nests are not disturbed and that nestling chicks can grow and disperse, the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park temporarily closes cliffs to all human activity where peregrines are nesting. This includes climbing and slack-lining activities.
Closures begin March 1, 2013 and remain in effect until July 15, 2013, or until the chicks have fledged and left the area. Nest sites are monitored closely to provide current information on nesting status and to ensure prompt re-opening of the sites. Closures change according to current nesting status; check the Park’s website for the most current closure information before climbing in Yosemite.
Access Victory at Rib Mountain State Park, WI
Rib Mountain Sate Park just southwest of Wausau, Wisconsin hosts incredibly hard quartzite rock formations forged some 1.5 to 2 billion years ago. The area offers great bouldering, and climbers have visited Rib Mountain for close to twenty years. However in 2003, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began developing a long-range Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park and determined that: “Rock climbing will be prohibited in the abandoned quarry area as rock conditions havebeen determined to be unstable and unsuitable for climbing.” However conflicting information from the State made the status of climbing access in the rest of the park, particularly bouldering opportunities along the trail, unknown.
In June 2012, a local climber named Shawn Brunner attempted to secure official bouldering access in the Park and sought clarification from the Park’s Superintendent , who simply reiterated that: “Rock climbing or bouldering with ropes or other technical gear is not allowed in Rib Mountain State Park, and violators are subject to arrest and prosecution.” Unhappy with the response, Shawn started contacting Park officials to seek official approval to boulder. When DNR didn’t respond, he contacted the Access Fund for help.
The Access Fund reviewed the Master Plan with Shawn and identified a few things that helped bring DNR to the table. Shawn set up a meeting with the Superintendent, the Regional Director, and the Access Fund. The meeting went well, and DNR admitted that bouldering was never considered in the original Master Plan. Although DNR was concerned with the potential impacts associated with bouldering, they were willing to allow it if the Environmental Resource Department (ERD) approved the activity. Shawn created a map with GPS coordinates of all the bouldering at Rib Mountain, and passed it along to the ERD so they could visit the area and determine if bouldering could be allowed.
On January 11, 2013, the ERD determined that bouldering was feasible, and DNR will now allow bouldering at Rib Mountain State Park with crashpads and chalk. However roped climbing and fixed gear are still prohibited in the quarry. For more information, visit Vertical Midwest on Facebook.