The Latest in the Fight for Public Lands: March 2018

In addition to a new update on Bears Ears, we wanted to share a few long-haul projects. In some instances, climbing access projects are measured in years or decades, not months. This is especially true when working to change public land policy, and Access Fund is committed for the duration.

  • We are still fighting the Bears Ears National Monument reduction in court, however a management planning process for the reduced monument is moving forward.

We would like to see this issue settled in court before participating in a Monument Management Plan process, however the climbing community must engage in this premature planning process to ensure that the situation does not go from bad to worse. We launched an action alert last week to rally climbers’ voices. On the theme of long-haul projects, Access Fund has been working to protect climbing in the Bears Ears region for decades, and the national monument battle is only the latest chapter in a very long history of protecting this Southeast Utah climbing landscape. The Access Fund is fully committed to protecting Bears Ears and you can help by donating to help save this historic and beautiful area.

  • Bolts and fixed anchors in Wilderness—a sticky issue since the late ‘80s.

For decades, the future legality of fixed anchor use in Wilderness areas has been uncertain. With no national-level laws or policies in place to protect fixed anchor use, the threat of a national ban on bolts has always lingered. Access Fund has been working on this issue since our inception, twenty-seven years ago, helping land management agencies understand fixed anchor management strategies in order to fend off the potential for significant climbing restrictions. In 2013, the National Park Service (NPS) finally issued national-level policy on this issue, however it quickly became evident that the implementation of this policy at a local level was inconsistent and sometimes troubling. Next month, we are working with NPS, other non-profit climbing organizations, and conservation groups to facilitate a Climbing Management Training in Tucson, Arizona to share best practices in Wilderness climbing management. We’ll provide an update in the next policy digest.

  • A frustratingly long closure for Southern California climbers—Williamson RockWilliamson Rock

Williamson Rock was Southern California’s premier summer sport climbing destination until it was closed in 2005 as a result of successful lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF). Access Fund and local climbing advocates have been pressuring the US Forest Service for years to issue a required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which keeps stalling out due to federal funding constraints. We have made progress in the last year and are working with the USFS on climbing management strategies that could allow controlled climbing access while still protecting the MYLF. We expect to see a draft of the EIS this summer, which is the first step in re-opening the area to climbing.

  • Preventing the largest loss of climbing in US history—Oak Flat, AZ.Oak Flat

For ten years running, Access Fund has been fending off the relentless pursuit of a foreign mining company from taking ownership of Oak Flat/Queen Creek, a popular climbing area east of Phoenix, Arizona. The mining company wants ownership of this large swath of public land to extract a large copper ore deposit through block caving, which would collapse the ground surface as the ore is extracted from below, resulting in a surface crater over a mile wide and 1,000 feet deep—consuming all of the Oak Flat climbing area. Access Fund is pursuing legislation to reverse a 2014 land exchange and participating in the NEPA process to stop this dangerous mine from moving forward. Learn more about this epic battle.

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