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Access Fund lauds bipartisan Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act

March 9, 2023, 11:19 am

Boulder-based Access Fund on Wednesday issued the following press release on a new bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, whose district includes Vail, called the Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act:

BOULDER, Colo. – A new bill from Representatives John Curtis (R-Utah) and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), the Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act, would bring consistency to federal climbing management policy and protect some of America’s most iconic Wilderness climbing areas. Access Fund brought together these pro-climbing legislative champions, Wilderness policy experts, and everyday rock climbers to craft the policy. The bill responds to a growing threat from the National Park Service, which has recently moved to prohibit fixed anchors in Wilderness areas in California and Colorado. It is the first ever standalone climbing bill that provides national-level protections for sustainable Wilderness climbing activities.

“Access Fund’s core mission is to protect America’s climbing, and we’re thrilled to help craft and support a new bill that would do just that: the Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act,” says Access Fund Executive Director Chris Winter. “Thanks to the incredible leadership of Representatives Curtis and Neguse, we have an opportunity to protect Wilderness climbing and America’s exceptional climbing history.”

Wilderness plays an important role in American climbing—past and present. Some of the most iconic climbing in the country is located within Wilderness, including areas like El Capitan, The Diamond on Longs Peak, Joshua Tree’s Wonderland of Rocks, and North Carolina’s iconic Linville Gorge. Climbers have always relied on the legal and conditional use, placement, and maintenance of bolts and other fixed anchors. These anchors help keep these areas pristine, while still allowing climbers to safely ascend and descend technical routes. The Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act would bring consistency to federal management of climbing in Wilderness areas across land management agencies, including the management of fixed anchors, bolts, and other hardware. It enjoys broad support from recreationists and conservationists across the country.

“The bipartisan Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act is anchored to the benefits of rock climbing, which is good for our health, rural economies, and our public lands,” says Winter. “It’s also a testament to the growing power of the climbing advocacy movement, which is dedicated to protecting the land through smart climbing management policy that ensures sustainable access for climbers.”

Representatives Curtis and Neguse both represent districts with strong climbing communities and economies that depend on the $12 billion climbing industry.

“In Utah, recreation on public lands is a large and ever-growing industry,” says Congressman Curtis. “Ensuring access to these lands is vital not just for our economy, but also to ensure the millions of Americans who enjoy rock climbing can fully explore our nation’s national treasures.” 

“Colorado’s natural areas are home to some world-renowned rock climbing locations. By requiring additional agency guidance on climbing management, we are taking steps to protect our climbers and the spaces in which they recreate,” says Congressman Neguse. “I am thankful to Rep. Curtis for his continued partnership in our efforts to bolster outdoor recreation, and am glad to join him in introducing this legislation.”

This is not the first time Western elected leaders have advocated for Wilderness climbing. As Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a November 2022 letter to land management agencies:

“We should be doing everything we can right now to grow the coalition of champions for public lands and to support our land management agencies in responding to climate change and taking care of the places entrusted to our care. In contrast, a new prohibition on fixed anchors in Wilderness would jeopardize the safety of climbers, harm our recreation economy […], establish unnecessary bureaucracy, and restrict access to some of the wildest places in America.”

America’s 8 million climbers are a powerful climbing advocacy movement. Access Fund works to empower climbers with the tools they need to be effective advocates for the lands and sport they love—whether that’s elevating their voices to lawmakers, connecting them to volunteer opportunities, providing training and grants for local access and conservation projects, or helping them minimize their environmental impacts. Every climber has an incredible opportunity to influence the future of climbing and the greater conservation movement. Access Fund will share opportunities for climbers to weigh in on this impactful issue very soon.

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