FRB: You're an advocacy group...
what does that
Access Fund: ad·vo·ca·cy n.
The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause,
idea, or policy; active support.
The Access Fund is an organization that argues in favor of keeping climbing
areas open and preserving the climbing environment. A large part of
advocating for keeping climbing areas open involves influencing land
management policy (both public and private). The Access Fund believes
that the key to influencing land management is cooperation. Discussions
between climbers and land managers will result in climbing-management
policies based on mutual agreement. Examples of our specific advocacy
efforts include the following:
Work with federal lands agencies on a reasonable policy for the use
of fixed anchors in Wilderness. Testimony to a Congressional hearing
opposing the extension of the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program ("Fee
Demo"), and successful work with other recreation advocacy groups to
prevent Fee Demo from being extended for four more years. Congressional
lobbying to increase funding for federal land agencies for recreation
and resource protection. Work with land managers and local climbers
to protect archeological values at the Happy Boulders (CA), Castle Rock
Ranch (ID), and the Road 18 Caves (OR). Support for resource protection,
trail improvements, and climber education at Hueco Tanks, TX; work towards
easing of restrictions through site-specific protection of sensitive
resources. Support of Utah Open Lands and the Castle Rock Collaboration
in efforts to preserve the traditional climbers camping area and access
to Castleton Tower near Moab, Utah. Opposition to new fees, insurance
requirements, and rescue cost recovery efforts in Denali National Park
that discriminate against climbers. Work with Red River Gorge Climbers
Coalition on a new management plan, resource surveys, and climber education.
Work to restore access to one of the best bouldering areas in the southeast:
Horse Pens 40, AL. Ouray Ice Park, CO: $5,000 grant to upgrade supply
system & conserve water. New River Gorge, WV: work with New River Alliance
of Climbers and National Park Service on a local climbing management
plan. Yosemite, CA: work with National Park Service on implementation
of the Yosemite Valley Plan, protection of Camp 4, climbing around Yosemite
Falls, and on preserving affordable camping opportunities. Castle Rock
Ranch, ID: work with state officials on concepts for climbing management
plan for this soon-to-be state park. Boulder Mountain Parks, CO: work
with parks officials on reopening of certain areas to new bolted routes,
and to prevent unwarranted restrictions on bouldering at certain locations.
FRB: Who does an Advocacy group answer to?
Access Fund: While The Access
Fund advocates on behalf of the interests of an estimated one million
technical rockclimbers and mountaineers nationwide, Access Fund members
are our guiding light when it comes to policy accountability. However,
we cannot please all of our members all of the time. Many of the issues
we deal with are controversial, such as fixed anchors in Wilderness
or the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program. Thus, after listening
to the opinions of our members on such policy issues, we also look to
our experienced and extremely capable board of directors to develop
our various positions on policy issues. The Access Fund Board of Directors
establishes organizational policy and ensures that our mission and vision
are fulfilled. Our board is composed of 23 volunteers (plus two honorary
members) who represent all viewpoints of the climbing community and
who are committed to defending climbing freedoms, preserving climbing
access, and protecting the climbing environment. All of our board meetings
are open to the public. For dates and locations, call (303) 545-6772.
FRB: Who started the Access Fund, and
how long as it
been in operation?
The Access Fund was created in 1987 by the Access Committee of the American
Alpine Club, as a “bank” of funds to buy land or otherwise pay for the
costs of keeping climbing areas open. In 1990, the Access Fund separated
from the AAC and incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, to
better focus on advocacy for climbers. Our mission is “to keep climbing
areas open, and to conserve the climbing environment.” Thus our most
basic purpose is to preserve access for climbers, and to make sure that
the natural resources we depend on for our activities remain in good
shape, so that the climbing experience is not degraded. The Founding
President of the Access Fund was Armando Menocal, a well-known attorney
and advocate for public interest causes. Also on our first board of
directors were folks like Ric Accomazzo, Mariah Cranor and Randy Vogel,
well-known climbers from the 1970s and ‘80s. Now, the AF
has active climbers like Chris McNamara, Kurt Smith, Conrad Anker, and
Sam Lightner on the board. We also have a number of leading boulderers
who serve as advisors to the Access Fund. These include Chris Sharma,
David Graham, Lisa Rands and Tommy Caldwell. Look for these folks in
our most recent advertisements and a series of posters which support
our efforts to save access to bouldering areas and promote a good conservation
ethic among boulderers.
FRB: You guys “buy” land or crags or access to crags.
Who owns it after
you buy it?
Access Fund: Long-term ownership
of land we acquire depends on various circumstances. We own three climbing
areas in Colorado, but our preference is to convey land to a public
agency. This can be tricky however, because we want to make sure we
have a say in how climbing will be managed, and because there’s a cost
associated with owning land- especially when it’s being used for recreation.
These factors alone can limit ownership options. Buying climbing areas
and preserving access really distinguishes us from other organizations.
Since 1990, the Access Fund’s land acquisitions program has protected
more than 3,400 acres of climbing and open space lands valued at over
$3 million dollars. Sometimes we’ll buy land, or accept a donation of
land with climbing resources. At other times, we’ll partner with an
organization like a land trust or local climbers group to acquire or
otherwise protect land. Many of the areas that we acquire are threatened
with development and would probably be closed without some form of direct
intervention. A good example of this is the Boat Rock bouldering area
near Atlanta. We just gave the Southeastern Climbers Coalition $10,000
to help purchase 7.5 acres. This parcel contains fantastic bouldering
but it is also a prime target for developers.
FRB: What is the AF's agenda?
Access Fund: Our “agenda” depends
on what issue you are talking about. For Access Fund position statements
on various issues,
see our website or here.
Alternatively, consult our E-News and newsletter, The Vertical Times,
to see where we stand on issues and what we have been doing to preserve
climbing. Climbers can also gauge our “agenda” by looking at what we’ve
done in the past. We’ve compiled a list “The 55 Ways the Access Fund
Has Made a Difference in 2001” which can be found here.
Various Access Fund policy positions include the following:
The Access Fund urges all climbers to recognize and to limit the impacts
of their climbing practices on the environment, other climbers, land
managers, and other users. “Chopping” or removing bolts invariably results
in damage to the resource and should not occur until and unless a consensus
has been reached between all parties. Chipping or gluing of holds on
natural rock faces causes unacceptable resource impacts. Climbing may
involve the use of fixed anchors, including expansion bolts or pitons,
and their use has long been recognized as legitimate. The use of fixed
anchors is often necessary for safe climbing. Climbers have the knowledge
needed to install, replace, or remove fixed anchors. When placing fixed
anchors, climbers should limit their impact by all reasonable means.
All fixed anchors should be camouflaged, in accordance with local practice,
to further reduce their minimal visual impact. Climbers should refrain
from placing bolts where removable protection is feasible and safe.
The most effective way to deal with access issues is to get involved
with the Access Fund at the local level. If you have a local climbing
organization, get involved and support its efforts to promote access
to climbing areas. If you do not have a local club, form one immediately
and contact the Access Fund for help in getting your local organization
started. Above all, climb responsibly. Show respect not only for other
climbers, but also for land managers and other users. Never trespass
on private land and respect all closures on public lands and report
all questionable closures to the Access Fund and to local climbing organizations.
FRB: What are the procedures involved in getting an area
Access Fund: Every land acquisition
is unique because no two climbing areas are the same. Each area must
be evaluated on its own merits but generally we consider the overall
“threat” to climbing access (i.e., such as the likelihood of the property
being sold to developers), current ownership, cost, location, significance
of the climbing, ownership of surrounding property, and infrastructure
needs like trails, toilets, signs, etc. Occasionally there may be other
options in lieu of a direct purchase such as an easement or donation.
In any case, figuring out who will ultimately own and manage the land
is crucial. Like most non-profits, we have to use our limited resources
wisely. We also have to balance acquisitions with other priorities since
acquiring land is not the only thing we do.
FRB: The AF recently “launched a bouldering campaign.”
What does that
mean to the typical boulderer?
Access Fund: The overall goal
of our Bouldering Campaign is to preserve opportunities for bouldering.
That alone should mean a great deal to boulderers. Other objectives
of the campaign are aimed at educating climbers about ways to reduce
impacts (reducing impacts = keeping areas open), and educating land
managers about bouldering so they can manage it in the least restrictive
manner possible. There are many areas around the country where access
to bouldering is threatened. Take Bishop for example. We just gave the
BLM (the managing agency for the area) $9,700 to help manage bouldering
on the Volcanic Tablelands. Without this money, the BLM could quite
easily restrict access to prime bouldering areas due to “resource impact”
concerns. Bear in mind that Bishop is now one of the most popular bouldering
areas in the country with 16,000 climber visits last year alone. That’s
a lot of people and quite frankly, the BLM have been overwhelmed. Our
money will help pay for things like toilets in the climbers campground,
and cultural resource surveys to identify sensitive sites that the BLM
are required by law to protect. We’re also looking at acquiring a major
bouldering area, like Horse Pens-40, AL and we’ve already helped to
acquire the Saddle Boulders near Donner Summit, CA and Boat Rock, GA.
Locally, we spent $8,000 for a restoration project to mitigate resource
impacts (primarily caused by years of heavy bouldering use) at Flagstaff
Mountain near Boulder. All of these efforts keep bouldering areas open
which is something that all boulderers should care about even if they
haven’t seen direct AF intervention at their favorite area.
FRB: Can you briefly explain what the AF
Access Fund: The guidelines
for our grants program can be viewed on our website.
In 2002, we’ve budgeted $120,000 to pay for things like land acquisitions,
access easements, trail construction and maintenance projects, informational
kiosks and parking improvements, sanitation facilities, climber brochures
and educational materials, and support for local climber organizations.
Climbers everywhere are the real beneficiaries of the grants program
since the money is used to keep climbing areas open and conserve the
FRB: You sponsor cool programs like 'Adopt-a-Crag Day' but then seem
to not get this information to climbers. What's that about?
Access Fund: Actually, we do
get information to climbers about our Adopt-a-Crag Day, both before
and after the event. The numbers evidence an impressive awareness among
climbers regarding this unique event: climbers and volunteers across
the United States celebrated the 2nd annual Adopt-a-Crag day at 67 areas
in 25 states. Over 2,000 people united to build and restore 150 miles
of trail and clear thousands of bags of trash from crags. While we hope
to increase the number of events and restoration projects for next year’s
Adopt-a-Crag, we’re proud of last year’s achievements. Erosion control
and trash removal remained the focus of most events in 2001 as climbers
worked side by side with land managers. Areas saw improvement in trail
maintenance and construction, chalk cleanups, realignment of switchbacks,
retaining wall and water bar construction, parking area resurfacing,
mulching and stabilization of staging areas, cliff top enhancement,
fixed anchor replacement, and much more. Most event organizers listed
enhanced public relations with land managers and the improved image
of climbers as their number one success. Adopt-a-Crag Day is aimed at
educating the climbing community about the importance of stewardship
and of teaching climbers the skills needed to maintain their local climbing
areas (it’s also a way for us to give back to the climbing areas we
care deeply about).
FRB: Your mission statement states you are a national, nonprofit organization
dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing
environment. How do you reconcile that the fact that hiking and climbing
is destructive to the environment.
Access Fund: Conserving natural
resources and the climbing environment should be a high priority for
all climbers. However, the notion that hiking and climbing are somehow
“destructive” to the environment is nonsense. We would agree however,
that hiking and climbing can have an “impact” upon the environment.
This is why the Access Fund urges all climbers to recognize and to limit
the impacts of their climbing practices on the environment. This is
also one of the reasons why we encourage an ethic of strong conservation
values among climbers. More importantly though, we believe the impacts
associated with hiking and climbing can be reduced and mitigated to
acceptable levels. For example, staying on designated trails, packing
out litter and waste, and following clean climbing practices are all
ways to minimize impacts. We also strongly discourage practices such
as manufacturing holds, gluing, and chopping bolts due to unacceptable
resource impacts. We believe the vast majority of climbers are responsible
individuals committed to cooperative stewardship of the environment,
as evidenced by the Access Fund’s long history of trail work, area cleanups,
and respect for seasonal wildlife restrictions. It’s also very important
to maintain a sense of balance and perspective when discussing the subject
of “impact” to the environment. One has to be very specific about defining
impacts so 1) they can be properly understood, 2) they can be properly
mitigated, and 3) that land managers and other users are not unnecessarily
provoked to hysteria about negligible recreational impacts caused, for
example, by climbing or bouldering. The Access Fund does more than any
other organization to address recreational impacts that are, in part,
caused by climbers. These preservation efforts do not conflict with
our efforts to maintain climbing access. Again: reducing impacts = keeping
climbing areas open. Our mission statement seeks to “conserve the climbing
environment.” There is nothing contradictory with our advocating for
a recreation group that at times can impact the environment it uses.
If anything, the fact that we seek to conserve the climbing environment
acknowledges that we sometimes do impact the environment, but that we
are being responsible about it by working to mitigate such impacts so
that our use does not alter the environment negatively for future generations
of rockclimbers, hikers, butterfly catchers, and bird-watchers(whoever.
While we work to keep agencies honest and fair in their public land
resource management, we also dedicate a significant amount of time and
energy (and grant funding) to those agencies to help them do their jobs
more effectively and equitably. The Access Fund is proud of its record
of promoting environmental responsibility. In addition to Adopt-a-Crag,
some of our conservation efforts include the following: The Access Fund
Conservation Program -- focuses on expanding the Access Fund's science
base, broadening education outreach on wildlife issues, and facilitating
research projects with partner organizations. Climbing and Natural Resources
Management -- A 60-page publication which for the first time provides
an overview of studies, climbing management plans and reports related
to climbing and natural resource management. Project Vertical Veg –
In this unique venture, The Access Fund joined forces with the Californian
Native Plant Society and Joshua Tree National Park to devise ways to
assess climbing impacts on desert plant communities. New survey techniques
have been developed and JT’s informal system of trails were revised.
A report of this work is available from Joshua Tree National Park. National
information for climbers on wildlife closures -- Each year the Access
Fund lists information on seasonal climbing restrictions to protect
cliff nesting raptors and wildlife at over 90 climbing locations. Climbers
can access this information through the Access Fund web
site, and our January newsletter. By providing contact telephone
numbers and linked web sites, climbers can find out more information
about whether their destination has some form of restriction before
traveling. Raptors and Climbers -- This specialist publication provides
guidelines on how to manage climbing in areas with cliff-nesting raptors.
Produced in 1997 in consultation with biologists and land managers this
publication has been widely distributed to public lands managers and
climbing organizations. This project is an initiative aimed at raising
understanding on climbing management and wildlife protection. Climbing
Management: A Guide to Climbing Issues and the Production of a Climbing
Management Plan -- This 90-page document serves as a resource to those
dealing with climbing management issues or preparing a climbing management
plan. The goal of this project is to share information and encourage
greater consistency in climbing management in the US. Two years in the
making, Climbing Management contains over 50 illustrations and previously
unassembled information on topics such as climbing and cultural resource
protection, bouldering management issues, practices to mitigate impacts
to vegetation, liability, education and outreach. Access Fund Grants
Program -- Each year the Access Fund provides grants from $200 to $10,000
towards projects that enhance climbing opportunities and conserve the
cliff environment. Grant categories include: conservation, research,
monitoring, education, facilities, and acquisition. The Access Fund
provided $138,000 to 32 projects in 2000; over $70,000 in 2001 to 20
projects; and in our latest grant cycle we gave more than $30K in our
first Climbing Preservation Grants cycle of 2002. Eight of nine applications
were approved this cycle totaling $33,980 in funds for trail improvements,
preservation of private lands from development, conservation easements
and solutions to waste disposal problems in the mountains. The Access
Fund has budgeted $120K in grants this year. We're proud to fund these
important initiatives on behalf of our members, corporate partners,
volunteers and the entire climbing community.
FRB: In one of your general policy statements you suggest “getting
involved in local climbing organizations and supporting its efforts
to promote access to climbing areas.” You go on to say that if there’s
not a local club “form one immediately” and contact the AF for help.
Can you please explain the process involved.
Access Fund: One of the things
we firmly believe is that access is best preserved through local activism
and relationship building with land managers, other user groups, etc.
We support local activism by helping climbers form coalitions or “local
climber organizations.” Sometimes a group wants to incorporate as a
legal entity and we help them through the process. Other times, we simply
offer advice and help to get a group up and running. Once a group establishes
itself, we offer ongoing assistance and resources to help them succeed.
FRB: Partnerships and cooperation are basic tenets of the AF. How
does the typical climber put these practices in their climbing?
Access Fund: The Access Fund
has discovered that, in the cause of preserving access, some “techniques”
work better than others. In general, climbing access is supported by
climbers having a good public image. Where climbers are perceived as
being cooperative, law-abiding, and inclined to work with land managers
or private property owners, there are fewer access problems. It’s important
for people to know that climbers will fight to preserve their climbing
areas and opportunities, but it’s also important for people to know
that climbers are, by and large, reasonable folks who will play within
the rules and take care of the areas they care about. Also, climbers
have a more powerful voice when they work together. An organized group
always makes a bigger and longer-lasting impression than a few impassioned
individual voices. Partnerships means climbers working together, as
well as with other interest groups and land managers. Partnerships get
people invested in issues and practices of mutual concern, and help
forge compromise solutions to problems. Climbers can put these concepts
to work in their climbing by:
(1) joining a local climbers organization.
(2) starting a local climbers group, if one does not already exist.
(3) abiding by rules, or working with the AF to change the rules if
they are unreasonable or unnecessary.
(4) turning out for volunteer events such as cleanups and trail work.
(5) making donations to support use of facilities such as campgrounds,
even if donations are not required.
(6) approaching land managers and property owners about developing agreements
which preserve climbing and minimize resource impacts, and
(7) by keeping a low profile – leave the boom box at home, keep the
voice level low, be courteous to other visitors to the area.
FRB: A complaint among the Front Range bouldering community is that
the AF seems to have neglected us in your work. How do you respond to
Access Fund: It’s disappointing
to hear that some boulderers along the Front Range think the Access
Fund has “neglected” them. Perhaps people just don’t know what we’ve
been doing in this region. We’ve paid for trail improvements at the
Horsetooth Reservoir area near Fort Collins. We’ve paid thousands of
dollars to improve trails and restore damaged soils and vegetation on
Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. We’ve worked behind the scenes with our
contacts in the National Park Service to prevent an official backlash
to all the “development” of bouldering in Rocky Mountain National Park.
We’re working right now to ensure continued access to the Morrison boulders.
And we’re closely involved with the planning for Boulder Open Space
and Mountain Parks, which could include proposals to prohibit roped
climbing and/or bouldering in some areas of Mountain Parks. (We have
heard a rumor that some folks think we are horse-trading bouldering
access for bolting privileges – nothing could be further from the truth.
We will adamantly oppose closure or restrictions on climbing access
for all types of climbing opportunities in Boulder Open Space and Mountain
Parks.)Climbers who criticize the Access Fund for not doing enough are
usually not members of the AF – otherwise they’d know, from receiving
our newsletter and news bulletins, what we’ve really been doing to support
climbing and preserve access. Membership in the AF costs only $20 per
year – a pretty small investment to make for a really important cause.
No one else is fighting for climbers like we are. Climbers should put
their money where their mouths are and support the Access Fund. Either
that or try to solve their own problems without our help.
FRB: The access to the Damnation Boulders is in question. The fisherman
cross over through the “No-Trespassing” sign and aren’t told by the
Water Board to leave. But boulderers have been told they are trespassing
and they must leave. What’s the story with the access to the DamNation
Boulders? (Gross Dam Boulders).
Access Fund: In the case of
the Damnation boulders, the actual property boundaries are uncertain
and can only be determined with further review of accurate maps. Gross
Reservoir is owned and operated by Denver Water, Colorado’s largest
water utility. It appears the Damnation boulders (since they are downstream
and east of the dam) may be on Boulder County Open Space property or
a mix of Open Space and Denver Water property. Neither of these property
owners are particularly climber friendly, and in the case of Denver
Water, they have the right to exclude people from their property since
it’s privately owned. They may allow some access to South Boulder Creek
from their property but these points need to be figured out. Fishing
is allowed at the Reservoir and of course, fisherman pay a license fee
which may get them preferential treatment. We’re not saying this is
fair; we’re only pointing out that this is how things often play out.
Also, Denver Water employees may be accustomed to seeing fisherman whereas
they may view climbers with suspicion. Occasionally these issues can
be resolved quickly; sometimes it can take years of negotiating. In
any case, the Access Fund will investigate further the climbing access
situation at the Damnation boulders, and report through our internet
newsletter and web site what we learn or are able to work out. Sometimes
climbers are their own worst enemies in terms of preserving access.
Although we do not know if this is the case at the Damnation boulders,
there is a pattern of area “development” that often leads to problems.
It goes something like this: Climbers discover a really cool new area,
with lots of potential routes or problems. Climbers ignore No Trespassing
signs, or assume the new area is on public land, or piss off the landowner
by refusing to leave when asked to do so. Climbers tell all their friends
about the new area, who tell other friends, etc. V14 is established
at the new area, and photos get published in the magazines and on the
Internet. Hundreds of climbers show up over the next few months to check
out the new area. The area starts to show signs of use: unplanned trails,
tape wads, cigarette butts, dog and human excrement, soil compaction,
loss of vegetation, etc. The property owner starts worrying about liability.
Climbers are perceived as being unwelcome, and access for climbing is
banned or limited. Climbers call the Access Fund for help. This pattern
could be avoided if climbers would contact the Access Fund with questions
about land ownership, etc., in advance of problems.
FRB: Thanks for the interview.
Access Fund: You're welcome,