Climbing Banned at One of Country's Top Crags

Access Fund worries the decision set a precedent for public land use across the West
Staff Writer

USGS/Access Fund

The 400 acres where BLM has banned climbing is within an area managed by several government agencies and known as Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area. It's just north of the famed City of Rocks climbing area, also shown here.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced it was banning climbing on a 400-acre section of Castle Rocks, Idaho. The decision will impact more than 40 climbing routes, plus hundreds of potential new ones. Though the ban won't affect climbing at the larger, better known City of Rocks area that's located just 10 miles to the south, the Access Fund is gearing up to fight back.

So far, the BLM has been vague about the reasons behind the ban, saying simply that it's necessary to protect historic cultural resources inventoried by a recent field survey. Two local tribes—the Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute—who have a long history in the area, are in support of the ban, apparently concerned that climbers could damage their (unnamed) cultural resources in the area. According to the Access Fund, though, the field study only identified two places on the property where these resources are located, and the BLM failed to address why climbing couldn't continue elsewhere on the plot.

The ban is the result of a 10-year process in which three agencies responsible for public access to the area (commonly called Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area)—the BLM, Castle Rocks State Park and the Forest Service—worked to agree on an Interagency Climbing Management Program. Castle Rocks State Park adoped the plan, but the BLM hasn't, presumably because it hasn't been able to fund staff to manage climbing on its portion of Castle Rocks.

This has the Access Fund worried that the Castle Rocks ban could set a precedent to ban climbing—or other recreational activities it can't adequately monitor—across any of its 245-million-acre jurisdiction, which is a scary proposition. If you want to speak up to reverse the decision, Access Fund is soliciting comments.

Via The Access Fund.



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