Our peers at Access PanAm, the western hemisphere climbers’ access organization, report trouble in the Cuban climbing paradise.
Cuba has been become a booming winter climbing destination, drawing US, Canadian, and European climbers to its vast and overhanging limestone walls. And its home to a developing community of local climbers. Cuba also has become a favorite destination for many other adventure travelers. For now, it is all over. An unexplained edict of the Cuban government has closed its western mountains, not only to climbers, but all visitors, climbers, hikers, and birders a like. This report is provided here because of the many U.S. climbers who ignore the lightly-enforced U.S. travel ban to climb in Cuba.
In January 2012 the Cuban authorities closed almost all access to the mountains in Western Cuba. The closure does not apply only to climbers, but all visitors, from cavers and mountain bikers to hikers and bird-watchers. In Viñales National Park, home of about 80 percent of the established climbing routes, access is limited to walking with official guides on the few trails long ago “authorized” by officials for tourism. The authorized trails reach about one percent of Viñales Valley, and go nowhere near any of the climbing sites. The rest of this World Heritage site is off-limits to all visitors.
“No one has seen a written decree, so the full scope, rationale, and penalties are unknown,” says Access Pan Am Founder Armando Menocal, who also founded the Access Fund twenty years ago. “Local officials themselves can’t say why the policy on access has changed. The best guess—and it’s all a guess—is that the closure is an instance of Cuba’s obsessive and domineering state security.” Caves are part of Cuba’s civil defense, and the army continues to excavate (and destroy) many of Cuba’s natural caves. One Cuban blogger attempts to make sense of what is going on.
According to Menocal, some climbers are still going and climbing, but rangers sit at a couple of obvious climbing/hiking venues and tell visitors that they cannot enter, or if caught in the act of climbing, to stop. Climbers and others have figured out the rangers’ routines and enforcement. Rangers quit at 3 pm, don’t work Sundays, and don’t walk to most of the climbing walls in the valley. Climbers report that they were able to climb every day, but with difficulty and, probably, some anxiety.
The impact on the Viñales Valley and its almost 30,000 people, however, could be devastating. When Cuban and foreign climbers first began to explore the Valley in the late 1990s, it was not a well-known World Heritage Site. Tourists did visit, but they came mostly in tour buses, and stayed only in the two hotels on the rim of the valley. The official version of eco-tourism was limited to a single day in the valley, long enough to enjoy the spectacular views from the hotel, see the garishly painted wall called La Mural de la Prehistoria, tour the paved, lighted Cueva del Indio, and lunch at a thatched-roofed restaurant. If they stopped in town, it was to buy bottled water and post cards.
Viñales is now a completely different place. The town and trails are busy with visitors. Hundreds of Cuban families have turned their homes into small hostels and private restaurants to host the thousands of visitors who come to explore the Valley’s exceptional natural beauty and to walk among the valley’s traditional tobacco and coffee farms, where ox-drawn plows and horse-backed farmers still mark its agriculture. Individuals and groups come for climbing, hiking, birding, biking, and caving. Climbers stay for a week and more. There is a national park visitor center, two museums, botanical gardens, cultural center, and live music venues.
"As we understand it, no one has been cited for climbing, nor for simply wandering into the country-side," says Menocal. "Repeat offenders have been threatened, but to our knowledge, no one has been fined or sanctioned." Still, in this authoritarian country, we do not encourage anyone to challenge the rules, however inexplicable or unintelligent.
Lacking government “authorization”, the local climbers have not been permitted to organize. The Cuban climbers are working with Access PanAm. Check with Access PanAm and www.cubaclimbing.com for updates.
Each year the Access Fund recognizes individuals 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.
Bebie Leadership Award – Triple Crown Bouldering Series, Jim Horton, and Chad Wykle
Access Fund is proud to present a Bebie Leadership Award to the Triple Crown Bouldering Series and the event’s organizers, Jim Horton and Chad Wykle. The Triple Crown has contributed over $100,000 to the successful crag and boulder acquisition efforts of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) and the Carolina Climbers Coalition, lending cash support to purchase or maintain access to areas like Hound Ears, Boat Rock, Asheboro Boulders, Horse Pens 40, Laurel Knob, Stone Fort, and Deep Creek. Its support has also been instrumental in the success of Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign projects with the SCC at the cliffs of Steele and with the CCC in Rumbling Bald’s boulder field. Outside of the Triple Crown, Chad and Jim are active in their local climbing communities, whether stewarding local climbing areas or serving on the board of their local climbing organization.
Sharp End Award – Renee DeAngelis
Access Fund is honored to present a Sharp End Award to Renee DeAngelis, owner of the Planet Granite climbing gyms in the San Francisco Bay Area. Renee assisted in several critical Access Fund projects this past year, including organizing climbers on various Yosemite land use plans, helping to fund the Jailhouse Rock acquisition, rallying climbers in support of maintaining California state parks climbing access, and even helping to fund a toilet at Castleton Tower near Moab, Utah. The Planet Granite Gives Back program generously awards business dollars to worthy causes that benefit climbing, community, and the environment. Thanks to Renee for developing these innovative programs that give back to the climbing world.
Sharp End Award – Eric Hörst of Safe Harbor Climbers’ Coalition Access Fund is thrilled to present a Sharp End Award to Eric Hörst in honor of his commitment and efforts to reopen Safe Harbor in Pennsylvania. Eric led efforts to regain public access to this historic crag that had been closed for 20 years. He has served as the main point of contact for local climbers, Access Fund, and land managers looking to resolve this issue. His persistence has been a critical factor in reopening Safe Harbor “South.” Eric kicked off the Safe Harbor Climbers’ Coalition to establish sustainable parking and access. We look forward to supporting Eric in future efforts and projects.
Sharp End Award – Rick Bost of Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition
Access Fund is proud to present a Sharp End Award to Rick Bost, outgoing president of the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition (ETCC) and current president of the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC). For nearly a decade, Rick has coordinated climbing advocacy efforts at the Obed with creativity, energy, and enthusiasm. Leading the ETCC’s extremely successful Adopt a Crag event each September, he has created an exemplary partnership between the local climbing community and National Park Service staff at Obed Wild and Scenic River. Rick played a key role in the ETCC’s 2006 trail purchase, maintaining access to one of the most frequented cliffs at the Obed. Rick has brought the same commitment and energy to leading the RRGCC, helping complete fundraising for Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve, one of the largest climber-owned, climber-managed tracts of land in the country.
Sharp End Award – Greg Orton
Access Fund is pleased to award a much-overdue Sharp End Award to longtime Oregon climbing advocate Greg Orton. Also a prolific western Oregon guidebook writer, Greg has organized Adopt a Crag events and represented climbers in complicated climbing management issues involving endangered species and tribal resources at various locations throughout the Oregon Cascades. Greg has also been one of the most constructive and informative participants in Access Fund’s regional and national activist summits over the years. Thanks to Greg for his consistent activism and conservation of Oregon climbing areas.
Sharp End Award – Logan Wilcoxson of Arkansas Climbers Coalition
Access Fund honors Logan Wilcoxson with a Sharp End Award for his years of volunteer work in Arkansas, “The Natural State.” Logan has provided leadership in the Arkansas climbing community through both the Arkansas Climbers Coalition and Little Rock Climbing Center. Logan played a central role in establishing campground and toilet facilities at Sam’s Throne in partnership with the Forest Service. He has worked continuously to establish a positive working relationship with land managers at Buffalo National River and at Arkansas State Parks to establish favorable climbing management. Each year, Arkansas Climbers Coalition and Logan mobilize the climbing community with Adopt a Crag events and outreach events. Thanks to Logan for years of advocacy and stewardship work.
Sharp End Award – John Wilder of Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council
Access Fund is excited to honor John Wilder of the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council (CLC) with a Sharp End Award for his climbing activism in the Las Vegas area. A longtime member of the CLC, local Vegas climber, writer at Dead Point Magazine, and gear editor at www.rockclimbing.com, John is a dedicated advocate for climbers at Red Rocks, Arrow Canyon, Christmas Tree Pass near Lake Mead, and other areas. This past year, John also led CLC efforts to oppose a massive housing development on Blue Diamond Hill that would overlook the multipitch wilderness climbing areas in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Thanks to John for his help to preserve Las Vegas climbing.
Sharp End Award – Jeep
Access Fund is excited to present Jeep, the title sponsor of the Access Fund–Jeep Conservation Team, with a Sharp End Award for its commitment to creating a lasting legacy of stewardship at climbing areas across the United States. Jeep’s sponsorship of the Conservation Team is an incredible service to the climbing community. Its support in 2011 made it possible for two expert trail builders to travel the country to improve trails and educate local communities about conservation of their climbing areas. We thank Jeep for its dedication to protecting America’s climbing through grassroots stewardship and education.
Land Conservation Award – Southeastern Climbers Coalition
Access Fund is delighted to present the Southeastern Climbers Coalition with a Land Conservation Award for its years at the forefront of land conservation in the climbing access world. Access Fund worked with the SCC to kick off the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign with a pilot project at Steele, Alabama, in 2009. The SCC successfully paid off the loan in 2010 and continued to establish its central role in protecting climbing access with the purchase of an access property to Deep Creek outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2011. We look forward to supporting the SCC in future conservation projects.
Land Conservation Award – Carolina Climbers Coalition
Access Fund is honored to present the Carolina Climbers Coalition with a Land Conservation Award for the successful conservation project at the West Side Boulders of Rumbling Bald. Some of the best and most popular bouldering in the state, Rumbling Bald’s West Side Boulders were in danger of being lost to a private developer on the verge of bankruptcy. Access Fund provided the CCC with a $72,000 loan to purchase the six-acre boulder-filled parcel. The CCC successfully repaid the loan in 2011, returning the money to the Access Fund’s revolving conservation fund, where it will be available for future conservation efforts.
The Bishop area is seeing more and more climbers every year as its popularity continues to grow. Increased use is causing concern for sensitive cultural and natural resources, especially in the Tableland area north of Bishop. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Bishop Field Office is calling on the climbing community to help protect these resources and to ensure continued climbing access. We need your help to answer the call.
Climbers can drastically reduce impacts at Bishop by educating themselves and by following some simple guidelines:
Pack out all trash (including micro trash like wrappers, cigarette butts, etc.) And if you see other people’s trash, pack that out too! Leave Bishop a cleaner place than you found it.
Take care of business responsibly. Poop happens. Try to do your business in an established toilet. If you can’t make it to one, use a wag bag or deposit solid human waste in a cathole 6 to 8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, boulders, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. In climbing areas, pack out dog waste.
Campfires need to be in an approved fire ring or fire pan, and must be permitted. California Campfire Permits are available from most Cal Fire, BLM, and Forest Service offices. If you don’t have a permit or the correct set-up, skip the fire and sit under the stars instead.
Travel only on existing roads and trails and park only in existing parking lots. In the Happy and Sad’s, use the lower parking areas. Carpool whenever you can.
Watch where you’re tossing your crash pad. Sensitive vegetation and soils around your project can easily be damaged if you’re not careful where you’re stomping.
Respect wildlife. A pile of sticks covered in “whitewash” may be a hawk, eagle, or owl’s nest. Please don’t disturb nests.
Respect each other. Keep yelling, music, and beta-spray to a minimum. Also, make sure your dog is under your immediate control and not bothering neighboring climbing parties.
The Bishop BLM office holds monthly “Climber’s Coffee” meetings at the Pleasant Valley Pit Campground. These meetings provide an informal setting for climbers and the BLM to discuss ongoing issues. Anyone interested in attending the next “Climber’s Coffee” meeting, or who would like to volunteer to help preserve and protect areas like the Tablelands through trail work and other clean-up efforts can contact Becky Hutto at 760-872-5008.
The next action on this legislation will be a floor vote in the US House of Representatives involving all House members. Therefore, no matter where you live in the United States, you can have a say in this fight by asking your Congressman to oppose HR 687.
Residents in NM, OR, SD, LA, WA, MI, CO, AZ, MN, WV, DE, VT, AK, WY, ID, UT, SC, HI, OH, ND, NV, and TN have the additional ability to help save this climbing area, because one of your Senators sits on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is currently considering the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange. Arizona climbers should make their voices heard to Senators Flake and McCain.
The House companion bill HR 687 has already been voted out of committee and will likely get a floor vote in the summer of 2013. Although both Arizona Senators Flake and McCain are in favor of the exchange, this controversial bill will face greater opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The Access Fund and Arizona climbing community have long worked to protect climbing in central Arizona, and we need your help. Please write your Senators on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and let them know your views on this land exchange.
The draft letter below can be copied—in part or in full—into the web form for your state linked below. See the Access Fund’s most recent testimony, and use these talking points and the letter below as a template for your personal comments to Congress.
DRAFT LETTER—COPY AND PASTE ANY PORTION INTO WEB FORMS ABOVE
The Honorable [your Senator here] US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Dear Senator [your Senator here],
I write in opposition to S 339, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2013. I am a climber who opposes this legislation because it would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to convey the highly popular public recreational rock climbing resource at Oak Flat, Arizona for use as an underground copper mine.
Rock climbers are numerically the largest recreation group that uses the Oak Flat/Queen Creek area, and we also stand to suffer the largest loss if this area is destroyed by mining activities. There are over one thousand established rock climbs in the Oak Flat area that will subside into an enormous crater if Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) is allowed to proceed with their present plan to “block cave” mine the underlying ore deposit.
For decades climbers have frequented the Oak Flat/Queen Creek Canyon area in Central Arizona to scale the vast assortment of cliffs, canyons, and boulders. Climbing at Oak Flat over the years—one of the country’s few areas widely visited during winter months—proved so popular that the area hosted the Phoenix Bouldering Contest for several years which eventually became the world’s largest such event. Since 2004 a variety of climbing groups in Arizona have worked with conservation organizations, officials from local and federal government, and Resolution Copper Mining to address the severe impacts that this bill would cause to Oak Flat and the recreation community in central Arizona. The local climbing group, the Concerned Climbers of Arizona, is adamantly opposed to this legislation.
I urge you to oppose this bill because it is nothing more than a piece of special interest legislation benefitting only the two giant, foreign owned mining companies that own RCM. There is nothing in this legislation to address the concerns of the many recreational users of Oak Flat, nothing to address the legitimate concerns of the Native American users of the area and S 339 fails to require any meaningful environmental analysis prior to the transfer of our public land to RCM.
This bill would circumvent the proper public process mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for prior analysis of any major federal action on public land. Such an analysis would assess the impact mine operations would have on the health of nearby residents, water quality, air quality, cultural resources, transportation, and the overall environment. S 339 unreasonably requires the exchange to be completed within one year. Such a rushed timetable will eliminate any meaningful analysis of this project and limit a real determination whether this mine is in the public’s interest. Because the provisions in S 339 virtually ensure the development of this mine, and the public has very little information on the environmental implications of this mine, this exchange is not in the public’s interest.
The Boulder Climbing Community, in partnership with land managers, the Access Fund, and other partners is seeking input from climbers to get a better understanding of climbing use patterns and impacts in Boulder Canyon. If you climb in Boulder Canyon, please take a moment and fill out the survey. Your input is greatly appreciated!
Grant Applications Due March 1st 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. We look to award grants to organizations and individuals that identify and work on the root causes of local climbing access and conservation issues and that approach issues with a commitment to long-term change. If you have a project that fits this criteria, please read more about our grant guidelines and fill out an application.
Grant applications are due March 1st. Massacre & Castle Rocks: Your Advocacy in Action In mid-November we blasted an Action Alert asking for your help after the BLM proposed a new climbing ban at Massacre and proposed making its current temporary ban at Castle Rocks permanent due to fears that climbing could potentially have negative impacts on cultural resources at both locations. Concerned climbers submitted hundreds of letters to the BLM outlining reasonable compromises that allow climbing and protection of cultural resources. Thanks to your advocacy and the hard work of Boise Climbers Alliance, the Eastern Idaho Climbers Coalition, and members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation, the BLM has reconsidered its proposal. They are in the process of developing separate environmental assessments for Massacre Rocks and Castle Rocks, which will include an option that allows climbing. While the outcome is still uncertain, this is good progress. Stay tuned e-news for updates. Jailhouse Gets a Makeover 12/14/2011
This November, dollars from the Unlock Jailhouse fundraising campaign were put into action as 45 climbers spent the day with shovels in hand to start a new era at Jailhouse, ensuring that climbers can safely park their cars at a new trailhead half the distance to the crag. The new Access Fund Conservation Team organized dozens of volunteers in its most extensive project to date.
Rifle Expansion on the Horizon? 12/15/2011 Rifle Mountain Park (“Rifle”) in Colorado offers some of America’s finest limestone sport climbing. Immediately down the canyon is a piece of property known as Rifle Falls State Fish Unit (“Rifle Falls”), owned by Colorado Division of Wildlife, which contains climbing resources comparable to the excellent climbing found at Rifle. Climbing is currently prohibited on the property, but the Access Fund and Rifle Climbers Coalition (RCC) have been working together to open this property to climbing. This past summer, we commissioned a biological survey of Rifle Falls to understand whether wildlife may be impacted by climbers. In November, the AF and RCC petitioned the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission requesting climbing development be allowed at Rifle Falls. In January 2012, the AF and RCC will present their vision for climbing at Rifle Falls to the Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Stay tuned to e-news for more information. Safe Harbor “South” Crags Re-Open! 12/14/2011 We are happy to report that after more than a decade in limbo, the crags at Safe Harbor in Pennsylvania have been partially re-opened to climbing. The Access Fund has been assisting Eric Horst and local climbers for over 10 years. With the recent relocation of the high-tension power lines, both Amtrak and Conestoga Township have agreed to allow climbing to resume along the rail trail in Conestoga Township. The cliffs along this section of the old low-grade railway comprise what climbers refer to as Safe Harbor “South”. The cliffs upstream of the dam (Safe Harbor “North”) remain closed, pending Manor Township’s acquisition of their portion of the abandoned low-grade line. If parking is limited, consider another crag to avoid blocking the narrow road. Stay tuned for more details and opportunities to help make access sustainable.
Access Fund Senior Policy Advisor, Jason Keith, moderates a panel of senior level federal land managers
The first-ever Outdoor Alliance Partnership Summit kicked off on the evening of Dec. 6, at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, CO. The two-day meeting brought together field staff and volunteers from each of the six OA groups—as well as representatives from state and federal land management agencies—to share stories of successful working relationships from around the United States. “When people think of public lands, it’s too often that they focus on the same old argument of recreation versus extraction,” says Adam Cramer, Policy Architect for OA. “This event brought leaders together to figure out how to strike the best balance of land use and protection.”
The summit opened with a videotaped address from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). He praised the Outdoor Alliance for its successes combining local efforts with federal initiatives to mobilize the next generation of outdoor stewards. Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond Equipment, gave the keynote address.
Sessions covered a wide range of topics including the economic benefits of shared-use trail systems, ecological benefits of river restoration, successful travel management planning, youth engagement and partnership techniques for turning innovative visions into real projects. “We focused on 18 stories of public/private partnerships that balance recreation and conservation, and identified common elements which led to success,” says Brady Robinson, Executive Director of the Access Fund. “The goal of the summit was to encourage land managers and advocates to understand each other’s perspectives, to see that we share many goals and values, and to chart positive ways to work together. On all counts the meeting was a huge success.”
The Outdoor Alliance (OA) is a coalition of six conservation and recreation groups: Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American
Summit attendees celebrate a productive couple of days at the Outdoor Alliance Partnership Summit in Golden, Colorado.
Whitewater, Winter Wildlands, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Together, they have a long tradition of preserving public access to American’s outdoors, making sure people have crags to climb, trails to hike, waters to paddle, and mountains to ski. The goal of the Outdoor Alliance is to ensure conservation and stewardship of our nation’s land and waters through the promotion of sustainable, human-powered recreation.
The Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) made their final payment last week on their Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) loan, completing their purchase of the Rumbling Bald West Side Boulders in North Carolina. The six acres of climber-owned boulders are centrally located to Asheville, Charlotte, and Greenville, SC and contain approximately 200 high quality boulder problems. The area sees considerable use from southeast climbers. The CCC and the Access Fund worked together to purchase this popular bouldering area from a private developer in 2009. The CCC is the third organization to fully pay back their AFLCC loan, returning funds to the revolving loan program where the Access Fund will loan the money out again to save another threatened climbing area.
With the help of several BLM staff and volunteer archeologists, Dave and Jeff addressed some issues at the Tablelands in Bishop, CA that were encroaching on archeological sites. The group closed a couple of roads and camping areas, dismantled fire pits, and removed a stone wall that had been constructed as a wind shelter—all of which were impacting the archeological sites. After completing work at the Tablelands, Dave and Jeff moved on to install some trademark “Conservation Team” steps on the approach to the Sad Boulders and, with the help of four dedicated local volunteers, installed a bunch of check dams (more than they cared to count at the end of the day), and addressed other areas of the trail that were a concern. "Overall, the Sads approach is much more sustainable than it was when we arrived," says Dave. Now on to Sonora for the Jailhouse Adopt a Crag....
The Washington Climbers' Coalition has joined forces with the Access Fund for the good of climbers and climbing access in Washington state. You can now join both organizations at the same time, and receive two sets of benefits for the cost of one! Joint membership starts at just $35!
The Access Fund has combined forces with the Boulder Climbing Community for the good of climbers and climbing access in the Boulder, Colorado area. By combining membership, you can now support both the national and local climbing access organizations, as well as receive benefits from both organizations for the cost of one. Membership starts at just $35!
The Conservation Team arrived in Prescott on the morning of November 17th and met with Kevin Keith, the AF Regional Coordinator for the area. After helping Dave and Jeff get situated in a camping spot in town, Kevin gave the guys a tour of the Granite Dells climbing area. They surveyed the High Rappel Dell crag and discovered that the initial approach from what will eventually be a city parking lot/trail head, was severely eroded and abraded.
The Conservation Team determined that traffic needed to be redirected to a more sustainable surface, and elected to install a timber staircase that redirects traffic to the slick rock access to the climbing area. Dave, Jeff, and Kevin spent 3 days working on the project. They installed a beautiful serpentine set of timber stairs and a stone retaining wall, using what stone was available locally to hold the soil in place above the stairs.
Are you an Access Fund member in good standing? Then you’re eligible to receive “preferred pricing” on most Chrysler vehicles, including Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat and Chrysler. Get thousands off MSRP without haggling! This unique membership benefit is part of Jeep® brand’s support of our new Access Fund Conservation Team. Not a member? Join today and you’ll be eligible for this great discount after only 30 days of membership!
On October 26, 2011, the United States House of Representatives voted to pass the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011 which would exchange approximately 2,400 acres of public land for 5,300 acres held by a multi-national mining company for the creation of a massive copper mine. The public land to be exchanged includes the Oak Flat campground, and a popular climbing area with hundreds of existing roped climbing routes and thousands of bouldering problems that for years was home of the historic Phoenix Bouldering Contest. Much of the Oak Flat area was protected from mining through an executive order made during the Eisenhower Administration, but now Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) seeks to take possession of the land through an act of Congress. A spirited debate on the bill in the House of Representatives may be viewed here. The Senate now must introduce and pass a “companion bill” before the exchange is signed into law.
Earlier this year, the Access Fund submitted comments on the bill, H.R. 1904. Because provisions favorable to climbers which were included in past versions of the bill have been removed, new environmental concerns have emerged (namely the omission of a pre-exchange NEPA process), and climbers have yet to complete an agreement with RCM to address the loss of climbing resources, the Access Fund opposes H.R. 1904 while these issues remain unresolved.
The Access Fund and Arizona climbing community have long worked to protect climbing in central Arizona, first through the Friends of Queen Creek, then the Queen Creek Coalition (QCC), and more recently the QCC and the Concerned Climbers of Arizona (CCA). Strategic disagreements in the climbing community split the QCC into two groups: one that retains the QCC name and works to “maximize rock climbing resources in the Queen Creek region of Arizona by maintaining productive relationships with involved companies, land managers and civic leaders” and the CCA who “advocate for continued recreational access to climbing areas that are threatened by development or other forms of encroachment.” Comments on H.R. 1904 from the QCC may be found here. The CCA position on H.R. 1904 is found here.
The Access Fund has not exclusively sided with either of central Arizona’s climbing advocacy groups, but continues to work with each organization, Congress, and RCM directly to advocate for climbing access and the conservation of climbing resources in Arizona.
There are many recent articles which cover the bill in greater detail. RCM has posted a video promoting the mine, which includes an overview of the block cave mining technique and a simulation of the damage that would occur through surface subsidence.
Although both Arizona Senators Kyl and McCain are in favor of the exchange, the controversial bill will face greater opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Access Fund will continue to monitor the situation, directly engage members of Congress, and send an action alert soliciting climber input when the companion bill is introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Southern hospitality is alive and well in the Red! The feedback we received from the locals was great—everyone was very appreciative of our visit and our work. We completed a stone step project at the Solar Collector/Gold Coast approach. The project consisted of installing 15 stone steps and a stone retaining wall to replace the existing decaying wood structures. We were fortunate to find good building stone in abundance in the area, and the soils there lend themselves very well to trail work, being primarily composed of clay. We spent two long days completing the project, and overall were very pleased with the finished product. We were assisted by Matt Tackett of the RRGCC during a brief site visit in which we discussed the details of the project.
There are still a few tools that we need to acquire that would make our lives easier and our work better. I also need stronger forearms to climb in the Red. Dave's good, even without much of an index finger. So if you guys could get on that, that would be great ;).
In addition to our work at the Solar Collector/Gold Coast area we were fortunate to meet with Rick & Liz Weber, the owners of Muir Valley. Rick took us on a tour of the property, where we made an assessment of some trail work. There is an endless potential for future projects in the Red, both in the PMRP & Muir Valley. And RRGC and Rick and Liz are enthusiastic about us returning in the spring for a bigger project with more volunteer support.
We hit Rocktoberfest on Friday and Saturday nights and worked the Access Fund booth—great time. On Sunday night, we were invited to Dr. Bob Matheny's for a much appreciated post-event dinner/party.
Thanks to Bob, Matt, Rick and Liz for a memorable trip. Now on to Indian Creek!
As reported in August E-News, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho is proposing a climbing ban on its property at Massacre Rocks and making its ban at Castle Rocks permanent due to fears that climbing could potentially have negative impacts on cultural resources at each location. The Access Fund is working with the Boise Climbers Association (BCA), the Eastern Idaho Climbers Coalition (EICC), members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation, the local BLM, and other concerned stakeholders to find a reasonable compromise that allows climbing and protects valuable culture resources.
Recently, Jason Keith (AF Senior Policy Advisor) and R.D. Pascoe (AF Policy Director) travelled to Idaho for several meetings with the Working Group to find possible solutions. The AF, the BCA, and potentially the EICC are drafting a joint comment letter that provides site specific suggestions that accommodate climbing and protect sensitive cultural resources. Members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation, Idaho State and County Officials, and local civic leaders are encouraging the BLM to consider an option that permits climbing. The AF is offering climbing management expertise, funding for research/monitoring, and volunteer stewardship support. Stay tuned for more to come.