Progress on Southern California’s Williamson Rock Closure

04/14/2017

The US Forest Service (USFS) is back on track to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this fall that will evaluate the feasibility of re-opening Williamson Rock to climbing in a way that protects the endangered Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and its surrounding habitat.


Williamson Rock was Southern California’s premier summer sport climbing destination until it was closed in 2005 to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF). The Angeles National Forest restricted access to Williamson as a result of successful lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations.

For years, the Access Fund and local climbing advocates have been pressuring the USFS to conduct an EIS that would evaluate climbing management strategies that could allow controlled climbing access while still protecting the MYLF. The USFS made incremental progress in 2014 when it announced its intent to conduct this EIS, but it was postponed due to funding shortages.

The USFS has announced that the EIS is back on track for this year. Last week, Access Fund joined the USFS staff and a group of stakeholders—including Center for Biological Diversity, Pacific Crest Trail Association, US Geological Survey, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Williamson Rock, Latino Outdoors, and environmental consultants—on a site visit to Williamson Rock to kick off this effort. The tone of the meeting was positive and collaborative, with stakeholders discussing reasonable options to protect the endangered MYLF and nesting raptors in order to re-open Williamson Rock to climbing.

The USFS is studying four alternatives to reopening rock climbing access at Williamson Rock. The preferred alternative proposes seasonal raptor closures and a visitor-use permit system that would allow 90 permitted climbers per day to access Williamson Rock (outside of seasonal raptor closures).

Once the USFS releases its draft EIS this fall, there will be a 45-day public comment period for climbers to review the proposed alternatives and submit feedback. We will send an Action Alert when the comment period opens, so stay tuned. According to the project schedule, a final decision could be reached as soon as spring 2018, with the possibility of permitted climbing access at Williamson Rock soon after.

We ask the climbing community to please continue to respect the current closure of Williamson Rock, and be patient with the EIS process. We understand how frustrating this long closure has been for the Southern California climbing community. Representatives from the USFS have noted and applauded the climbing community’s respect of the closure, and this restraint has gone a long way in proving to USFS that climbers are responsible users that can be trusted to steward the area and help protect the MYLF. Access Fund, Friends of Williamson Rock, and our many partners on this project continue to work with the Forest Service to restore access to this iconic climbing destination.

For a complete history on this project visit, visit our Ongoing Campaigns page. For additional questions contact policy@accessfund.org.