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

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

Way to go LVCLC!



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



Access Fund Wants Your Input on NPS Fixed Anchor Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TAKE THE SURVEY

 



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

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

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

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

 



Registration open for Red Rock Rendezvous
1/13/2011

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



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

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

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

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

 



Protect Mountaineering on Denali: Attend a NPS Open House in Seattle, WA or Golden, CO
1/12/2011

Denali National Park proposes to raise mountaineering fees 150% from $200 to $500 per climber. As part of the public involvement process prior to making a decision, the National Park Service is hosting two open houses in January to provide information on Denali’s mountaineering program and how the special mountaineering fee is used.

Representatives from the Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association are concerned that the 150% mountaineering fee increase at Denali is unnecessary and unfair, and are looking for ways to cut mountaineering program costs and generate alternative sources of revenue to limit a dramatic fee increase. In these tough economic times, such an unprecedented mountaineering fee increase may price Americans out of their own National Parks, including the world-class climbing on Denali.

Now is the time to learn more about how this proposed fee increase affects you. Please attend an upcoming National Park Service open house in your area and voice your opinions:

Monday, January 17 - 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
REI Flagship Store,
222 Yale Ave. N
Seattle, Washington

Tuesday, January 18 - 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
American Mountaineering Center
710 10th St.
Golden, Colorado

Denali National Park staff will give one 30-40 minute presentation on the mountaineering program and fee at each open house. The park states that official public testimony will not be taken, but staff will be available before and after the presentation to provide information and answer questions.

The NPS is seeking input and ideas regarding two key questions:
1) Is the current mountaineering program the most cost effective, efficient, and safe program we can devise?
2) How much of the cost should be recovered from users, and what options are there for how those costs can be distributed?

Written comments from the public will be accepted through January 31, 2011, and may submitted via email to: DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov or hard copy to: Superintendent, Denali National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755. Look for an action alert and joint Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association comment letter later this month.



National Park Service Releases New Wilderness Policy on Climbing Fixed Anchors
1/11/2011

After years of anticipation and direct advocacy by the Access Fund, the National Park Service has released an updated draft of its wilderness management policies in order to provide accountability, consistency, and continuity in its wilderness stewardship program. The update covers a wide range of topics including the long-waited-for provisions specific to climbing fixed anchors. Iconic climbing areas in the U.S.—including as Yosemite, Zion, Black Canyon, and Rocky Mountain national parks—would be governed by this new policy.

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

This proposed policy recognizes that the occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel, or protection purposes does not necessarily impair wilderness, but it requires prior authorization for the placement of new fixed anchors (replacements or removals may also require park approval). The requirements and process for authorization are to be laid out in each park’s climbing management plan.

The practical outcome of this proposed policy is that climbers would need a permit or some other authorization prior to the hand-placement of new bolts in any national park wilderness area. Most parks currently require no such prior-approval. The public will have 60 days to comment on this proposed policy revision. The Access Fund is currently analyzing the policy and working on an advocacy strategy. Stay tuned to Access Fund E-news for our position statement and an action alert for climber comments.



Access Fund Announces 2010 Sharp End Awards

The Access Fund announced today the winners of its 2010 Sharp End Awards. Each year the Access Fund recognizes individuals and businesses that go above and beyond to volunteer their time and efforts to preserving climbing access and the climbing environment. These recipients stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community, and the Access Fund is honored to present this year's awards to a worthy group of volunteers and activists.

Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award – Rick “Rico” Thompson
We are proud to recognize Rico Thompson with the Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award, a special honor given to lifelong activists of climbing access. Rico’s service to the climbing community pre-dates the Access Fund and spans the nation. As a co-founding board member, Rico helped move the newly formed Access Fund from a volunteer-run group to a fully staffed national organization leading the way to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment. Serving as the AF’s first-ever National Access & Acquisition Director, he played a central role in hundreds of access victories, including the purchase and transfer of the parking area and trailhead at Rumney, New Hampshire to the USFS; the acquisition of Society Turn Crag and Golden Cliffs Preserve in Colorado; the acquisition and transfer of Shelf Road’s Cactus Cliff to the BLM; and the formation of Castle Rock State Park in Idaho. Throughout the 1990s, Rico organized the AF’s National Trails Initiative with legendary trail guru Jim Angell. From 1994 through 2010 Rico served as President of the Access Fund Land Foundation (AFLF) and worked closely with the Access Fund board and staff to transition AFLF holdings to the Access Fund for future management and protection. He continues to serve as Regional Coordinator for the Colorado Front Range, and we are honored to continue working with one of the nation’s key figures in climbing activism and conservation for many more years to come.

Bebie Leadership Award – Tom Addison
Access Fund is honored to recognize Tom Addison for his outstanding leadership in protecting Jailhouse Rock in Sonora California. He has maintained positive relationships between climbers and landowners of Jailhouse Rock since the 1990s, working with multiple owners, the county, and the climbing community to address their concerns. With the new subdivision going through in 2010, Tom contacted the Access Fund and played a critical role in working with the landowner to ensure permanent access for climbers. With the conservation and access easements secured, Addison is leading the way to locally fundraise for the Unlock Jailhouse campaign. Tom started working on access issues in the 1980’s at Farley Ledge in Western Massachusetts and has been an Access Fund member since 1992. For over twenty years, Tom has worked to keep crags open in Stanislaus National Forest and the Sonora area.

Reese Martin Award – Jim Pinter-Lucke
We are proud to recognize Access Fund Southern California Regional Coordinator Jim Pinter-Lucke as the recipient of the 2010 Reese Martin Award for the leadership and support he has given to climbing areas all over Southern California. Jim came on board with the Access Fund in 2008 and has worked nonstop on a long list of efforts to conserve and protect climbing areas, including organizing two Adopt a Crags each year at Tahquitz and Suicide to rehabilitate trails and install climber trail signs, driving five to eight hours from LA to support Adopt a Crags in Bishop CA and Yosemite, supporting the Friends of Williamson Rock at U.S. Forest Service meetings, and representing the Access Fund at many events. In 2010 Jim successfully launched a new local climbing organization, the Idyllwild Climbers Association. Over the past two years Jim’s passion to protect and preserve climbing areas in Southern California has made a great impact. We look forward to working with Jim for many years to come.

Sharp End Award – Jeff Brown
We are proud to present a Sharp End Award to Jeff Brown, founder of the Allied Climbers of San Diego (ACSD) and a tireless advocate for balancing the interests of climbers with other land values and user groups. Jeff’s efforts have led to more targeted and less restrictive raptor closures in the Cleveland National Forest, greater understanding and compliance within the climbing community of land manager rules and obligations, and significant progress on other access issues in the southern California region. Always quick to point out that ACSD has been a group effort, Jeff has nonetheless been the single greatest force to bring the San Diego climbing community together to work for the common good. Though he recently stepped away from his formal leadership role in ACSD, his legacy will live on through the organization’s continued success. Thank you, Jeff!

Sharp End Award – Bryan Pletta
We are excited to honor Bryan Pletta, president of the New Mexico Climbers Resource and Advocacy Group (CRAG) and owner of Albuquerque’s Stone Age Climbing Gym with a Sharp End Award for his leadership in the New Mexico climbing community. Also a longtime Access Fund Regional Coordinator, Bryan has organized many Adopt a Crag projects to build and repair climbing area trails throughout New Mexico and has worked proactively to maintain positive landowner relations to preserve climbing access at Datil/Enchanted Tower. This past year Bryan met with local climbers and the U.S. Forest Service to address a wilderness fixed anchors controversy and negotiate a compromise. Bryan’s dedicated and diplomatic leadership has been a key asset to New Mexico climbers for years.

Sharp End Award – Kenji Haroutunian
The Access Fund is honored to present a Sharp End Award to Kenji Haroutunian, president of the Friends of Joshua Tree (FOJT) for his dedicated activism to keep the rock in Joshua Tree National Park open to climbers. Kenji has been instrumental in developing and organizing FOJT’s annual Climb Smart event (just completing its 13th year), which partners climbing companies, athletes, and the local Joshua Tree community to support FOJT, Joshua Tree Search & Rescue, and other key climbing advocacy groups. This year Kenji also rallied climbers to participate in Joshua Tree’s General Management Plan, which could affect climbing access and conservation for the next 15-20 years. Thanks to Kenji for his longtime support for Joshua Tree climbing.

Sharp End Award – Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI)
For 20 years, REI has been dedicated to protecting the places we climb and conserving the climbing environment. REI’s support of both the Adopt a Crag program and the TeamWorks youth stewardship program has grown local volunteerism and long-term stewardship of climbing areas tremendously. In 2010, REI increased their support of the climbing community through the REI VISA card and proceeds from BANFF Mountain Film Festival. We thank REI for their passion and commitment to bringing communities together to protect the places we climb.

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Access Fund Helps American Alpine Club Secure 40 Acres for New River Gorge Climbers’ Campground
12/22/2010

The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has provided the American Alpine Club (AAC) with an 18-month loan to assist with the purchase of 40 acres in Fayetteville, West Virginia adjacent to the New River Gorge National River. The land will be improved as a campground.

The loan from the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign will provide permanent parking access for Junk Yard Wall and walking access to other popular crags such as the Bridge Area, as well as providing a campground that will enhance the climbing experience for visitors traveling to climb on West Virginia’s beautiful sandstone walls.

“We are building on the tradition that started with the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch,” says AAC Executive Director Phil Powers. “Lodging options within walking distance from great climbing supports the climbing lifestyle we all enjoy. We hope to create a facility that meets climbers’ needs and adds opportunities for climbers to gather and share their stories.”

The New River Alliance of Climbers helped advise the AAC on the best location for the campground and is in full support of the project. “We are excited to be in this partnership with the American Alpine Club, Access Fund, and National Park Service to grow the recreational infrastructure in a quality direction for climbers,” says New River Alliance of Climbers President Gene Kistler.

The AAC hopes to transfer the property to the National Park Service (NPS) to be co-managed by AAC and NPS as a campground for climbers and other visitors. The proposed campground is expected to house 50-60 campsites, bathrooms and showers, a cooking pavilion, library or meeting space, and manager’s quarters. As with other AAC campgrounds, the property will be developed specifically with climbers in mind and will allow for extended stays at inexpensive rates. Completion of the campground is expected to take at least two years.


 



Omnibus Lands Bill Could Affect Climbing at Oak Flat
12/14/2010
The Access Fund is keeping tabs on a huge public lands bill that, though unlikely, could potentially pass Congress during the lame duck session. The ‘‘Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2010’’ includes provisions that would enact the controversial Southeast Arizona Land Exchange Act.

The Access Fund and Arizona climbing community have long worked to protect climbing in central Arizona, first through the Friends of Queen Creek and then the Queen Creek Coalition (QCC). The Southeast Arizona Land Exchange bill would destroy hundreds of existing roped climbing routes and thousands of bouldering problems by transferring US Forest Service lands to Resolution Copper Mining (RCM) for a block cave mine. For more background see here and here. If the Omnibus bill is passed, the Arizona Land Exchange will move forward, pending a public National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. If the Omnibus does not pass, the Arizona Land Exchange bill is dead and will need to be reintroduced in the new session of Congress where it likely will quickly gain support in the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives.

David Salisbury, CEO of RCM, says that, “We’ve encouraged Congress to move the bill that the Senate Energy Committee has reported.” In other words, RCM says they are advocating for the current language of the bill to remain unchanged if it is reintroduced next year, including all the provisions to compensate the climbing community and the required upfront environmental analysis. However, if the Omnibus does not pass this year, the final language of the proposed law is up to the new Congress next year. Several key members of Congress remain opposed to the NEPA provision. While the bill, if passed, would result in a huge loss to the climbing community, many think the removal of the upfront NEPA provision would be even worse, thus eliminating an important federal process that climbers, conservationists, and other groups can use to hold RCM accountable.

This past year strategic disagreements in the climbing community split the QCC into two groups: one that retains the QCC name and works directly with the copper company to obtain the “most net rock climbing,” and the Concerned Climbers of Arizona who advocate for continued recreational access to climbing areas that are threatened by development or other forms of encroachment. 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.

Additional proposed laws in the Omnibus of interest to climbers include new national parks, designated wilderness areas (including a proposal in Washington State supported and in part shaped by the Access Fund), protections for rivers and trails, and Access Fund-backed support for funding to purchase important lands for conservation and outdoor recreation. Given Congress’s packed legislative calendar the remainder of the year and the many complications in this bill, many pundits now think it a longshot that the lame duck Congress will pass a public lands Omnibus package at all in 2010.

For more information, stay tuned to the Access Fund’s E-news.



Protect Climbing Access at Chimney Rock State Park

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently released a draft Chimney Rock State Park Master Plan that significantly restricts rock climbing. We need your help to ensure continued climbing access across the park!

While access to the south side of Rumbling Bald Mountain would continue under the proposed master plan, climbing in many other areas would be prohibited, including the north side of Rumbling Bald Mountain and the south face of Round Top Mountain (“Ghost Town”). The draft plan also prohibits climbing access at World's Edge (Cane Creek), Chimney Rock Attraction, Blue Rock (Bat Cave), Cloven Cliffs, and Weed Patch Mountain.

The current master plan draft lacks a clear process for evaluating and considering responsible climbing access while still balancing the protection of natural resources.

Please take a moment to use our easy letter-writing tool to submit comments to Chimney Rock State Park by December 13th to encourage access to historical climbing areas and outline a clear process for evaluating new climbing opportunities.



Access Fund Secures Jailhouse Rock – Asks for Further Support
11/18/2010
The Access Fund is pleased to announce permanent access has been secured to Jailhouse Rock near Sonora, California through the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign. However more help is needed from the climbing community for long-term conservation.

While private landowners have historically allowed climbing at Jailhouse (named after a nearby state penitentiary), a recently approved subdivision which included the trailhead and initial approach trail threatened future access. Plans to further subdivide the land adjacent to Jailhouse in the coming years could have blocked access even further, since the trail would need to cross multiple new lots purchased by private landowners who may be less inclined to grant public access.

With the future access to Jailhouse at risk by a quickly approaching subdivision, local climber and long-time access supporter Tom Addison contacted the Access Fund and the landowner for help. After several months of working with the landowners, the Access Fund reached an agreement to protect Jailhouse Rock through a complex conservation development partnership. A short-term $100,000 Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign loan will secure a conservation and access easement, ensuring permanent protection and access to Jailhouse Rock. Local climber and investor Steve Russell is giving his support by providing short-term capital to the Land Conservation Campaign for this project. However the Access Fund will need donor support for the access implementation and long-term conservation phase.

Jailhouse Rock boasts up to 200 feet of overhanging amphitheater on the western face of a basalt lava flow known locally as Table Rock. “For 12+ and harder routes, Jailhouse offers arguably the best winter stamina sport climbing in the West,” states Tom Addison, who has been climbing at Jailhouse Rock and maintaining positive relations with landowners since 1990.

Jailhouse Rock is a major resource for the Bay Area, Yosemite, and Sacramento climbing communities during the fall, winter, and spring months when other sport crags are covered in snow. “Jailhouse has been formative in my climbing,” says pro athlete Alex Honnold. “It has one of the best concentrations of hard routes in the country, as well as one of the best climates. You can climb there any day between September and June without even having to check the weather. It's an amazing crag.”

Although popular, climbers had previously kept a “no guidebook, no publicity” policy at the request of the private landowners. While this will no longer be a stringent policy, climbers are asked to respect the fact that Jailhouse is still on private land. While the Access Fund has secured a conservation easement to protect climbing access, it is more important than ever to maintain a good relationship with the landowners.

The work is far from over
Although Jailhouse is now technically protected under a conservation easement, the current approach trail still crosses private land, which is up for sale. And the historical parking area is also subject to break-ins and misuse by non-climbers looking to access Tulloch Lake for partying or swimming.

The Access Fund has secured a route to the cliffs through a different access point, but it still needs your donations to secure the funding needed to build a new parking area with trailhead facilities, pay for the construction of a security gate, as well as cover legal, surveying, and other transactional costs.

Please give to the Unlock Jailhouse fund today (www.accessfund.org/jailhouse)! The Access Fund needs to raise $40,000 in the next 12 months to cover the expenses necessary to provide the new access point and protect and steward Jailhouse forever.

Access details
The existing parking area and access trail will remain open for the immediate future. Once the new gate, parking area, and trailhead are funded and built, the old access route will be restored to natural conditions and closed. At that time, climbers will need a gate code to access the cliffs, since the area is leased for grazing horses. Stay tuned for updated access information, including the code and important conditions of access, www.accessfund.org.

Special thanks to the landowners, Marta and Steve Weinstein, who have graciously allowed climbing at Jailhouse for the last 12 years and will continue to own the property and work with climbers to ensure that Jailhouse Rock remains in its current and natural state. Without the local expertise, passion, and dedication of local climbers Tom Addison, Brian Poulsen, and Access Fund Regional Coordinator Paul Minault, this victory for the climbing community would not have been possible.



Keep Skull Hollow Campground Open for Smith Rock Climbers
11/12/2010

With little notice and no public input, the US Forest Service-owned Skull Hollow Campground near Smith Rock was closed on October 31st for five months. Your help is needed to keep Skull Hollow Campground open for Smith Rock climbers year-round.

Because the USFS failed to post no camping signs and failed to provide any public notice of the campground closure, the weekend of November 6-7 saw dozens of climbers camped just outside the closed gate. There was zero public input or consultation about the 5 month closure with local climbers or the Smith Rock Group who have historically helped to fund the pumping of the toilets and cleanup of the site.

After several calls and e-mails from local climbers, the local USFS office agreed (for this winter only) to keep the site open longer. However, the USFS only agreed to add the months of November and March on either side of a 3 months closure (Dec/Jan/Feb)—months when climbers typically frequent the campground.

Forest Service staff says that if they hear from enough people in support of keeping Skull Hollow open more of the year they might change the closure period. But they are about to sign a new 5-year contract with the campground host—so we need your comments as soon as possible!

Please use our easy letter-writing tool to urge the USFS to protect the camping opportunities at Skull Hollow.




Your Chance to Give Input on Proposed Denali and Rainer Mountaineering Fee Increases
11/12/2010

In September we told you about potential drastic fee increases to climb Denali and Rainier. Since that time, the Access Fund has been working with partners American Mountain Guides Association and American Alpine Club to get a public process put in place to evaluate the current mountaineering programs and associated budgets to identify the best way to service climbers—and the appropriate fee levels. Both parks agreed to a public process and have announced a series of public meetings to discuss their mountaineering programs. These meetings will provide climbers the opportunity to discuss and understand aspects of the current climbing programs at Denali and Rainier and help the parks identify viable options for designing the programs and how to pay for them. Climbers are encouraged to attend.

Mount Rainier National Park will host public meetings at the following locations in late November and December:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 7-9 PM
Mountaineers Building
2302 N. 30th St.
Tacoma, WA 98403-3323

Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 7-9 PM
Seattle Mountaineers Building
7700 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98115

Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 7-9 PM
Mount Rainier National Park Education Center
55210 238th Ave. E.
Ashford, WA 98304

Denali National Park will host public meetings on their mountaineering and cost recovery program in Talkeetna and Anchorage in December and in Seattle and Denver early in January 2011. Dates and specific meeting locations will be announced in the near future on the Denali’s website at www.nps.gov/dena, or contact either Chief Park Ranger Peter Armington at (907.683.9521) or Public Affairs Officer Kris Fister (907.683.9583) for more information.

The public comment period for both Denali and Rainier started on November 1, 2010 and will continue through January 31, 2011. Email or write each park directly about their programs at the following addresses:

Superintendent
ATTN: Climbing Cost Recovery Fee
Mount Rainier National Park
55210 238th Ave. E.
Ashford, WA 98304

Superintendent
ATTN: Climbing Cost Recovery Fee
Denali National Park and Preserve
P.O. Box 9, Denali Park, AK 99755
DENA_mountainfeecomments@nps.gov

Mount Rainier National Park has set up a website for the public to email comment at www.nps.gov/mora/parkmgmt/climbingfee.htm.


 



Access Fund Gathers Land Managers and Climbers in Vegas
11/2/2010
On October 22 through 24 the Access Fund brought federal land managers and field-level personnel who are involved in recreation policy together to share best practices in climbing management.

Over 80 land managers and climbers from around the United States gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Access Fund hosted National Climbing Management Summit. Federal land managers from the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and US Forest Service outlined their management practices at climbing areas such as Yosemite, Red Rocks, the Black Canyon, Indian Creek, Denali National Park, and White Mountains National Forest. Together with climbers, the group tackled complicated climbing management issues related to cultural resources, fixed anchors, sensitive species, and wilderness designations.

With land management offices starved for resources, both human and financial, the easiest way to deal with management challenges like climbing is often to restrict access or just close the area down. This summit was meant to provide land managers with proven tactics to address common climbing management issues, bring consistency to policy and enforcement, and impose fewer unnecessary climbing restrictions.

“There are a lot of misperceptions out there that are tied to climbing issues,” says Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith. “With better communication, land managers will be more prepared to understand and meet climbing management challenges and be less reactive. Our hope was to provide them with a network of people to go to for solutions to climbing issues they might be experiencing.”

The group spent a day in the field at Red Rocks, observing climbers. The rest of the conference was spent on presentations and discussions related to climbing techniques, management best practices, and how climbers interact with the surrounding environment.

The Access Fund is working with its agency partners to create an online information center that will provide contact information for planning experts, model management plans, and other planning resources that will assist with solving future climbing policy challenges.


Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition Preserves Access to Mother’s Buttress in Unaweep Canyon
10/15/2010
We are pleased to report that the Western Colorado Climber’s Coalition (WCCC) closed on the 13 acre Mother’s Buttress parcel in Unaweep Canyon, securing climbing access that was threatened by private property restrictions. The effort was made possible with the help of a $10,000 grant from the Access Fund, a $5,000 grant from REI, and donated services by Telluride surveyor Dave Foley, Grand Junction engineer Marc Kenney and Telluride attorney Steve Johnson, Western Colorado Regional Coordinator for the Access Fund, not to mention the dedication of the WCCC.

The granite cliffs of Unaweep are unique in the region, where most climbing venues are soft sandstone. Most of the climbing in Unaweep Canyon is on private property. About 20 years ago, the Access Fund and local climbers purchased a number of lots in the canyon to secure climbing access. Over time, some of these parcels changed hands or never had formal recreation or conservation easements that established climber access in perpetuity. Recently, a few of the parcels have come up for sale, leaving climbers scrambling to negotiate with the landowners or raise funds to purchase the cliffs outright.

“One of the major hurdles for us is that most climbers tend to be ‘rugged individualists’ and don’t have deep pockets or the inclination to be part of a team effort, even when our crags are at stake,” said Jesse Zacher, President of the WCCC.

Local climbers John and Marti Peterson heard about the threatened access to Mother’s Buttress and stepped forward to help. Having been involved in a climbing access negotiation in Connecticut prior to their move to Gunnison, the Peterson’s understood the importance of private citizens stepping up to ensure access. They agreed to purchase the parcel with a promise that the WCCC would raise funds to buy the cliffs from them. The Petersons are left with a home site with a beautiful crag in their backyard and a joint venture with local climbers to build a required driveway and parking area for climbing access.

The nearby Moab-based Friends of Indian Creek have donated a kiosk for the trailhead to educate visiting climbers about the Mothers Buttress partnership, Leave No Trace ethics, and club activities. The WCCC is working hard to engineer the driveway and parking area, and is seeking donations of culvert and pipe.

Neighboring crags are also for sale and interested investors are urged to contact the Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition to find our more information. http://westernslopeclimbers.blogspot.com.


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