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Oregon Beacon Bill, OR

The Oregon bill that proposes mandating climbers on Mt Hood to carry emergency locator beacons has been all over the national media for the past few weeks.

The Access Funds stance opposes the mandatory use of these simple one way devices and interestingly enough this has become major fodder for everything from print media to radio talk shows to major TV network shows.

Climbers are a close-knit community and we never want to see one of our own in a rescue or recovery situation but this bill wont necessarily make the mountain safer. Even if the beacons make it easier to locate parties, what if theres a three-day storm? Climbing is always about calculated risk and nothing can replace experience. Says Access Fund Executive Director, Steve Matous.

Steve Rollins with Portland Mountain Rescue who has performed the rescues on Mt. Hood these last few months agrees with the Access Fund stance. Rollins says the legislature can't mandate good judgment. "In an urban environment, we do everything we can do to make the world safe around us. And that is one of the beauties of the backcountry, that it is untouched and it really is you and nature. I'm a strong believer that the laws of nature are going to be far more powerful than any law our legislators come up with. And if we can educate people to respect the laws of nature more, that will go a lot further than any law that we come up with."

The bill, while laudable in light of recent high profile rescue and recovery efforts that were featured in mainstream media of climbers on Oregons Mt. Hood, is a knee-jerk reaction and will not prevent climbers from being injured or killed in climbing related accidents. The bill simply adds a layer of red-tape to climbing a mountain and at worst could actually give less experienced climbers a sense of false security when presented with conditions out of their control (such as the fast-moving weather systems of the Pacific Northwest). See the Access Fund testimony on the bill www.accessfund.org/pdf/HR_2509_Testimony.pdf

For more of the national media attention, visit these links: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7770277&sc=ema

http://thenewshole.msnbc.msn.com/articles/64101.aspx (by all accounts a curious honor for the Access Fund)

Date: 3/12/2007