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.