What Eastern Utah’s Public Land Initiative Means for Climbers
For the past 3 years, the Access Fund has been representing climbers in a complex seven county public lands management proposal for eastern Utah, known as Congressman Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative (PLI). This landscape holds a huge amount of world-class climbing areas including Indian Creek, Arch Canyon, and Valley of the Gods (all part of the Bear’s Ears Campaign in San Juan County which is one piece of the complex PLI puzzle). The PLI also considers new management policies for iconic climbing areas like Castle Valley and the Fisher Towers, as well as thousands of backcountry climbing experiences found at Labyrinth Canyon, Kane Creek, San Rafael Swell and hundreds of frontcountry climbs in the larger Moab area.
For climbers, there is more at stake in this initiative than has ever been considered in a single public lands proposal. Over the past three years, Access Fund has been at the table alongside federal, state and county level policy makers—as well as a wide range of stakeholders—to ensure that the interests of climbers are protected in this high stakes, multi-faceted initiative. The PLI could resolve many long-standing land use controversies (conflicts related to roads, wilderness, resource extraction, and state lands management) as well as protect world-class climbing, mountain biking, canyoneering, hiking, and boating opportunities in the greater Canyonlands region. If successful, the PLI could result in a wide range of new land designations including Recreation Management Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Conservation Areas, and National Park expansion. The PLI could also designate millions of acres as wilderness, establish new rules for roads and trails, establish zones for resource extraction, and enable state land exchanges. This proposal could help climbers, but there are also several potential drawbacks that could harm recreational experiences and conservation values.
A key piece of the puzzle is the potential for a National Monument (proposals include Bear’s Ears and Greater Canyonlands) covering portions of the southeastern Utah region. Interior Secretary Jewell has told Congressman Bishop (the very influential chair of the House Natural Resources Committee) that President Obama will wait to assess the scope of the PLI before considering a new monument in Utah. Access Fund has been actively engaged with federal, state, and local officials (e.g., Grand, Emery, and San Juan counties), and will now negotiate PLI details in Washington, DC where Congress and the Administration will negotiate this complex legislative package. This work is expected to continue into 2016. Access Fund and our partners will soon be coming to you to help us weigh in to ensure that key policy makers understand how important these climbing areas are to the national and international climbing community. Congressman Bishop plans to release a “discussion draft” in the near future. We will analyze the draft bill and ask you for your support—stay tuned.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Annual Report Now Available in New Digital Format
Curious what the Access Fund and our grassroots network were able to achieve last year? Check out our 2014 Annual Report in a new online format that will give a sneak peek at our new website design, launching this summer. We continued our trajectory of programmatic and financial growth in 2014, ending the year with the largest operating budget and balance sheet of the Access Fund's 23-year history. This sets us up to make key operational investments in 2015, including a new website and modern database to enhance programming, fundraising, and joint membership efforts. We are also actively pursuing five potential climbing area acquisitions and expanding our policy shop to better support local issues. We are working to expand the Access Fund Conservation Team and put trail crews in regions with high concentrations of climbers and climbing areas. Finally, we're hosting six major ROCK Project education events across the country.
Check out the full report at http://2014annualreport.accessfund.org/
Two National Parks Issue Plans for Wilderness Climbing
Last month, two National Park Service (NPS) units—Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks—issued Wilderness Management Plans that provide detailed guidelines for managing climbing in designated Wilderness, including fixed anchors, crowding, safety and environmental impact. These are some of the first examples of parks putting the 2013 NPS national-level guidelines for climbing in wilderness into action, and are critically important because they will set a precedent for how other National Parks develop strategies for Wilderness climbing management. The Access Fund has been working with both Parks, advocating for climbers’ interests and a balanced approach to resource management. Overall, the latest plans are generally acceptable, but there is still room for improvement.
The Lake Mead NRA final plan (known to climbers as Christmas Tree Pass) is greatly improved from the draft plan, which originally recommended the wholesale removal of bolted climbing routes. The Access Fund provided NPS planners with detailed, critical comments that prompted them to remove excessive regulations, some of which discriminated against climbers, were poorly substantiated and did not support best climbing practices. This new final plan outlines a process for evaluating bolted routes for environmental and cultural impacts, which includes stakeholders from the NPS, Native American tribes, and the climbing community. This nuance is substantial to the climbing community because it recognizes the need for the NPS to include climbers in decisions about fixed anchor management instead of making a unilateral decision.
The Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks final plan is also much better for the climbing community relative to the draft plan. The draft plan proposed that climbers apply for a $20 special use permit, which could take up to 3 months to acquire, in order to add or replace any fixed anchor—including webbing slings. The Access Fund strongly opposed this proposed regulation on the grounds that it is neither realistic nor safe. Park officials worked with this feedback, and the final plan’s preferred alternative now states that climbers can judiciously place non-permanent fixed anchors (e.g. slings and nuts), when necessary, without the need for permits. Climbers will, however, need special use permits to place, and replace, bolts in wilderness. The Access Fund will continue to remind the NPS that bolt replacement is essential to Wilderness management, and that the NPS should not obstruct climbers from replacing bolts due to safety and visitor experience concerns.
Wilderness climbing management is one of Access Fund’s highest priority policy issues, and we are working with Parks all across the country to advocate for climbers’ interests. The work that happens over the next couple of years will set the stage for the next decade, making this a critical time to define best practices for climbing management on our public lands.
Access Fund to Host Annual Event Celebration this May with Patagonia
Access Fund is thrilled to announce that it will be hosting an annual event celebration over the weekend of May 15-17, 2015, in partnership with Patagonia. The event, Solid Protection: Tools and Strategies for Protecting the Places We Love to Climb, will bring together climbers, pro athletes, advocates, and industry leaders in Colorado to discuss the role of climbing in the greater conservation movement. The event is open to the climbing public, and all are encouraged to attend one or more of the weekend’s events.
The main event will be a celebratory dinner on the evening of March 16, with keynote address by climbing legend Doug Robinson and a special presentation of the Access Fund 2014 Sharp End Awards. Attendees are invited to arrive on Friday and join us for a happy hour screening of Moving Over Stone with Doug Robinson. Saturday morning will kick off with an advocate summit, featuring a full day of workshops, panel discussions, and training on techniques and strategies for protecting climbing areas and joining the greater conservation movement. An open Access Fund board meeting on Sunday morning will close the weekend’s events.
“We come to deeply love the wild areas where we climb. But climbing is only one part of why we love a place, and often the desire to climb grows into an equal desire to defend,” says Patagonia global alpine marketing manager, Jimmy Hopper. “This event will empower climbers with the tools and real-world strategies to steward and protect their climbing areas.”
With the huge influx of new climbers and the subsequent impact on climbing areas, stewardship of our wild places is more critical than ever. “Visionaries like Tom Frost, Doug Robinson, Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins addressed the important climbing questions of their day, head-on,” says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. “It's our turn to address the questions of today: What does it mean to be a responsible climber? How do we model the behavior we hope to inspire in this generation of climbers and the next? How can we pass on a sense of accountability and responsibility to the climbing environment, well beyond the rock itself?”
Access Fund and Patagonia invite you to join this unique event. Reserve your spot today at www.accessfund.org/SolidProtection.
Access Fund Announces First Round Grant Recipients for 2015
The Access Fund is pleased to announce that it has awarded over $21,000 in the first round of the 2015 Climbing Preservation Grants Program. Each year, the Access Fund awards up to $40,000 in grant money to local climbing communities with worthy projects that preserve or enhance climbing access. The Access Fund Climbing Preservation Grants Program is an example of membership dollars at work in local climbing communities across the country. Access Fund supporters got the opportunity to review qualifying grant projects and rate them, providing valuable input to our grant selection committee as to which projects they want their contributions to support. We are pleased to announce funding for the following worthy projects.
Climbing Association of Southern Arizona (CASA): Start-up
The Climbing Association of Southern Arizona (CASA) was awarded a grant for organization start-up expenses, including filing for 501(c)(3) tax status. CASA strives to engage local climbers and the outdoor community through education, stewardship, and partnering with local land managers and user groups. Nonprofit status will greatly help CASA achieve its goals of providing southern Arizona climbers the opportunity to learn, give back, and collaborate.
Eastern Kentucky University: Red River Gorge Climbing Economic and Environmental Study
The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition teamed up with Eastern Kentucky University and lead researcher Dr. James Maples for an economic and environmental impact study of climbing in the Red River Gorge area. Through online and field surveys, the study will shed light on the growing economic impact that climbers have on businesses in the region as well as climbers’ environmental behaviors while recreating in the area. Once complete, this report can help garner greater support for climbing access in the Red.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: Rocky Mountain National Park Bouldering Study
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNT) was awarded a grant to expand the scope of a bouldering study being conducted in Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer of 2015. LNT is collaborating with the National Park Service to address the growing popularity of bouldering in the park, in an effort to maximize bouldering opportunities and minimize resource impacts. The National Park Service has funding to study boulderers’ perceptions of Leave No Trace principles at two areas in the Bear Lake Corridor. This grant will allow LNT to expand data collection to a third location, Wild Basin, thus creating a more robust and diverse sample.
Naturaland Trust: Big Rock Access Acquisition
Naturaland Trust was awarded a grant to secure public access to Big Rock Mountain, a popular granite dome and bouldering area in the Nine Times Forest of South Carolina. Naturaland Trust recently acquired the 1,648 acres that contain Big Rock Mountain, but there was no safe or easy way for climbers and hikers to access to the mountain. Recently a 6-acre parcel went on the market that gives direct access to the granite outcrop. Naturaland Trust secured an option agreement to purchase the adjacent parcel and now needs support from the climbing community to complete the transaction.
Prescott Climbers’ Coalition: Start-up
Prescott Climbers’ Coalition (PCC) of central Arizona was awarded a grant to formalize as a 501(c)(3) organization and establish a website to strengthen the Prescott climbing community, preserve climbing access, and provide education. PCC works to balance the freedom to climb rock with the desire to safeguard the environment, while preserving the experience. The grant will help PCC provide a platform for outreach with the community and its partners.
Truckee Donner Land Trust: Donner Summit Acquisition
Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) was awarded a grant to assist with the Campaign to Save Donner Climbing, a collaborative effort to acquire and steward the Black Wall area of Donner Summit in northern California. The 10-acre property includes the popular and historic Black Wall, Peanut Gallery, and Road Cut trad and sport crags, as well as the access trail to the popular Space Wall. The project also includes a long-term plan to provide additional trailhead improvements. TDLT recently secured an option agreement to acquire the parcel and initiate fundraising. Access Fund will hold a lease agreement to address liability concerns raised by the private landowners and assist in stewardship and fundraising alongside local climbers of Truckee.
You're Invited - Access Fund Annual Celebration!
Over the weekend of May 15-17, 2015, Access Fund and Patagonia will be hosting a unique 3-day weekend that will bring together leaders, volunteers, and advocates in the climbing community to celebrate and discuss the future of climbing conservation. This one-of-a-kind event will be hosted in Westminster, Colorado and will provide three days of real-world tools, strategies and inspiration that will empower you to take guardianship of the areas you love to climb. Join us for:
• A Happy Hour screening of Moving Over Stone with Doug Robinson on Friday evening
• A Tools and Strategies Advocate Summit during the day on Saturday
• A Celebratory Dinner with keynote address from Doug Robinson and special presentation of the 2014 Sharp End Award Winners
• An open Access Fund Board Meeting on Sunday morning.
We're looking forward to sharing this special event with you. Register today!
Adopt a Crag Season is Here
Now that the days are getting longer and warmer, many of us are thinking about climbing season. Now is also a great time to start thinking about your local climbing area and what it may need—perhaps a trash pick-up, graffiti removal, a new set of rock steps, or an information kiosk. Adopt a Crag events are one of the best ways to harness the power of volunteers and give back to our climbing areas. They also show land managers that climbers care about the places they recreate, which helps build strong partnerships that protect access. Now is the time to get together with your local climbing community to start planning your volunteer stewardship days. The Access Fund is here to help you plan your Adopt a Crag event. Take a look at online resources, register event, and reach out to us if you need help getting started.
Yosemite Stewardship Training - Registration Open
Join the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team May 18-21 for a FREE professional stewardship training program at one of our country's premiere climbing destinations, in partnership with Yosemite National Park. This training will help provide local climbing organization leaders and volunteers with the highly technical trail skills needed to mitigate climber impacts. This unique 4-day event will feature professional training both in the classroom and in the field, focused on stewardship basics, trail building skills, and creating sustainable staging areas and bouldering areas. There will also be
presentations by the Yosemite Climbing Rangers, the Yosemite Climbing Stewards, and Leave No Trace. Local climbing organization leaders, volunteers, Adopt a Crag organizers, land managers, trail professionals, and partners are encouraged to participate. Space is limited, so register for the Yosemite training program today!
Save Donner Summit
The Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Access Fund, a national climbing advocacy organization, have signed an agreement with a private landowner to purchase a significant climbing area on Donner Summit.
The 10-acre property features some of the most dramatic terrain in the Truckee-Tahoe region, with stunning vistas and world-class climbing on finely textured granite. The acquisition will protect the popular and historic Black Wall, Peanut Gallery, and Road Cut climbing areas, as well as the access trail to the popular Space and Stealth walls, all easily accessible from Old Highway 40.
“For years, residents and visitors to Truckee have enjoyed watching climbers ascend the formidable granite landmarks outside of Truckee’s town limits,” says Anne Chadwick, the Land Trust’s Board President. “What many don’t know is that this is a world-class climbing area.”
The climbing routes were established more than 50 years ago and range from deep chimneys and low-angle slabs for beginners, to overhanging test pieces for experts, and splitter cracks and sport routes for all skill levels.
"Next to Yosemite, Donner Summit was home to many of the best rock climbers of the 70s and 80s”, says Gary Allan, a Truckee resident and
long-time climber. “In fact, many national and world-class climbers still use Donner Summit as a training ground.”
The 10-acre property has been privately owned since the mid-1800s, but concerns about liability have led to the current owner’s need to sell the property. The Land Trust and the Access Fund are working with the landowners to protect this superb climbing resource and landmark forever. Truckee Donner Land Trust currently holds a Purchase and Sale Agreement to fundraise and acquire the property by December. Access Fund holds a lease agreement to address liability concerns raised by the private landowners and assist in stewardship.
An adjacent 65-acre parcel owned by the Land Trust will also provide access to Black Wall and adjacent crags as part of the Town of Truckee trail network and as a scenic viewshed from the roadway. The parcel has a creek that flows year-round typically and will be part of a multi-use non-motorized recreational trail from Donner Lake toward the climbing wall and continuing up to the summit area. The acquisition will attract more climbers and visitors to the area to spend money in the local community.
“Access Fund is excited to work alongside the Land Trust and local climbing community to protect this iconic and important climbing resource,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director. “This is a unique opportunity to pair our resources for the benefit of future generations.”
With support from the Access Fund and local climbers, the Land Trust will steward and provide public access to the property, minimize environmental and visual impacts from climbers, build new trails and trailheads, provide informative signage, and protect nesting peregrine falcons in the area.
The Land Trust and the Access Fund will work with the local climbing community to create a volunteer climber coalition that will help implement a recreation and stewardship management plan for the greater Donner Summit area to ensure best practices.
The Land Trust has currently raised $50,000 towards the total fundraising goal of $280,000 and is now calling on the community to donate by December 1, 2015 towards the acquisition, stewardship, and additional trailhead improvements on the 10-acre property and adjacent Land Trust land. Visit www.savedonnerclimbing.org to learn more and make a secure online donation.
Standing guard above Donner Lake lies the some of the highest concentration of the best traditional climbing in the country,” says Jim Zellers, a long-time climber of Donner Summit. “It’s the reason climbers have it on their obligatory road trip stop, the reason many move here, and the reason I will never leave.”
Joe's Valley: Time For a Change
When you think about U.S. bouldering hot spots, you probably think
Bishop, Hueco, J-Tree, Yosemite Valley, HP40, and—newest to the list—Joe’s
Valley, Utah. The popularity of Joe’s Valley exploded in early 2000 with the
ascent of the area’s first V13. Since then, it has experienced non-stop growth,
drawing climbers from around the world to conquer its vast array of sandstone
boulders, which boast a wide variety of moderate and hard problems.
But Joe’s Valley faces some unique challenges. The bouldering area
sits nestled in the foothills of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, just east of
the Joe’s Valley Reservoir, the main water supply for the rural mining and ranching
communities of Orangeville and Castle Dale, Utah. A mere two and half hours
from downtown Salt Lake City, and about six hours from the population centers
of Colorado, Joe’s Valley is a perfect weekend getaway for rocky mountain
climbers, but it lacks any real “local” climbing community to help sustain it.
As the popularity of Joe’s Valley continues to rise, increased
climber traffic is causing some extreme environmental impacts that could threaten
access if not addressed. One of the biggest concerns is human waste from
visiting climbers, which has the potential to contaminate the water supply
given the area’s proximity to the Joe’s Valley Reservoir and the seasonal creek beds that feed
the surrounding communities. Heavy foot traffic and pad placement have also
caused extremely eroded and unstable landing areas, as well as a network of
braided trails that are stripping soils of their native plants, making the area
even more exposed to impacts. And with limited parking options, climbers are
parking illegally on a narrow canyon road with very limited visibility,
creating safety hazards. Finally, many of the area’s camping options are too
close to the busy roads and too close to watercourses that feed water to the communities
|We need your help!
Access Fund Conservation Team and Salt Lake Climbers Alliance are hosting an Adopt a Crag at Joe's Valley on Saturday, March 14, 2015 and we need volunteers! To register, visit the SLCA website.
Fund and nearby Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) have pulled together a Joe’s
Valley stewardship coalition to begin addressing these issues. The coalition
includes the local Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S
Forest Service (USFS) offices, which manage the bulk of the climbing and
camping areas, as well as Emery County officials who have a large stake in
tourism and water quality issues. SLCA kicked off the planning process by
funding an area assessment to document the state of natural resources at Joe’s
Valley. Working together, we have brought forth our concerns about the impacts at
Joe’s Valley and begun long-term stewardship planning to address these impacts
and create sustainable climbing access and a positive experience for visiting
climbers and the local community.
planning process will continue throughout 2015, with a final plan ready for
rollout in early 2016. We ask the climbing community to embrace the changes
that are needed at Joe’s Valley. Though some of them will not be popular, they
are critical to protecting climbing access and this unique climbing
environment. We’ll keep the community posted as the plan for Joe’s Valley takes
2014 Sharp End Awards Announced
Each year the Access Fund recognizes individuals, organizations, and businesses that go above and beyond to volunteer their time and efforts to protecting America’s climbing. These recipients stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community, and the Access Fund is honored to present this year's awards to a worthy group of volunteers and activists.
Liz and Rick Weber – Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award
Access Fund is proud to present Rick and Liz Weber with the Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award for establishing an incredible legacy for one of America’s greatest climbing destinations: Muir Valley. In 2004, following retirement from their engineering and automobile industry careers, the Webers embarked on a one-of-a-kind retirement project – the acquisition and management of a 300-acre valley surrounded by seven miles of the Corbin Sandstone cliff line that the Red River Gorge is so famous for. For the last eleven years, the two have driven down from their home in Indiana each week to establish and steward this world-class climbing area and nature preserve. They’ve invested more than $1 million of their own funds into Muir Valley to ensure that it will continue to be available as a climbing resource beyond their lifetimes. Thousands of volunteers have assisted in this vision, and the Webers are now poised to hand over ownership and management of the property to the Friends of Muir Valley, who have stepped up to fundraise and take on the responsibility of this world class climbing area. Join us in congratulating Rick and Liz for making this remarkable gift to the American climbing community!
Hawaii Climbing Coalition – Bebie Leadership Award
We are pleased to honor the Hawaii Climbing Coalition with the Bebie Leadership Award for their persistent effort to re-open climbing in Hawaii after Oahu’s premier crags were closed in 2012. The local advocates, assisted by the Access Fund, attempted to re-open the crags via a legislative approach. After admirable lobbying efforts by the local climbers, State legislators ultimately closed the door on the legislative solution and left the future of Oahu’s crags uncertain. These dedicated climbing advocates brushed themselves off and began to explore an administrative approach. The State Attorney General’s office and the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources were so impressed with the efforts of this group that they eventually agreed, after months of negotiations, on a contract that allows the crags to be opened after more than two and a half years of closure. These leaders of the Hawaii Climbing Coalition are prime examples of our community’s finest advocates.
Leif Faber – Reese Martin Regional Coordinator Award
We’re proud to recognize longtime climbing advocate Leif Faber. Leif served on the board of Illinois Climbers Association (ICA) for six years, and was the Illinois Access Fund Regional Coordinator from 2010 to 2014. In both roles he was a tireless steward and advocate for Illinois climbing areas. At Jackson Falls, Leif worked to replace fixed anchors, steward the area through volunteer trail days, and maintain a good relationship with land manager, Shawnee National Forest. Leif has also worked on climbing management policy at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and Rockwood Reservation in Missouri. More recently, he initiated ICA into the Access Fund joint membership program and played a key role in permanently protecting Holy Boulders in Illinois. Thank you for your service to the climbing community Leif!
Adam Baylor – Sharp End Award
We are excited to present a Sharp End award to Adam Baylor for his climbing advocacy leadership in the greater Portland area. Adam’s passion for protecting climbing access and stewarding areas in Western Oregon and Southwest Washington has been an invaluable resource to the local climbing community. Adam serves as Access Fund Regional Coordinator, Mazama Stewardship and Communications Manager, and organizer of Beacon Rock Climbing Association. At Horsethief Butte, Adam led the way in revising the climbing management plan with Washington State Parks. Most recently, he teamed up with Outdoor Alliance Oregon to join fellow human-powered recreationalists to advocate for recreation support and funding at the federal level in DC and at the local level in Oregon. Adam continues to host stewardship events and foster partnerships across the region. Thanks for your work, Adam!
Friends of Muir Valley – Sharp End Award
The Access Fund honors Friends of Muir Valley (FoMV) for its great accomplishment of 2014—raising over $200,000 towards the stewardship and management of Muir Valley and demonstrating their commitment to continuing the legacy created by Rick and Liz Weber. Year after year, FoMV has organized annual trail days, greeted visitors, completed restoration projects, and galvanized volunteers and community support. With special thanks to the hundreds of climbers and partners who supported their cause, FoMV and its dedicated board of directors met their fundraising goal and FoMV is transitioning into ownership of Muir Valley via a gift of the land from the Webers. Congratulations, Friends of Muir Valley!
Brian Payst – Sharp End Award
We are excited to present a Sharp End Award to Brian Payst for his exceptional organizational leadership and outstanding local advocacy in the Carolinas and beyond. Brian joined the Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) board in 2009, and now serves as the organization’s president. He also serves as Access Fund Regional Coordinator for North Carolina, and his initiative has led to new partnerships and major successes for CCC and the climbing community. After years of closure, he spearheaded negotiations with the private land owner of Sauratown, NC, successfully reopening this important cliff through a seasonal lease. With Access Fund, he led CCC’s purchase of Hidden Valley in Virginia, reopening yet another major crag in the region. And alongside CCC board members, Brian continues to bring an engaged, proactive approach to public land managers in the Carolinas, fostering strong relationships with state parks and Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest. Brian has also provided hundreds of hours of voluntary IT and website services to CCC, increasing capacity and improving communications. Big thanks for your work Brian!
Bennett Scott – Sharp End Award
The Access Fund is proud to recognize Bennett Scott for his dedication to protecting the climbing resources of Northern Colorado and the Fort Collins area. As a board member and president of Northern Colorado Climbers Coalition (NCCC), Ben has led dozens of trail days at popular areas like Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, and Arthur’s Rock. He spearheaded a successful effort to open roped climbing in Lory State Park, working with the park managers to create a fixed anchor initiative and new route process. This past year he successfully worked with Larimer County to replace fixed anchors on Horsetooth Mountain, bringing new life to the area’s historic routes. A graphic designer by trade, Ben has also donated thousands of dollars in design services to provide beautiful guide books, which serve and educate the climbing community. Ben continues to inspire many climbers to be better stewards of the places we love to climb. Nice work Ben!
Matthew Ulery – Sharp End Award
Its with great excitement that the Access Fund presents Matthew Ulery a with Sharp End award for his dedication and relentless energy to climbing advocacy in the San Francisco Bay area. Matt not only dedicated his experience motivating and pulling together volunteers for the creation of the Bay Area Climbers Coalition, but has organized and lead several Adopt a Crag events at local crags. Matt’s positive outlook and relationship building skills have helped foster friendly relationship with local land management staff and neighbors. Matt assisted the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team throughout their visit to the Bay area, providing housing for the team, co-tabling at local gym events, and working alongside program sponsors at a variety of events. He continues to be an invested and motivated partner in one of the highest climber populations in the US.
Black Diamond Equipment – Sharp End Award
The Access Fund is honored to present Black Diamond Equipment with a Sharp End Award for helping to launch Access Fund’s new climber education program, ROCK Project. Black Diamond’s support of ROCK Project expanded Access Fund’s education capacity, allowing us to continue to build awareness and knowledge of responsible outdoor climbing ethics for years to come. A generous supporter of the Access Fund since our grassroots beginnings, Black Diamond has helped the Access Fund grow stronger and expand our advocacy and land acquisition programs. As one of the original investors in the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, Black Diamond has helped the Access Fund purchase 17 climbing areas since 2009. We thank Black Diamond for their continued dedication to protecting America's climbing and helping educate the next generation of climbers to be responsible stewards.
Clifton Climbers Alliance – Land Conservation Award
The Access Fund is excited to present Clifton Climbers Alliance (CCA) with a Land Conservation Award for its dedication to protecting Eagle Bluff in central Maine. When Eagle Bluff was unexpectedly closed in 2013, the local climbing community came together with support from Access Fund to purchase and re-open the popular granite bluff. Local climbers quickly formed CCA, gained 501(c)(3) status, helped raise over $150,000, and secured public funding from the Land for Maine’s Future program. After just six months, Access Fund assigned its Option Agreement to CCA, who became the proud owner of Eagle Bluff, permanently securing climbing and hiking access for the local community and climbers across New England. We congratulate CCA on their success and look forward to supporting this new local climbing organization in their management and stewardship of Eagle Bluff for future generations to enjoy.
ROCK Project Tour Hits the Road
On the back of the August 2014 launch of the ROCK Project climber education program, Access Fund and Black Diamond Equipment are thrilled to announce that they will be taking the stoke on the road with the 2015 ROCK Project Tour, a six-stop event tour to US climbing hot spots. Professional athletes, indoor climbing gyms, and local climbing advocacy organizations will team up to host a series of exclusive, multi-day events, including climbing clinics, presentations, stewardship projects, and parties.
“The ROCK Project Tour will be unlike any other climbing events,” says Brady Robinson, Access Fund Executive Director. “We want to connect with local climbers and show them how to create lasting connections between their daily habits and behaviors as climbers and their ability to keep climbing areas open.”
An A-list roster of professional climbers have already signed up to join the ROCK Project Tour, including Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Hazel Findlay, Kate Rutherford, Chris Schulte, Brittany Griffith, Alex Johnson, Joe Kinder, Paige Claassen, Cedar Wright, Angie Payne, Jonathan Siegrist, Sam Elias, Daniel Jung, Barbara Zangerl and more. The pro climbers will join guides and local partners to teach clinics and share their passion and respect of the outdoors with climbers all across the country.
“I’m psyched to join the ROCK Project Tour and help build awareness of responsible outdoor climbing ethics,” say Joe Kinder, a Black Diamond athlete. “It’s critically important to take care of our climbing areas, and I’m excited for the opportunity to put my hands in the dirt and contribute.”
ROCK Project events have limited availability with only 75 slots per city to ensure small group sizes and the chance to get personalized instruction and a more intimate experience with pro climbers and local partners.
The goal of the ROCK Project initiative is to inspire climbers to embrace responsible outdoor habits and behaviors that will conserve the climbing environment. The ROCK Project Tour will take this mission of Responsible Outdoor Climbing Knowledge on the road, activating positive social norms and giving climbers actionable ways to protect and care for their climbing areas.
ROCK Project events will be hosted in partnership with indoor climbing gyms in each city. The gyms will embed ROCK Project educational content into existing programming to ensure that ROCK Project lives on in each community once the event is over.
The ROCK Project Tour will make stops in the following cities in 2015:
San Francisco March 13–15
Salt Lake City April 10–12
New York City May 1–3
Seattle September 18–20
Denver October 2–4
Atlanta November 6–8
To learn more about the ROCK Project Tour, visitwww.accessfund.org/rockprojecttour. Further details and opportunities to register for an event will be available soon.
Future Looks Bright for Climbing at Breaks Interstate Park
Breaks Interstate Park (aka “Breaks”) is a unique 4,600 acre park that spans the mountainous border of both Virginia and Kentucky. The park includes the 5-mile long Breaks Canyon, one of the deepest canyons east of the Mississippi, which hosts the world-renowned Russell Fork white water run and extensive sandstone walls ideal for climbing. Climbing has never been officially allowed in the park, but is now being formally considered in the soon-to-be-revised master plan.
Access Fund, local volunteers, and Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition have been working with park officials to provide input and support as they consider climbing management strategies. Following the final public input meeting in December, the park superintendent cast the future of climbing at Breaks in a positive light. The new 30-year master plan will be finalized this March, possibly creating a major new climbing resource in the East.
Learn more about the planning process.
Conservation Team Heads out on 2015 Tour
After a successful 2014 tour, we are thrilled to announce that Mike Morin and Amanda Peterson have signed on for a second season as the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team! After some well-deserved time off, Mike and Amanda will begin their 2015 tour at the Winter Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City next week, before returning to the Colorado front range to host the first of four Climbing Stewardship Trainings.
After the training session, they will pack up the Jeep and trailer and head south for the Hueco Rock Rodeo, then on to do some step construction at Diablo Canyon in New Mexico, followed by a stop in Arizona. They will continue to make their way west, with stops in Joe's Valley and Indian Creek, Utah before heading to California, Oregon, and Washington.
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Access Fund Joins Hueco Tanks Review Team
The Hueco Tanks State Park Public Use Plan is up for review this year after Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez and State Representative Mary Gonzalez expressed concern that El Paso residents and indigenous people may be unfairly displaced from the Park by non-locals who are visiting to rock climb and boulder. Rodriguez and Gonzalez are advocating for changes that could prioritize the cultural and educational values of Hueco Tanks above recreational uses like climbing.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has invited the Access Fund to join the review process, which will take about six months and include a wide spectrum of stakeholders. Representatives from Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition, American Alpine Club, Access Fund, and a few guiding companies will represent climbers in the monthly meetings to update the fifteen year old Public Use Plan.
Stay tuned for updates.
Photo: Courtesty of Sam Davis
Friends of Muir Valley Reach Fundraising Goal
We're excited to share the great news that Friends of Muir Valley (FOMV) reached its 2014 fundraising goal by raising over $200,000 to facilitate the transfer of Muir Valley. Nine months ago, Muir Valley founders and owners, Rick and Liz Weber, issued a challenge: if FOMV could demonstrate the commitment and ability to fund future operation and maintenance of the climbing area by raising $200,000 in 2014, they would make a permanent gift of Muir Valley to FOMV.
This challenge was met with an extraordinary response from the climbing community, with over 85% of funds coming from hundreds of individual donors. Grants from the Access Fund, Conservation Alliance, and American Alpine Club helped match this incredible showing of grassroots support. FOMV will become the new owner of the valley at the end of March 2015.
Congratulations to the FOMV board members, the Webers, and the volunteers for their leadership, and a huge thanks to the hundreds of climbers across the country who donated to make this a reality.
Congress Serves up a Major Blow to Oak Flat Climbing
Almost sixty years ago, President Eisenhower withdrew Oak Flat, home to hundreds of roped climbs and thousands of bouldering problems outside of Pheonix, Arizona, from mining in order to protect its recreation, ecological, and spiritual values. For over ten years, a foreign mining company has sought to override this order of protection by passing a public land exchange bill that would allow them to take possession of the land for creation of a massive copper mine. Access Fund has fought every bill put in front of Congress that would hand over Oak Flat and result in the single largest loss of climbing resources ever.
We are devastated to report that both the Senate and the US House of Representatives passed the Oak Flat land exchange bill in early December by burying it in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA was a 1,600 page bill that packaged several land bills alongside the Defense bill. There was no opportunity for public involvement or input. The Access Fund vocally opposed this move to policy makers in both the House and Senate who had the power to intervene, but they all supported the lands package in its entirety. The Senators who opposed the land exchange were not allowed to make any changes to the bills included within the NDAA. Representative Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, stated: "the inclusion of this bill (H.R. 687) in an omnibus lands package that twice failed on its own merits to pass a floor vote in the House, subverts the actual will of the House of Representatives."
This is a significant setback for the climbing community, but there will be more opportunities to oppose the destruction of the Oak Flat climbing area. The bill included a provision that the proposed mine is subject to an environmental assessment (NEPA) before the exchange is executed. The NEPA process mandates public review and the Access Fund will continue to fight the proposed mining operations. The Access Fund remains strongly aligned in the fight to save Oak Flat with the San Carlos Apache Tribe (check out this compelling video), the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the National Congress of American Indians, the Sierra Club, The Center for Biological Diversity, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Concerned Climbers of Arizona, the Concerned Citizens & Retired Miners of Superior, the Arizona Mining Reform Coalition, Earthworks, Outdoor Alliance and others.
Unaweep Cliffs Saved For Climbing
Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and the Access Fund are pleased to announce the purchase of two major cliffs in Unaweep Canyon that secure permanent public access. Acquisition of the Television Wall and Lower Mothers Buttress culminates a 25-year history of conservation and public access along this portion of the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway.
This purchase adds 40 acres of land that hosts more than 50 high-quality granite climbing routes to previously protected lands. Public access to these walls was closed three years ago when the property owner sought to sell the property. After two years of negotiations to purchase or lease the cliff line, WCCC and Access Fund reached an agreement to obtain the properties.
“It is very exciting to have this long-term project come to fruition,” says Jesse Zacher, WCCC President. “After many years of negotiations and planning, it is fantastic to see it all finally coming together. Public access to these previously closed cliffs is a great asset for present and future public recreation groups.”
These two major crags are adjacent to the Sunday Wall, which was purchased by the Access Fund in 1991 in partnership with three local climbers, and the Upper Mothers Buttress, which was secured in 2010 by WCCC with the help of Colorado climbers John and Marti Peterson. With much of the canyon privately held, WCCC, Access Fund, and local climbers have worked diligently to purchase the unique granite cliffs of Unaweep over the last two decades.
Steve Johnson, chair of the Access Fund Loan and Acquisitions Committee and Regional Coordinator for western Colorado commented, “This land acquisition is important for climbers across the region and the nation because it unlocks access to great multi-pitch granite crags in a really scenic location. Acquisition of the Lower Mothers Buttress and the Television Wall consolidates free public access to the major cliffs in Unaweep.”
With a narrow window of time to protect the properties, Access Fund awarded WCCC with a Climbing Preservation Grant to defray closing costs and an Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign low-interest loan of $134,200 to acquire the threatened climbing area. Access Fund and WCCC have applied for a significant grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a lottery-funded open space grant program. The project provides a unique opportunity to preserve conservation and recreation values in the geologically unique canyon of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The GOCO application comes with additional support from Mesa County’s Board of County Commissioners, Mesa Land Trust, Conservation Colorado, the American Alpine Club, and National Outdoor Leadership School. If WCCC is unable to secure sufficient funds from grants or private donors, it will pursue an alternative plan to subdivide the cliffs from the total of 40 acres, and will sell two home sites, while preserving the cliffs in perpetuity.
WCCC now needs the support of climbers, recreationalists, and the people of western Colorado to pay back the loan and fundraise for stewardship of Unaweep Cliffs. Donations are encouraged and can be made to WCCC at www.westernslopeclimbers.blogspot.com.
WCCC is extremely grateful for the important role of its partners and volunteers. Significant funding was received from the Aspen, Colorado-based Alpenglow Foundation, the family foundation of climbers John and Laurel Catto, and Shaw Construction in Grand Junction. As a Telluride-based real estate attorney, Steve Johnson provided pro bono legal services to WCCC in connection with the purchase. Dave Foley provided pro bono survey work, and the appraisal work was also donated.
The realtor assisting both parties in the transaction, Christi Reece of Bray & Company, also generously donated $5,000 of her commission. “I want to show [our local leaders] what a group of committed citizens can do for our community. My dad, William C. Hall, was a realtor and was instrumental in preserving the Hartman Rocks area in Gunnison (CO) when it came up for sale, in similar fashion, and I can’t imagine Gunnison without it. I didn’t want to see these properties lost to owners who would not allow the climbing to continue.”
The WCCC plans to partner with Access Fund to host a trail day on October 26th to link existing trails to the new cliffs.
Hidden Valley Reopened!
The Access Fund and Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) are thrilled to announce the acquisition of a large portion of the Hidden Valley climbing area (also known as ‘Abingdon’) in southwest Virginia.The property is located next to Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and creates access to hundreds of single-pitch sport, mixed, and traditional climbs on unique, high-quality sandstone. .
Hidden Valley was a popular southeastern and mid-Atlantic climbing destination in the late 90s and early 2000s. Access to the area was privately owned and later closed to the public in 2004 due to vandalism and management concerns. The area remained closed despite efforts from local climbers and volunteers. In April of last year, landowners Jeanean Dillard and Suichi “Koma” Komaba approached the Access Fund with an interest in selling a portion of their property that would provide public access to the nearly one mile of cliffline that abuts their land. After kicking off discussions with the landowners, Access Fund reached out to nearby local climbing organizations to see if one of them would be willing to acquire and hold the property for long-term management and conservation. CCC was immediately interested.
“Hidden Valley was a popular spot for North Carolina climbers, so we were very familiar with the area,” explains Brian Payst CCC President. “Our board quickly recognized the need for a local group to step up and conserve this historic climbing area.” CCC has a long history of climbing area acquisition and management, including the popular Laurel Knob and the West Side boulders of Rumbling Bald. CCC also leases access to Asheboro Boulders, and most recently, Sauratown cliff. Hidden Valley marks their third successful climbing area acquisition.
Access Fund southeastern staff worked in partnership with the CCC for the past year and half to complete the initial survey, due diligence, and finalize negotiations with the landowners. The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign provided a loan to the CCC for $30,000 to bridge the gap between available funds and the $45,000 price tag. The CCC closed on the 21-acre property today, putting down $15,000 of its own funds and covering the due diligence and transaction costs necessary to secure access to almost half of the Hidden Valley climbing area. CCC now needs your support to pay off the remaining portion of the loan and steward this climbing area for generations to come.
“The Access Fund is proud to be a part protecting the Hidden Valley climbing area,” says Executive Director Brady Robinson. “We are also proud of our partnership with Carolina Climbers Coalition, who stepped up to purchase and steward this important area.”
The landowners are also excited to see Hidden Valley re-opened to the public. “We’re happy to see the area enter a new era of public access,” says Jeanean Dillard. “Climbers can now cherish, protect and enjoy Hidden Valley as much as our friends and family have,” says Suichi Komaba.
CCC will manage the climbing area in partnership with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries whose adjacent WMA includes the current parking lot and a large portion of the area’s cliff line. Climbers using the area must have a valid Access Permit, or a Virginia hunting or fishing license. Permits may be purchased online at www.dgif.virginia.gov/permits.
CCC’s stewardship of Hidden Valley will also be supported by the Southwest Virginia Climbers Coalition (SVCC), a new local climbing organization working to preserve and protect an expanding number of high quality climbing resources in Virginia’s southwestern corner, including the popular bouldering at Grayson Highlands.
This acquisition reopens access to almost half of the routes at the Hidden Valley climbing area. It also ensures that climbers have a permanent entry point to the entire area from Hidden Valley Road. Access Fund, CCC, and SVCC are continuing to work together to secure access to the remaining portion of Hidden Valley’s cliff line.
To donate to the project and learn more about the upcoming opening date, work days and ways you can help visit www.carolinaclimbers.org.
New Bouldering Area in Lake Lure, NC
The Blue Ridge of western North Carolina has a new climbing area in a city park. The Town of Lake Lure has opened a bouldering area in their new Buffalo Creek Park. It features massive, house-sized boulders on the same high quality rock of nearby Rumbling Bald. The park also offers miles of mountain biking and hiking trails, and will eventually connect with nearby Chimney Rock State Park. "We're really excited to add to climbing opportunities available in the Lake Lure area," says Chris Braund, Lake Lure Town Manager. Carolina Climbers' Coalition (CCC) and volunteers completed a trail day at the area in late August, building access trails to the impressive boulders. CCC will continue to work with the town to provide ongoing climbing management support for Buffalo Creek Park. Learn more about this area from Lake Lure Buffalo Creek Park and Mountain Project.