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REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF® BAR to be Supporting Sponsors of the Access Fund - Jeep® Climbing Conservation Team
7/28/2011

The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, is excited to announce the Jeep® brand as the title sponsor of the Access Fund’s new traveling Conservation Team, with REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR as the supporting sponsors of the program.

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will employ two, full-time conservation/trail building experts who will travel the country in a new 2011 Jeep Patriot to help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States. The team will work with local climbers to address conservation needs and will provide training on planning and stewardship best practices. Look for the team to hit the road later this summer.

This new program will extend the success of the Access Fund’s existing Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks stewardship programs that help local climbers around the country take care of the places they play. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will provide climbing communities and volunteers with the training and resources they need to address conservation issues before they become dire.

The Access Fund is proud to have additional support from REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR on this important conservation initiative that will result in healthier climbing areas for everyone to enjoy. REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR are leaders in the outdoor industry dedicated to protecting the places we play outdoors through stewardship, volunteerism, and education.

Look for the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team at a climbing area or climbing event near you. Stay tuned to www.accessfund.org for upcoming details about this new program, or to schedule a visit in your area.

 



REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF® BAR to be Supporting Sponsors of the Access Fund - Jeep® Climbing Conservation Team
7/28/2011
The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, is excited to announce the Jeep® brand as the title sponsor of the Access Fund’s new traveling Conservation Team, with REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR as the supporting sponsors of the program.

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will employ two, full-time conservation/trail building experts who will travel the country in a new 2011 Jeep Patriot to help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States. The team will work with local climbers to address conservation needs and will provide training on planning and stewardship best practices. Look for the team to hit the road later this summer.

This new program will extend the success of the Access Fund’s existing Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks stewardship programs that help local climbers around the country take care of the places they play. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will provide climbing communities and volunteers with the training and resources they need to address conservation issues before they become dire.

The Access Fund is proud to have additional support from REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR on this important conservation initiative that will result in healthier climbing areas for everyone to enjoy. REI, Outdoor Research, and CLIF BAR are leaders in the outdoor industry dedicated to protecting the places we play outdoors through stewardship, volunteerism, and education.

Look for the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team at a climbing area or climbing event near you. Stay tuned to www.accessfund.org for upcoming details about this new program, or to schedule a visit in your area.


Access Fund Partners with the Jeep Brand to Mobilize Climbing Conservation Team
7/25/2011

The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, is thrilled to announce the Jeep® brand, as the title sponsor of the Access Fund’s new traveling Conservation Team.
 
The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will employ two full-time conservation and trail building experts who will travel the country in a new 2011 Jeep Patriot to help maintain climbing areas throughout the United States. The team will work with local climbers to address conservation needs and will provide training on planning and stewardship best practices. Look for the team to hit the road later this summer.

This new program will extend the success of the Access Fund’s existing Adopt a Crag and TeamWorks stewardship programs that help local climbers around the country take care of the places they play. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will provide climbing communities and volunteers with the training and resources they need to address conservation issues before they become dire.

The Access Fund is proud to partner with Jeep on this important conservation initiative that will result in healthier climbing areas for everyone to enjoy.

The Jeep brand is committed to supporting groups such as the Access Fund and other organizations that strive to educate the public and promote conservation. The Jeep brand also supports Tread Lightly!, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to promote responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship.

Look for the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team at a climbing area or climbing event near you. Stay tuned to 
www.accessfund.org for upcoming details about this new program, or to schedule a visit in your area. For more information on becoming a member of the Conservation Team, visit www.accessfund.org/employment.



Access Fund Releases Free Climbing News Application for Smart Phone Users
7/19/2011

July 19, 2011. Boulder, CO –The Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment, is excited to announce the release of its new smart phone application.

The free application serves up breaking news in the climbing world—including the latest access news—in one convenient location for smart phone users. The application is available on both the iPhone® and Android® platforms and allows users to browse news feeds from their favorite climbing media outlets, including Alpinist Magazine, Climbing Magazine, Rock & Ice Magazine, Dead Point Magazine, Urban Climber Magazine, the American Alpine Club, and other sources so users are always plugged in to the freshest content in the climbing world.

The applications also allow users to browse the latest in local and national climbing access news from the Access Fund. Optional push notifications allow the Access Fund to notify users when there is a critical access issue that they could help influence through one of the organization’s advocacy programs.

The applications are available through the Apple Store and the Android Market. For more information, visit accessfund.org/apps. Comments and feedback may be sent to appfeedback@accessfund.org.



Final Master Plan for Chimney Rock State Park Contains Significant Improvements for Climbers
7/18/2011

The final Master Plan for Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina, which includes the Rumbling Bald area, was released earlier this month, containing revisions to the 2010 draft that better reflect the popularity of climbing in the Park and may allow access to more climbing areas in the future. Take a look at the new Master Plan here. The Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) played an important role in the development of the revisions, working with the Division of Parks and Recreation to make sure climbers’ needs were met.

North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released the draft master plan for Chimney Rock State Park in late 2010. The park contains the highly popular Rumbling Bald area, site of an Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign project, as well as numerous other historic and potential climbing resources. The Master Plan, presented by the DENR as “a 100-year vision, 25-year master plan and 5-year action,” acts as the blueprint for long-term park management and development, and guides future policy decisions.

The draft Master Plan contained misguided statements about climbing impacts and failed to adequately acknowledge climbers’ previous park planning input. There was no discussion of creating a climbing management plan, an effective way to manage climbing and build cooperation between climbers and land managers. In addition, no mention was made of the possibility for future access to many of the desired climbing and bouldering areas.

CCC and the Access Fund immediately co-wrote a letter to N.C. State Parks and members of the N.C. legislature, outlining climbers’ criticisms and suggesting specific revisions to the plan. Because of the mutual respect and desire to cooperate that both parties showed, the subsequent in-person meeting between the CCC and state park personnel proved very beneficial. Not only was the need for climber-specific revisions to the park’s Master Plan well-received, the long history of cooperation and partnership between climbers and N.C. State Parks was reaffirmed.

Recently released, the final Master Plan is significantly improved, outlining an ongoing cooperative partnership between climbers and the state park, and the possibility of evaluating additional new climbing areas that meet park guidelines. According to the Master Plan, “N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation will work with the climbing community to consider opening additional climbing areas through the development of a comprehensive climbing and bouldering management plan.”

To learn more about the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition, please visit their website.

You can find more information on Chimney Rock State Park, as well as their Master Plan, here.



Access Fund Helps CRAG-VT Take Emergency Stewardship Action to Repair Access Road to Major Local Crags
7/11/2011

The Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) and the Access Fund are pleased to announce that road repairs are now complete at the Bolton Quarry after an unprecedented flood washed out the road on April 26, 2011. A small loan through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) will assist with the cost and jumpstart CRAG-VT fundraising efforts to rebuild their financial reserves for ongoing land management and stewardship.

The damaged road is the main access point to three major crags in the Bolton, Vermont area, including Bolton Quarry, 82 Crag, and the recently acquired Carcass Crag. The severe rainstorm completely destroyed the road and blocked off climbing access to the area. To prevent further damage to neighboring lands, CRAG-VT took immediate action in June to restore the road. The cost of repairs nearly exhausted the climbing organization’s endowment, leaving them with very little buffer for upcoming taxes and other expenses throughout the year.

CRAG-VT has a strong track record of success in land conservation: in the past eight years, the local climbing organization has successfully protected or assisted in efforts to protect climbing access to six different crags in the Bolton area. Their history of good stewardship and strong local support led the Access Fund to amend AFLCC loan guidelines to allow for “emergency stewardship action,” such as flooding, fire, or legal disputes.

The Access Fund realizes that unanticipated events and opportunities may require quick and efficient responses. The amendment to the loan policy will allow the Access Fund to better assist local climbing organizations with time-sensitive projects, especially small loans under $10,000. The emergency loan helps CRAG-VT regain public access and add improvements to reduce the likelihood of future damage, and it puts the organization in a more secure position to cover anticipated and unanticipated expenses. As outlined in national Land Trust Standards and Practices, the Access Fund encourages local climbing organizations to fundraise additional stewardship funds with land conservation projects. CRAG-VT has already initiated online fundraising and plans to repay the loan within one year through fundraising events, some of which will be jointly hosted by the group and the local climbing gym, Petra Cliffs.

About CRAG-VT

Since 1999, CRAG-VT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving access and conservation of Vermont’s climbing resources. We serve the climbing community of Vermont through a variety of mechanisms: preserving and aiding in the protection of climbing opportunities in Vermont by building and maintaining long-term relationships with landowners; serving climbers, land managers, landowners, and the general public as an educational resource for responsible climbing, access status, historical information, species and habitat protection, and legal matters; and promoting responsible stewardship and reducing environmental impacts by conducting trail maintenance, volunteer clean-ups, and producing educational materials. For more information, visit www.cragvt.org.



Xcel Energy Awards The Access Fund $5000 to Conserve Colorado Climbing Areas
7/5/2011


We are pleased to announce that Xcel Energy has awarded the Access Fund $5000 as part of its Environmental Foundation Grants Program. The funds will be used to protect and improve climbing areas at Golden Cliffs Preserve in Golden, CO and Unaweep Canyon, near Grand Junction, CO. 

In addition to the on-going maintenance for protecting these areas such as trash removal, toilet upkeep and insurance compliance, Access Fund will apply these funds to organize Adopt a Crag events in collaboration with the Western Colorado Climbers Coalition and the Colorado Mountain Club. Stay tuned for information on these upcoming events as we’ll need help from our wonderful volunteers to make the most of these work days where we’ll be removing invasive species, reseeding native plants, and removing graffiti at Golden Cliffs. And thanks again to Xcel for their generous support!



ACTION ALERT: Your Input Needed on Recreation Management Plan for Vulture Peak in Arizona
06/22/2011

Your input needed on Recreation Management Plan for Vulture Peak in Arizona

The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department and the Bureau of Land Management are working together to develop a Recreation Management Plan for the Vulture Mountains. The proposed park includes Vulture Peak, a large rock formation near Wickenberg that has some historical climbing routes, dating back to 1967, with Bill Sewrey and Larry Treiber’s ascent up the middle of the East Face. Vulture Peak has several long multi-pitch and aid routes, climbing types that are in short supply in Central Arizona.

The Parks and Recreation Department is requesting input from the public on the Management Plan. Currently, there are four proposed levels of development. None of these options, however, include rock climbing as an approved activity in the park. Maricopa County is getting close to finalizing the park plan: four stakeholder meetings and three public meetings have already been held to collect feedback, and the final public meeting to review the proposed options will take place Tuesday, June 28, in Wickenburg, Maricopa County, Arizona. We need your help to urge the County and BLM to allow climbing access to Vulture Peak.

For those unable to attend the local meetings, there is an online survey where potential park users can voice their opinions on the direction development should take, as well as what recreational activities should be allowed.

Vulture Peak is a raptor nesting site, which may present a potential roadblock to approval of climbing in the park. A possible solution is to restrict climbing during prime nesting months. Let the Parks and Recreation Department know that you would fully respect and abide by any seasonal closures. Demonstrating good stewardship increases the likelihood of incorporating climbing into the Management Plan.

Act now by taking the online survey, and voice your desire to allow climbing access to Vulture Peak!



Roadside in the Red River Gorge closed to public access
6/15/2011

On May 24th, Roadside, a popular crag in the Red River Gorge, was closed to public access until further notice. Landowners are concerned about climber impacts and activities at the well-travelled climbing area. The Access Fund is actively working with the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition to address these concerns and help make Roadside a sustainable climbing area for years to come. It is a privilege to climb on private land; please respect the closure and stay tuned for future updates.

The 80-acre Graining Fork Nature Preserve, commonly known as Roadside, was purchased in 2004 by two climbers, Grant Stephens and John Haight, to protect the property from an impending development. The private landowners extended their gracious act of land conservation by keeping the property open to climbing. Yet, with our increasing numbers, climbers have an impact on the places we climb. Social trails, human waste, litter, and eroded staging areas are not just the landowner’s problem; they are our responsibilities too.

In addition to impacts on the ground, our behavior plays a critical role in keeping climbing areas open. We all love the freedom of hiking an unknown trail, ascending a new line, and spending a day crag-side with our closest friends. Yet, we share the crag with dozens of fellow climbers on any given day, as well as those climbers that came before us and the future generations to come. Staying on established trails, keeping a low profile, and packing it out are just a few ways to protect access. Climbing access is everybody’s responsibility. We ask you to educate others kindly if their actions may be negatively impacting the environment or access to the area. To learn more about how to tread lightly to protect climbing access, visit: http://www.accessfund.org/treadlightly



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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