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New U.S.A. Congress Bill Protects Rock Climbing

Congress passed the Natural Resources Management Act on Feb. 26, 2019, it’s the first-ever federal legislation to include climbing-specific language and protection. The Natural Resources Management Act won in a vote in the House of Representatives of 363-62, two weeks after its 92-8 vote in the Senate. The bill now awaits the signature of the President.

The clause reads: “RECREATIONAL CLIMBING—Nothing in this part prohibits recreational rock climbing activities in the wilderness areas, such as the placement, use, and maintenance of fixed anchors, including any fixed anchor established before the date of the enactment of this Act—”

Bennett Slavsky wrote for Climbing magazine: “Before this bill it has been kind of a gray area,” said Access Fund executive director Chris Winter. “Different land managers in different parts of the country have come up with different approaches to this question. Some land managers thought that fixed anchors really weren’t consistent with wilderness.”

The Access Fund has worked tirelessly for years—mostly successfully, with some exceptions in Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, and other areas—to facilitate healthy communication and understanding between land managers and the climbing community. But now climbers will have legal standing to support the continued enjoyment of their pastime.

“For the first time a wilderness bill has clarified that climbers can continue to use and enjoy these really special places and can continue to use and maintain fixed anchors, protecting the wilderness climbing experience for the first time in federal law.” Winter said. “Fixed anchors in wilderness shouldn’t be viewed any differently than trail construction, the construction of bathrooms, tent platforms, and all the other infrastructure we find in wilderness areas … Fundamentally, human-powered, non-mechanized recreation is one of the reasons for designating these areas as wilderness.”

Access in Canada

There’s no national Canadian climber’s access, instead there’s a number of provincial and local groups. There have been attempts to create a national access group, but some of the existing ones have declined to take part.

Some of Canada’s access groups are Squamish Access Society, Climber’s Access of B.C., TABVAR, Climber’s Access Society of Alberta, Ontario Alliance of Climbers, FQME and Climb Nova Scotia.

The access groups across Canada have worked hard to secure access to Canada’s popular and off-piste areas. Be sure to support your local group, learn about areas if you’ve never visited and follow the rules.

Last fall, Turtle Crag (easy access with many 5.10 sport routes) at Mount Nemo in Ontario was closed due to excessive noise. Outdoors isn’t indoors, tread lightly and keep the noise down at every crag. For a climber’s code of respect outline, visit here.