Restore Our Climbing Areas: A Plan for the Future

12/03/2018

Most climbing areas in this country were developed quietly, by an adventurous few, in a time when the sport was relatively obscure. The majority were not designed by experts as actual recreation sites, with infrastructure to contain the impact and protect the environment. This wasn’t a problem when the cliffs and boulders saw few visitors, but the number of climbers in this country has increased dramatically, and our climbing areas are buckling under the pressure of more and more visitors.

Access Fund's mission is to keep climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment. And we are working alongside local climbing organizations across the country to address these issues, but we need additional resources to prepare (and in many cases restore) our climbing areas to handle the increased traffic of our growing climbing population.

Photo above: The base of Roadside Crag in Kentucky showing signs of significant erosion, including exposed tree roots and social trails. Roadside Crag was closed for nearly 7 years, due in part to climber impacts. The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team restored this area in 2018.

A Way Forward

We are currently raising funds to help address the climbing stewardship crisis, with the following objectives:

  • A nationwide inventory of climbing area needs & stewardship plans. We need to expand our efforts to assess climbing areas across the country, document urgent needs, identify future concerns and opportunities, and develop comprehensive stewardship plans. Each climbing area is unique and needs its own documented stewardship plan in order to obtain land manager approval, prepare for environmental review processes, and secure funding. These plans include prescribed infrastructure needs, management tools, implementation timelines, and maintenance objectives.
  • Strengthen the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team program. We already have 3 teams of trailbuilders/conservation specialists on the road for 10 months of the year helping local climbing communities address stewardship challenges. But the demands placed on these teams far outpace their current capacity. With additional support, we’ll be able to tackle more large-scale projects, train more advocates, leverage more volunteers, expand project scopes, and reach more communities in need.
  • Grow the Climbing Conservation Grants Program to empower locals. Right now, Access Fund awards $40,000 a year in grant funds to local climbing organizations and volunteers tackling access and stewardship projects in their local communities. This fund is not nearly large enough to tackle the critical need. If we could double the grant fund in 2019, it would double our positive impact on the ground.
  • Deepen our climber outreach and education initiatives. Many climbers lack the knowledge that there is a real problem, or that threats to climbing access even exist. We must expand our education and outreach to reach more climbers and help them understand how to limit their impacts.
  • Increase support for local climbing organizations. For decades our most important local partner in stewardship work has been local climbing organizations. Every year we work with local volunteers and groups to support hundreds of Adopt a Crag trail days, and dozens of Conservation Team projects. Access Fund needs to expand services to our network of 120 local climbing organizations, offer more trainings in strategic stewardship planning, technical field skills, fundraising, and community outreach to increase their capacity to tackle lengthy and large scale stewardship initiatives.
  • Further partnerships with land managers. Access Fund needs greater capacity to expand and deepen partnerships with public land management agencies. These relationships are the starting point for collaborative stewardship initiatives, ensuring science-based climbing management that allows continued access and ensures our climbing areas are ready to handle the growing population.
Photo Courtesy of:
Jared Musgrave

Tell Land Managers: Let Climbers Tackle Stewardship

Land managers often lack the funding and expertise to fix growing impacts, and getting through the red tape to put a shovel in the ground is their biggest obstacle. There are several bills and initiatives being drafted now that will streamline approvals for public lands, and we need your help to show land managers a groundswell of support from climbers.
Sign the Petition