Balancing Act: A Look Inside Access Fund

Access Fund works to keep climbing landscapes both protected and accessible 

access-fund

LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE CLIMBER ABRAM HERMAN SCALING MIGHTY DOG IN GOLDEN’S CLEAR CREEK CANYON. Photo by Kris Ugarriza/Red Wave Pictures

Brady Robinson, a climber for nearly 30 years who spent 11 years as the executive director of the Boulder-based Access Fund before leaving in June to lead fundraising for Tompkins Conservation, can recall a time when he could drive right up to the base of Black Velvet Canyon in Red Rocks, Nev., and camp. But eventually, that kind of up-close entry at the canyon, and many other popular climbing spots, was restricted. That’s where the Access Fund comes in. Formed in 1991 to act as the national mediator between climbers and land managers, Access Fund works to preserve the rights of climbers, as well as save lands that, due to the popularity of the sport, have declined in health. Some spots on the fund’s epic saves list: Mount St. Helens in Washington, Yosemite Valley in California, the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Tennessee and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Background

  • In the mid-’80s, as climbing was gaining in popularity, land managers began to shut down sites they considered risky. In response, in 1985 the American Alpine Club created an access committee to fight the closures and, six years later, Access Fund broke off from the AAC to become its own organization. “To us, access issues are anything from a place being closed to an entire iconic climbing landscape being threatened,” Robinson says.

How it works

  • Because so many climbing areas are on public lands, Access Fund works with federal officials, state agencies, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and local agencies to make climbers’ needs part of the planning equation. They also acquire land. “If a climbing community has a privately held area under threat or for sale, we have the expertise and a roughly $1 million fund to quickly buy the property,” Robinson says. “Then, we help them fundraise to pay ourselves back.” And, he adds, to mitigate the impact that climbers have on climbing areas, the group has “a conservation program in partnership with Jeep, in which three teams of two professional trail builders live on the road full-time for 10 months, doing trail and rock work and stewardship across the country.”

How you can help

  • Head to accessfund.org to learn about issues, volunteer for a local organization connected with Access Fund, report access issues or host an Adopt a Crag event, where volunteers do litter cleanup, trail restoration and construction, weed removal and more.

THE ACCESS FUND
The Access Fund’s annual Celebrating Climbing and Conservation summit and dinner is Sept. 22 in New York City. Visit the website for more events and information. accessfund.org

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