LAC Final Meeting Scheduled, Red River Gorge, KY
By Bill Strachan, Executive Director Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition
On Tuesday February 19, 2008 the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) process for Red River Gorge will wrap up in one final review meeting at the Daniel Boone National Forest Supervisors Office in Winchester, Kentucky. The last two LAC meetings held in January 2008 have focused on potential management actions if recreational impacts exceed LAC standards. In relation to climbing, 245 climbsites in Red River Gorge have been found to have measurable impacts but only 25 of theses sites exceed LAC standards. A climbsite is a staging area at the base of one or more climbing routes. Proposed management actions to mitigate impacts above standards include trail relocation, climbsite modifications using native materials to reduce size and erosion, and site hardening using non-native materials. Additional management actions in support of the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalitions goal to improve all climbsites include signage, education efforts, and evaluation of ways to reduce impacts even where LAC standards are not exceeded.
Undoubtedly the results of the Red River Gorge LAC process are precedent setting and not just for climbing. Throughout the process climbers have worked hard to make sure that LAC efforts to limit impacts do not at the same time limit climbing. The final results of LAC are expected to lead to a Climbing Management Plan that will provide procedures and guidelines for new routes and areas to be developed. This outcome would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of the climbers involved in almost monthly meetings over the last three years: Dwight Bradburn, RRGCC Treasurer; Shannon Stuart-Smith; past RRGCC Executive Director and Board Member; Jim Holzman, past RRGCC Board Member; Chris Carr, Recreational Ecologist; and Rita Wehner, USFS Backcountry Ranger.
North Cascades National Park Agrees to Allow New Climbing Routes in the Skagit River Gorge, WA
Since 2003, the Access Fund has worked with climbing activists in Washington State to respond to concerns of the North Cascades National Park regarding climbing and bouldering impacts in the Skagit River Gorge near Newhalem, Washington. These areas host high quality sport climbing and extensive bouldering www.misha.org/Climbing/Newhalem/Map1.html. Unfortunately, much of the bouldering requires extensive cleaning of moss and lichen.
In 2003 climbers and park officials agreed to a moratorium on the development of new climbing routes and bouldering problems pending the establishment of a climbing management plan (CMP). The CMP could authorize new route development after environmental and cultural resource surveys are completed. Since 2003, climbers have fulfilled their end of the bargain, but the National Park Service was unable, for a variety of reasons, to complete a new CMP that allowed new route development. For more background, see www.accessfund.org/pdf/RossLake-NRA_12-03.pdf.
In September 2007, climbers met with North Cascades National Parks new Superintendent and Chief Ranger to discuss the ongoing new route ban. The parties agreed to a compromise that would allow new climbing routes on cliffs that already experienced climbing traffic prior to 2003, while the balance of the Skagit River Gorge could be reopened following the completion of an ongoing general management planning process for the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
This climbing access success is a result of the dogged activism of the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) and the National Park Services flexibility towards balancing recreation and resource protection.
For more information on whats open and whats not, stay tuned to the WCC website: www.washingtonclimbers.org/Climbing/.
SCC Update, GA, AL, TN
By Paul Morley, Board Member, Southeastern Climbers Coalition
During the past couple of months, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) held several comps and trail days in areas such as Boat Rock, GA (newly purchased by the SCC), Jamestown, AL (owned by the SCC), Castle Rock, TN (leased by the SCC), and Sunset Rock, TN.
During the annual "Float the Boat" competition, several climbers participated in a pre-comp Adopt-a-Crag cleanup and later pulled down on slabs of Georgia Granite. New access was gained to the Jamestown cliff line where climbers and volunteers spent the day clearing a new road and parking area for the new trail. Castlerock, a recent lease by the SCC, was also a hotspot for trail work as several bags of trash were carried out from the area, and some anchors were replaced. During November, climbers and volunteers worked to preserve the trails around Sunset Rock, one of Tennessee's finest areas.
Over the past few months, trail work has been extensive and work hours have been long, but it is a small price to pay for knowing that a crag is OPEN. The SCC is looking forward to the next few months as many more trail days and competitions will be held, and with any luck, new areas will be opened.
Hyalite Canyon Road Re-Opened for Ice Climbing Bozeman, MT
By Joe Josephson, Access Fund Regional Coordinator, MT
Following the recent closure of the Hyalite Canyon Road by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the resulting loss of ice climbing access in the Hyalite area, local climbing activists rallied to persuade USFS to reopen the road for day-use access into this ice climbing Mecca.
As a result, on January 3, 2008, the Bozeman Ranger District reopened the Hyalite Road much to the satisfaction of ice climbers, backcountry skiers, and other winter recreation enthusiasts. The re-opening restores the hard-earned access to the upper reaches of the canyon originally obtained by the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition. The USFS, City of Bozeman, and Gallatin County view the current situation as a test-run for future management of Hyalite in winter.
The road issue at Hyalite has a long and contentious history. USFS has pushed to close the road while a broad range of local Bozeman interests have lobbied for access.
Local ice climbers and backcountry skiers hope that these latest developments signal a compromise that will allow for future recreational access in the Hyalite area. For more background and information on this issue, see www.montanaclimbers.org or Email: email@example.com.
Notification of Action in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV
Beginning January 7, 2008, the Bureau of Land Management will be begin renovating the Late Night parking lot in the southern half of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, 4.7 miles west of the junction of State Route 159 and State Route 160. The project is anticipated to be completed within four months.
The Late Night parking lot is a popular access to multiple trails for climbing, mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian use. As part of the renovation, the road leading north to Black Velvet Canyon will be temporarily affected and may be closed intermittently or entirely due to its proximity to the construction site.
The parking lot renovation is being funded by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act. The renovation will add a new bathroom for the area, hitching posts for horses, about 70 parking spots for cars, and six pull-though spots designed for vehicles with horse trailers.
This notice is for disclosure purposes only. Specific comments are not being sought through this notice.
As always, your questions are welcome concerning projects. Should you have any questions regarding this action or would like a map showing the alternate routes to access hiking and rock climbing in Black Velvet Canyon, please contact the Las Vegas Field Office at 702-515-5138 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Trust for Public Land adds the 360-acre Owl's Head Cliff Property to the White Mountain National Forest, NH
TPL Press Release
Benton, NH The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced the protection of 360 acres of land, which feature the towering granite cliff face called Owl's Head, as part of the White Mountain National Forest.
The large parcel of land, located off Route 25 in Benton, New Hampshire, is a popular attraction for rock climbers and hikers and is only a half mile from the Appalachian Trail. The property is bound on three sides by the White Mountain National Forest and has over 6,000 feet of frontage along Oliverian Brook. In addition four, fledgling peregrine falconsmore than at any other site in the statewere observed on the cliff this past year by New Hampshire Audubon.
Last fall, at the urging of local citizens, members of the rock climbing community, and staff of the White Mountain National Forest, TPL negotiated an agreement for the purchase of this important property. On August 30, 2007, TPL purchased the property to temporarily keep it off the market while the Forest Service worked to purchase it. Funding to protect the property was secured through the Land and Water Conservation Fund by the New Hampshire congressional delegation led by U.S. Senator Judd Gregg, a member of the Senate Interior Appropriations subcommittee. A grant from the Access Fund helped enable TPL to purchase the property.
Update on Lost Horse Crag, MT
As a result of continued political activism on the part of the Bitterroot Climbers Coalition, the Ravalli County Commissioners indefinitely tabled (i.e suspended) their vote on a proposal to re-open mining at the Lost Horse Quarry. The proposal would have authorized mining at the quarry, a popular climbing and recreation area for at least five years.
The Commissioners' decision to table the vote represents a big victory for climbers who lobbied vigorously against the proposal. Because the Commissioners decided to suspend the vote as opposed to actually voting against it, climbers may need to mobilize against the proposal in the future.
The climbers are now focusing their organizing efforts on turning the quarry into a climbing park. If you want to help, please email a brief message to email@example.com.
You can also help right away by sending a letter to the Darby Ranger station. Please tell District Ranger Chuck Oliver that you support the effort to turn Lost Horse Quarry and its surrounding areas into a recognized climbing recreation area.
Chuck Oliver, District Ranger
Darby Ranger District
P.O. Box 388
Darby, MT 59828
Red River Gorge, KY LAC Process Nears Completion
By Bill Strachan, Executive Director Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition
The Limits of Acceptable Change process for Red River Gorge is nearing an end. After two more LAC Workshops scheduled for January 2008, the recommended alternative is expected to be given to Daniel Boone Forest Supervisor, Jerome Perez for a final decision. The alternative that the LAC group strongly supports is Alternative 2, Balance Recreation and Protection of Resources. The end of the LAC process brings climbers hope that the development of new sport routes in the Gorge will be allowed to resume. A moratorium on new sport route development has been in place for almost five years. The moratorium was initiated during the revision of the Forest Plan for the entire forest and was extended through the three year LAC process.
Another ongoing Forest Service process of interest to climbers is the development of a Heritage Resource Management Plan for Red River Gorge. LAC participants were updated on the status of this process by Forest Archaeologist, Chris Jenkins during the most recent workshop held on December 6, 2007. Mr. Jenkins explained that he is currently working on digesting an 800-page report documenting heritage resources in the Gorge. He said that he needs a couple more months working on the report before he can write the management plan. He thinks that after he is through digesting the report, he can write the Heritage Resource Management Plan in about six weeks. Throughout these Forest Service processes the RRGCC has periodically consulted with the Access Funds Policy Director, Jason Keith.
Moab BLM Management Plan Update, UT
The BLMs Moab Field Office manages 1.8 million acres of public land including classic climbing areas such as the Fisher Towers, Castleton Tower, the Rectory and dozens of other well-traveled areas. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now finalizing a management plan that will affect recreational access as well as several other issues such as off-road vehicle use, mining, oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, cultural resource protection, and natural resource issues. Climbing is given light treatment, but those wishing to review the implications of this plan and comment on its proposals may write by November 30 to:
Bureau of Land Management
Moab Field Office - RMP Comments
82 East Dogwood
Moab, UT 84532
(435) 259-2100 -
Alternatives B and C (the latter preferred by the BLM) both create recreation focus areas in the Fisher Towers, Castleton, and Potash Road climbing areas, and will generally reduce opportunities for OHV use and the threat of oil and gas drilling. No alternative directs a detailed climbing policy, although Mexican Spotted Owl habitat and heightened Visual Resource Management areas may impose climbing restrictions or the use of new fixed anchors in the Kane Creek, Courthouse Pasture, Behind the Rocks and lower Mill Creek areas. For more information check out: www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab/planning/draft_rmp_eia.html.
Canyons of the Ancients Draft Management Plan Comment Period, CO
By Steve Johnson, Colorados West Slope Regional Coordinator
The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (CANM) near Cortez, Colorado has released a draft Resource Management Plan. It is available for review at the following website: www.blm.gov/rmp/canm/deis.html. The draft RMP comment period ends on January 25, 2008 after several local public meetings are held.
There is some new climbing activity in CANM on weathered Dakota sandstone, mostly around Yellow Jacket Crag. These routes mostly consist of bolted face climbs; other areas are being explored and new-routed as well. The RMP preferred alternative (# 5) reportedly proposes to restrict rock climbing to unidentified designated areas, with little documentation or analysis of climbing impacts (relative to permitted oil and gas and grazing activities), to the consternation of local climbers. Public comment supportive of expanded rock climbing opportunities and freedoms, emphasizing that climbing could be expanded and also managed to avoid archeological resource impacts, may help modify the final plan.
A new climbers organization, the 4CCC (Four Corners Climbing Coalition), has formed in the Cortez/Dolores area to address the proposed CANM climbing restrictions and other regional issues, including the recent Hawkins Preserve bouldering area closure. The Hawkins Preserve is located in southern Cortez along McElmo Creek and was established to protect archaeological and natural features. It contains some fine bouldering along hard Dakota sandstone bluffs. The 4CCC is working with the Hawkins Preserve owners and The Access Fund to try to resolve liability and resource protection concerns. 4CCC is considering Access Fund affiliation and is welcoming new members. 4CCC can be contacted at: www.freewebs.com/4cornersclimbing/. For more information, contact Ivan Messinger at (970) 739.8072 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lost Horse Canyon Update, MT
By Steve Porcella, Bitterroot Climbers Coalition
Things are looking bad for Lost Horse (see www.accessfund.org/display/page/AA/74 for background). Currently the Ravalli County Road Department has submitted a new proposal to the Commissioners to mine rip rap for 5 years. However, because no financial numbers are attached to this proposal and because the last proposals costs were grossly over projected, the Bitterroot Climbers Coalitions (BCC) focus is on repudiating this new proposal as another ill-planned scheme that will surely cost the citizens of Ravalli County too much money while also destroying a valuable recreational asset.
The Lost Horse homeowners are again providing numbers that say Lost Horse rip rap mining is more expensive than the local quarry owners are offering to provide the County. The BCC is asking everyone to send letters to Bitterroot Star, Ravalli Republic and County Commissioners saying that this new proposal is yet again more expensive than what local quarry owners are offering and is a waste of county tax payer money.
The BCC feels confident if we focus on the underlying fiscal implications of this proposal the three commissioners will vote against this new proposal. For more information see www.bitterrootclimbers.org or email email@example.com
Moss Rock Preserve, AL
By Ken Wills, President, Friends of Moss Rock Preserve
On November 5, the Hoover City Council unanimously voted to authorize the Mayor to purchase 79 acres next to Moss Rock Preserve and Simmons and Gwin schools. City ownership of the land will help protect and enhance Moss Rock, as well as potentially provide a new trail up the gorge from Moss Rock to the highest waterfall in the area. Mayor Petelos and City Council need to be thanked for their great work in making this happen.
Now the question is: What will come next? First, the city will have to close the deal and obtain title to the land. Second, the city will likely decide what portions of the land are suitable and needed for school expansion. These areas will likely be on the roadside ridgetops next to the schools and will possibly include the huge, infamous dirt pile that is already cleared and nearly ready for development. A traditional park has been suggested as a possibility for the former dirt pile area as well. The waterfall gorge on a fork of Hurricane Branch behind Simmons School is still in pristine condition, and the Mayor already mentioned a possible trail in that area.
Petzl Roc Trip Brings In Over $30,000 to Preserve Recreational Access, KY
Joint Petzl/Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition press release
This fall Petzl America and the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC) made history with an unprecedented effort to preserve climbing and recreational access in eastern Kentucky. By joining forces for this years annual Rocktoberfest fundraiser and climbers festival, Petzl and the RRGCC raised over $32,000a ten-fold increase from last years event earnings and more than triple the initial goal of raising $10,000 for the RRGCC. Fundraising power was bolstered by a $10,000 matching grant from the Petzl Foundation that provided added incentive for climbers to pitch in for climbing and recreation access in the Red River Gorge area.
In 2004, climbers and advocates of the RRGCC purchased the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve, a 750-acre plot of undeveloped land now being developed for climbing, hiking, mountain-biking, and human-powered recreation access. On October 1214, an international crowd of nearly 1,000 climbers gathered for a weekend of clinics, competitions, and celebration. The money raised during the Rocktoberfest weekend will help cover the RRGCCs annual $29,000 mortgage payment (due through 2013) to protect the Pendergrass-Murray Preserve. Without funds to cover the yearly mortgage, the preserve could fall into the hands of interested oil developers, which would shut down climbing on the land.
Fundraising by climbers to preserve access even made national headlines! This years RocTrip/Rocktoberfests philanthropy efforts piqued the interest of National Public Radios Its Only A Game. A segment covering Rocktoberfest aired on the nationally broadcast radio program on October 27. Globally, the event generated buzz on 8a (www.8a.nu), the Internets most widely trafficked sport-climbing site, which now spotlights the Red River Gorge as a world-class climbing destination.
This years Petzl RocTrip showed what can be done when a company with heart and soul gets behind something it believes in, says Robb Shurr, Director of Marketing and Business Development for the Access Fund, a national non-profit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and preserving the climbing environment. Having places to climb is fundamental to Petzls business, but they took it one step further and got behind a local access issue with national importance and really pushed for success. Its exactly this sort of involvement, vision, and stewardship that will keep climbing and recreational areas preserved and viable for the future. Shurr continues, The Access Fund has always been proud to have Petzl as one of its biggest and longest standing partnerswere especially proud after seeing the success of this years RocTrip.
We owe the success of this event to the local communitythe volunteers, the RRGCC Board, area businesses, and the 1,000-plus people who came out and put dollars down in support of the Pendergrass-Murray Preserve, says John Evans, Marketing Director for Petzl America. I highly recommend other outdoor companies include this outstanding grassroots event in their outreach programs for 2008. I guarantee Petzl will be back to support this great cause.
The success of Petzl RocTrip/Rocktoberfest 2007 was supported by The Access Fund, Avery Brewing Company, Five Ten, Keen, the climber-friendly Miguels Pizza, La Sportiva, Prana, Red Bull, Red River Gorge Cabin Rentals, Red River Outdoors, Rock and Ice magazine, Sterling Ropes, and The Warriors Way/Desiderata Institute.
Petzl Roc Trip, now in its sixth year, successfully brings the international climbing community together in celebration of the sport, from New Yorks Shawangunks to British Columbias Squamish to Kalymnos, Greece and Millau in the south of France. Open to climbers of all ability levels, the 2007 Petzl Roc Trip/Rocktoberfest featured competitions, clinics, and celebrations of climbing; raised funds and awareness for local and national access issues; and drew over 35 high-profile, sponsored climbing athletes.
San Diego Climbers Face Major Climbing Area Closures and Wildfires, CA
By Stacy Roberts, Associate Director and President, Allied Climbers of San Diego
San Diego climbers are holding strong and uniting as a community to fight for climbing access, recover after major fires hit Southern California, and to work closely with the Access Fund.
The Allied Climbers of San Diego (ACSD) have been patiently awaiting an Environmental Assessment regarding a proposal by the Cleveland National Forest (CNF) that would deny well-established climbing in order to create nesting habitat for non-threatened golden eagles and prairie falcons based on historical nesting of eagles in the vicinity. This proposal will close off climbing areas that have no indication of eagles nests ever being present on the cliff faces that climbers use, or within view of climbers activities.
This action is unprecedented. No conflict exists between climbers and eagles at the areas proposed for closures. The CNFs proposals encompass 2,640 feet in all directions of supposed historical nests, yet they have refused to provide any evidence to support their claims of these cliffs as nesting locations. The outcome of this proposal could have national implications due to the CNF invoking authority for this action under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The MBTA is an act of commerce that covers over 800 species, some as common as the crow, swallow, and hummingbird. Accordingly, climbing areas across the country could become more susceptible to unnecessary and unjustified access closures because all climbing takes place on crags and in areas that could be considered suitable nesting habitat for birds covered under the MBTA.
In other news, due to recent wildfires in much of southern California, all southern California National Forests have been closed until further notice. These fires also affected a majority of San Diegos crags. ACSD is working to assess damage, educate the San Diego climbing community on the status of these crags, and find out where they can physically help out with restoration, trail maintenance and other volunteer efforts. At this point, local crags that are known to be affected by the fires include Eagle Peak, El Cajon Mtn, and Mt. Woodson. Whether or not the rock has exfoliated on certain routes or entire sections of the rock (due to the extreme temperatures of the fire) is still to be determined. Up to date information will be posted on the Allied Climbers website as it becomes verifiably available: www.allliedclimbers.org.
ACSD has been working closely with the Access Fund to maintain climbing access in San Diego. Recently Brady Robinson (the new executive director of the Access Fund) along with other key Access Fund staff took a trip to San Diego to meet with ACSD members, the Cleveland National Forest, and to check out some of San Diegos precious climbing destinations. Unfortunately, their visit coincided with the fires, but before they left, the Access Fund team got a better understanding of the size and significance of the areas that are being threatened, the commitment of the San Diego climbing community to stand up for their recreational user rights, and of course they managed to squeeze in a little climbing as well.
As we continue to wait on the Environmental Assessment from the CNF, the Access Fund and ACSD will continue to suggest reasonable solutions to the Forest Service. For important background information on this issue and to see the AFs and the ACSDs position on this issue please go to: www.alliedclimbers.org/cnf_timeline.php.
Sunset Park, Lookout Mountain, TN
By Samantha Christen, Sunset Park Representative, Southeastern Climbers Coalition
Civil War veterans established the Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Battlefield in the late 1800s to memorialize the catastrophic battles that took place in this region. Spread over two states and four counties, the park is not only the oldest and largest National Military Park in the United States, but also home to one of the most historic climbing areas in the Southeast: Sunset Park.
In recent years there have been numerous, and growing, complaints to the rangers at Point Park about climbers and climbers behavior; there have been an equal number of remarks made among the climbing community regarding the rangers. Though we definitely are not the only user-group to enjoy the natural resources of Sunset Park, we are most often the scapegoat due to our high visibility.
In order to maintain the privilege of climbing in this historic area, we must be good stewards of our resources and good ambassadors of our sport. Please help us to foster and maintain good relations with the National Park Service and with individual rangers by honoring park regulations. The following regulations are posted on all kiosks and are available online.
Observe the One Hour parking spots.
Observe the posted "out" times. These times change seasonally; take note as you are hiking in.
Dogs must be on a leash (and you on the other end!) at all times.
Groups of 10 or more are required to obtain a permit through the Ranger Station (423-821-7788).
Do not block the trail. Don't make hikers walk over your rope, gear, dog, food, self or pack.
Observe the "Landscape Restoration" and other posted "Keep Out" areas. The SCC has put in a lot of time and money to re-vegetate these areas; trampled plants equates to wasted SCC money, which equates to less SCC money to buy/lease climbing areas.
Practice Leave No Trace principles: Pack it in and pack it out.
Be considerate of your language and volume.
Most of all have fun and be safe!
As climbers, must do our part to preserve history, not only the history of our country, but also the history of our chosen pastime. It is up to us, the climbers of this generation, to pass along the history of our sacred places.
Feel free to contact your local NPS Ranger with any questions or concerns. The Ranger Station number at Point Park is 423-821-7788. Ranger John Housch may be reached either via phone at 423-298-7137 or email at John_Housch@nps.gov Ranger Doug Briggs may be reached at Doug_Briggs@nps.gov.
You may also contact the SCC directly via firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may contact Samantha Christen, the Sunset Park representative for the SCC, at email@example.com.
Update on Oak Flat and Queen Creek, AZ
By Erik Filsinger, Land Advocacy Chair, Arizona Mountaineering Club
Over the past several months members of the local Arizona climbing community have expressed concern about the substance and process surrounding the proposed federal legislative land exchange involving Oak Flat near the Queen Creek climbing areas. See www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-3301.
The Governor of Arizona raised a number of serious concerns about the states role www.mynewdb.com/QC/GovToEdPastor_Letter.pdf, as have local Native American communities about the displacement of historic lands www.mining-law-reform.info/IndexSup.htm.
These political developments and growing unrest within the climbing community regarding the enforceability and longevity of the access license to climbing in Queen Creek Canyon resulted in considerable discussions with elected officials and the filing of testimony to a congressional hearing on the proposed legislation. See: http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php?option=com_jcalpro&Itemid=32&extmode=flat. Due in part to these local-based actions, the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, does not appear to be forwarding any legislation this year for further action. For more information on the activities and local concerns, see: www.amcaz.org/main/QueenCreek/amcActionStepsQC.html or contact Paul Diefenderfer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Williamson Rock Update, CA
By Troy Mayr, Friends of Williamson Rock
As you may be aware, the Angeles National Forest has requested public comments on a proposal, which were due June 6th. The proposal is to construct a trail from the Angeles Crest Highway to Williamson Rock, located in the upper reaches of Little Rock Creek within the Angeles National Forest. The proposal will analyze reopening the popular recreation site and rock climbing area to the public, while protecting the mountain yellow-legged frog (MYLF) and its critical habitat.
The information can be found at: www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles/news/2007/news-2007-05-10-comments-on-williamson-rock-access.shtml and www.fs.fed.us/r5/angeles/documents/final-williamson-rock-scoping-ltr.pdf
Curious of how our (your) response to the USFS Scoping Letter / proposal was received?
Troy Mayr spoke with their primary contact at the USFS and asked him how the climber response was going. His response, "I give up. There are 100's, they are pouring in like rain!"
So a huge thank you to all who took the time to write!
The USFS did receive a letter that could have a negative affect for climbers (which was expected). While the group who wrote doesn't appear to be against climbing in any way, they are adamant about protecting endangered species above all else (recreation etc.).
In short they will push for a full E.I.S. as opposed to an E.A. Here are the pertinent definitions.
EA: Environmental Assessment - Generally, an EA includes brief discussions of the following: the need for the proposal; alternatives (when there is an unresolved conflict concerning alternative uses of available resources); the environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives; and a listing of agencies and persons consulted.
EIS: Environmental Impact Assessment (Study) - A National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) document. An EIS, should include discussions of the purpose of and need for the action, alternatives, the affected environment, the environmental consequences of the proposed action, lists of preparers, agencies, organizations and persons to whom the statement is sent, an index, and an appendix (if any).
The USFS I.D. Team will review the letters received and make a decision as to how to proceed. In all its off to a great start but the process is cumbersome and slow, so please continue be patient.
Friends of Williamson Rock will keep all up to date as details continue to unfold.
Background: The Williamson Rock area is a well-known recreation site used predominately for rock climbing. It has been used by climbers since the 1960's and is widely regarded as a unique rock climbing resource for the entire Southern California region.
The Williamson Rock area has been temporarily closed since December 2005 to protect the frog, which is an endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Populations of the frog are known to exist within the closure area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated approximately 615 acres along Little Rock Creek within the closure area as critical habitat for the MYLF in October 2006.
For more information, please visit www.williamsonrock.org or email email@example.com
Wilson Peak Access Restored! Telluride, CO
By Steve Johnson, Colorados West Slope Regional Coordinator
After several years of private landowner closure to public access through Silver Pick Basin, public access to Wilson Peak, a popular Fourteener located at the headwaters of the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers in southwestern Colorado, has been restored. In early November 2007, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced that it had closed on the purchase of 23 patented mining claims in Silver Pick Basin. These claims encompass several hundred mostly above-timberline acres, including hiking trails used to access the West Face and Southwest Ridge of Wilson Peak, and which extended near the summit. The acquisition of these claims also opens access from Silver Pick Basin into Navajo Basin, from which two additional 14'ers, Mt. Wilson and El Diente Peak, are often climbed.
The TPL is still seeking to raise $1.6 million of the $3 Million purchase price. Several large private and foundation grants were key to the purchase, including the Telluride Foundation, the Tishman family, and Coors Brewing, which features Wilson Peak on its beer cans and ads.
The landowner will retain several claims at the bottom of Silver Pick Basin and the Rock House area in mid-basin. TPL and the USFS Norwood Ranger District are studying a partial trail re-alignment to avoid these claims. This re-alignment may necessitate a new trailhead which could add approximately 400' vertical and a half mile of trail length for a new, more scenic approach exclusively over Forest Service lands.
Public access over the new trail is not expected to be opened until late summer/fall in 2008. The popular Southwest Ridge route from the Rock of Ages col to the summit of Wilson Peak can be approached in the meantime from Navajo and Bilk Creek Basins.
The Telluride Mountain Club, Colorado Mountain Club, Western Mining Action Project and Sheep Mountain Alliance were instrumental in opposing the closures and related development scenarios that could have included hard rock mining, unbalanced land exchange proposals, and public road modifications. These groups worked with the landowner and public agencies to obtain accurate surveys and explore closure alternatives before the TPL purchase occurred. The late Charlie Fowler was also active in this multi-year effort. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Access Fund and NPS to Tear Down Climber Trail, WY
By Armando Menocal, Honorary Access Fund Board Member
Actually, its not a trail but a 100-foot wooden stairway built around 1992 to stabilize the badly eroded base slopes of Grand Teton National Parks only true sport climbing area. The stairway is the only passable access to Blacktail Buttes 80-foot Main Wall. Although the stairway was built to protect the heavily used area, it was intended by the Park Service, primarily, if not exclusively, for the benefit of climbers.
And, yes, now the Access Fund and the Park Service want to tear the stairway out. The stairway starts a few feet from a parking area, which is right off of US 26-29 and only a short distance from the Park entrance at Moose Junction. The stairway gives climbers access to sunny, solid rock in a mountain range known for loose rock; alpine climbs; and 3- to 4,000-foot approaches. Blacktail Buttes south-facing limestone cliffs rise prominently above the forest. If youve ever seen a photo of a climber on steep rock silhouetted against the stunning background of the Tetons, it was of Blacktail Butte. Add recently replaced, bomber glue-in bolts on all of its 16 routes, which range from 5.10 to 5.13, and its no surprise that Blacktail Butte has become popular with local and visiting climbers.
The stairway, easily visible from an RV traveling on the highway, also attracts many tourists who assume that the stairway must go to a not-to-be-missed sight. Instead, around the top of the cliff it peters out into various game trails. Camera-toting sightseers in flip-flops may out number climbers.
The heavy use and the Tetons mountain weather have severely shortened the stairways useful life span. Steps are broken. Erosion has undercut anchoring logs and planks. The rope handrail has been gone for years. And, despite the stairway and a good, two-switchback trail to the crags top, climbers have gashed shortcuts.
A repair or rehabilitation of the stairway, however, would have to meet the current Park Service building standards, which would mean, for example, no rope handrailindeed, no handrail at all. The railing would have to be a fence with open space no more than three inches wide. And, large plank stairs staked over scree, dirt, and roots are certainly an unnatural approach to a climbing site in a national park.
The NPS and the Access Fund immediately agreed that the stairway should go and be replaced with a natural trail. The new trail will be longer, traversing out into the forest and returning to join the cliff at the base of the Main Wall. A 5-minute climb up stairs will be replaced by a 10-minute hike through the forest. The upper trail will also be rebuilt.
Tearing out the stairway and replacing it with a natural trail, however, is not the actual challenge. Signage, maps, and physical barriers, such as large, downed trees across eroded slopes, will be employed to keep climbers from attempting to re-impose the directisima of the stairway. After all, the stairway largely followed the original climbers route straight up to the cliff. Will climbers follow a switchback that heads away from the cliffa cliff that they can see tantalizingly close byjust because we tell them its a better way? That is the hope of the project.
The Access Fund and Grand Teton National Park expect to undertake the project in the summer of 2008. Work days for volunteers may stretch over a week or more. Wyoming Access Fund Regional Coordinator Mark Daverin is in charge for the Access Fund.
Access Trails Under Construction at American Fork, UT
There are a number of construction projects underway in American Fork Canyon that impact climbing access. The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, along with climbers from Provo, are working with U.S. Forest Service representatives to make sure that climbers' access is retained to all of the cliffs in American Fork. One bit of good news is that the Forest Service has included parking for climbers in their restoration project of the Little Mill Campground picnic area. This parking will serve climbers visiting the popular Division Wall. A top agenda item for climbers is bridge access to the cliffs on the south side of American Fork Canyon. A number of climbers are starting to work with the Forest Service to address this situation. Hopefully, some good solutions will be on hand by Spring 2008.
For more information, contact the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance at www.saltlakeclimbers.org or the Uinta National Forest Pleasant Grove Ranger District at (801) 785-3563.