FAQ: Calico Basin Recreation Area Management Plan

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
Al Baker

The Bureau of Land Management is charged with protecting and conserving Red Rock for the American public, including Calico Basin, and the BLM has been looking at strategies to address the steady increase in visitors over the last decade. Access Fund and Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition (SNCC) have been deeply engaged in this planning process, and in May of this year, the BLM released the final Calico Basin Recreation Area Management Plan. Due to a number of shortcomings in the final plan, Access Fund and Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition have filed a Notice of Administrative Appeal to further engage with the BLM in finding better solutions to managing visitor use beyond installing a gate and restricting access. As climbers, we all care deeply for the environment and the special places we enjoy. But we firmly believe education, partnerships, staffing, and adaptive management should at least be considered as alternatives to address the situation before deciding to build a gate and require reservations. Access Fund, SNCC, and many climbers are ready, willing, and able to assist BLM with these other management strategies to find a sustainable solution.

What is an Administrative Appeal?
In an administrative appeal, someone who disagrees with a decision by an agency (e.g., Bureau of Land Management) asks for a review of that decision by a different office within the agency or department—usually an office set up specifically to consider these types of appeals. The process is designed to ensure that there is another level of review for that decision within the agency.

In this case, Access Fund and SNCC are filing an administrative appeal to the BLM Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) requesting a review of the decision made by Red Rock/Sloan Field Office on the final Calico Basin Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP).

How long does the appeal process take?
The appeal process could take several months depending on the BLM’s timeline to respond with proposed next steps. We will keep the climbing community up to date as this process develops.

What are potential outcomes of the appeal?
The IBLA could uphold/affirm the RAMP, remand the RAMP back to the field office for additional work, or modify the RAMP. In addition, it is possible that the appellants could reach an agreement with the BLM regarding the appeal.

What is the purpose of the Calico Basin Recreation Area Management Plan?
The purpose of developing a RAMP for Calico Basin is to provide coordinated management and identification of necessary facilities and infrastructure to support targeted day-use recreational activities within the area, specifically rock climbing, bouldering, hiking, horseback riding, casual nature viewing, and picnicking or group events, while protecting the scenic, biological, and cultural resources in the area. The objective of management strategies for these recreation opportunities, as stated in the RAMP, is to mitigate impacts on natural and cultural resources while facilitating more desirable recreational experiences and settings for this popular outdoor recreation destination near Las Vegas.

What is the problem with the Calico Basin RAMP?
In the Final RAMP, BLM has decided to add a gate, impose an entry fee, restrict hours, and implement a reservation system in order to limit and control the number of people who can access Calico Basin with the hope that this will address social conflicts and impacts to natural resources, as well as raise revenue. In a concerning move under the National Environmental Policy Act, BLM eliminated from detailed consideration all other management alternatives before issuing a final decision.

Are Access Fund and SNCC against all entry fees, reservations, and restrictions?
While Access Fund and SNCC are not categorically opposed to gates, fees, and reservations, we believe that this kind of restrictive management approach should be implemented only after land managers and partners try to address identified impacts through less heavy-handed tactics, such as visitor education, parking enforcement, signage, monitoring, and adaptive management. We also believe that gates, fees, and reservations should be assessed independently—perhaps a more modest fee could be implemented along with better enforcement and visitor education without having to build a gate or implement a reservation system. Calico Basin has always been free of locked gates and open 24/7. The planning process never considered in detail any of these other alternatives, which is generally required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Access Fund and SNCC are also concerned that a fee will price out people in our community who can’t afford to pay to enjoy public lands. Along with a gate, this management approach could send a very unwelcoming message, which could have a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities and their ability to enjoy this very special place.

What does Access Fund and SNCC propose instead?
Our suggestions to the BLM are:

  • The BLM must consider less restrictive management alternatives that will preserve sustainable and equitable access to Calico Basin.

  • The BLM should implement and iterate adaptive management strategies that use data and feedback to evaluate effectiveness—e.g. visitor education, parking enforcement and fees, and increased ranger presence.

  • The BLM should consider the indirect and cumulative impacts that may result from restrictions on access at Calico Basin and the Loop Road will have on other areas of Red Rock and surrounding public lands, and it should look at comprehensive recreation management strategies.

  • The BLM should deepen its partnerships with nonprofit organizations who are ready and willing to help educate climbers and visitors, manage impacts, and preserve natural resources.

  • The BLM should commit to investing any additional fees into recreational infrastructure, visitor education, and basic visitor amenities.

  • If the BLM must move forward with the proposed gate, they should allow for early entry/late exit, similar to the Scenic Loop, along with allowances for pedestrians to enter without paying a fee.

How have Access Fund and SNCC participated in the Calico Basin RAMP planning process?
Access Fund and SNCC have participated in every step of the public participation process of the Calico Basin RAMP. We submitted public comments during the scoping phase as well as in response to the Draft RAMP. We also issued a membership action alert during the Draft public comment period encouraging climbers to comment on the plan. In addition, we attended the BLM public meetings held for the RAMP and have had several meetings directly with BLM staff.

Where can I read the detailed Calico Basin RAMP Plan?
The BLM has made the plan publicly available for download here.

How can I get involved?
Make sure you are signed up for Access Fund e-news. We will provide you with updates as this process develops.