10/26/2022

Massacre Rocks FAQ

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Q: What’s the latest news from Massacre Rocks?
A: On October 26, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final Environmental Impact Statement regarding Massacre Rocks, Idaho. The decision will close climbing in the 3,846-acre American Falls Archaeological District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to protect cultural and historic resources important to the Shoshone-Bannock people, and 200 acres in Lake Channel. The BLM will continue to allow a quarter mile of climbing access on the east side of Lake Channel for sport, traditional, and bouldering-climbing routes to help offset some of the loss of climbing.

Q: What does this mean for climbing in the area?
A: The BLM’s decision will result in the removal of hundreds of climbing routes, though climbers can still access many climbing opportunities on adjacent federal and state lands. It’s a difficult situation for the climbing community, which values both sustainable access to climbing and respect for Indigenous people.

Q: What is Access Fund’s position on this decision?
A: Access Fund honors and respects Indigenous people who have cared for the land since time immemorial and continue to do so today. The American Falls Archaeological District is the last remaining area near Fort Hall where Tribes have access to their traditional wintering grounds. The historic record at the District demonstrates 12,000 years of continuous occupation. Other areas in the vicinity that were used for wintering are now either flooded by reservoirs or have become private property. For these reasons, the Tribes have expressed a sense of urgency in protecting their treaty and aboriginal rights in the District. Access Fund is disappointed in the BLM’s application of the NEPA process to make this determination. However, this is a special and unique place, and we urge the climbing community to respect the decision proposed by the BLM.

Q: How did we get to this point?
A: Timeline of Management Plans and Designations:

  • 1985: BLM published a Monument Resource Management Plan

  • 1995: Bureau of Reclamation published Reclamation’s American Falls Resource Management Plan

  • 1999: Cedar Fields placed on the National Register of Historic Places to protect cultural resources

  • 1999: Sport climbing gains popularity at Cedar Fields

  • 2009: Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and Idaho State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) brought concerns to the BLM over rock climbing impacts and OHV use, noting misuse of lands violated the Archaeological Resource Protection Act.

  • 2011-2012: BLM conducted a cultural assessment of Cedar Fields which confirmed the richness of the area’s cultural resources and damage from recreational activities. Action could not be taken under the 1985 RMP which did not account for rock climbing and OHV use.

  • 2011: BLM begins scoping to amend the 1985 Cedar Fields Monument RMP. Access Fund, AAC, Eastern Idaho Climbers Coalition, and Boise Climbers Alliance participate in scoping and submit comments. EICC works with BLM to develop a climbing-specific alternative for the plan.

  • 2021: BLM publishes DRAFT amended Cedar Fields Monument RMP. Access Fund and EICC participate and submit comments.

  • 2022: BLM publishes Final amended Cedar Fields Monument RMP

Q: What did Access Fund say about that at the time?
A: Because the scoping process happened over 10 years ago, Access Fund was disappointed that the BLM released a draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2021. Conditions change over the course of a decade including stakeholder relationships, climate change, recreation trends and land agency guidance. In its comments on the draft EIS, Access Fund asked that BLM start over with a new scoping process, which would also provide the opportunity to foster a more collaborative dialogue between the Tribe, the agency and the other stakeholders. Access Fund still believes BLM missed an opportunity to bring the community together in deciding not to follow its recommendations. At the same time, in its comments, Access Fund recognized the unique cultural and historical value of the Archaeological district and the importance of this special place to the Shoshone, Bannock and Paiute people. Access Fund had hoped that the parties could find a way to allow for some continued recreational access consistent with the protection of the cultural and natural resources.

Q: What makes this area so unique? Why is it worthy of these specific protections?
A: In addition to its formal recognition as an archaeological district and its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the Environmental Impact Statement includes more details on the unique importance of this area to the Shoshone, Bannock and Paiute people. According to the BLM, this project area is considered the “last remnant” of “pristine” traditional homelands of the Shoshone, Bannock, and Paiute people on federal land. The agency believes it may include “the only federally managed village sites known to exist in traditional wintering grounds of the Shoshone, Bannock, and Paiute peoples in southeastern Idaho.”

Q: What does this mean for the future of climbing in southeast Idaho?
A: Our relationship with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes moving forward is defined by what we do right now. Climbing has been—and will continue to be—an important recreational use in southeast Idaho and one that connects people to the land and promotes physical, mental, and spiritual health and well-being. Access Fund is committed to building trust and community with Indigenous peoples and working to protect sustainable access for climbers. Shared stewardship and respect is the way to safeguard the incredible landscapes and experiences that we all treasure.

Q: How has Access Fund supported Indigenous peoples so far?
A: Access Fund is a proud signatory of the Indigenous Field Guide with a long history of working with Indigenous Nations to support conservation and climbing access. In partnership with leaders representing several Tribes, Access Fund helped to protect Bears Ears National Monument and is fighting to stop a copper mine that would destroy Oak Flat—a sacred site for the San Carlos Apache. Access Fund Climber Stewards educate climbers on low-impact practices, responsible recreation, and Indigenous history. And our Conservation Teams travel the country each year rehabilitating climbing areas, an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in building sustainable trails and recreational infrastructure that protect natural and cultural resources.

In 2003, Access Fund challenged the closure of Cave Rock in Nevada, which was ordered by the United States Forest Service to protect a site that is sacred to the Washoe people. Access Fund learned many lessons from that experience and respect for Indigenous people is now a core value that guides its work around the country.