The Latest in the Fight for Public Lands

We just got back from a productive week in Washington, DC, advocating for climbers' interests. Here's what you need to know in the realm of public lands policy this month:

  • New BLM policy prioritizes energy development and ignores stakeholders. Secretary of the Interior Zinke recently released a new set of oil and gas development policies for BLM lands, home to 12% of climbing areas in the US. These policies fast-track energy development and make environmental reviews and stakeholder input (from climbers and others) optional. Access Fund is actively working to compel policy makers to consider recreation as an important value of public lands and involve the climbing community when energy leases intersect with climbing environments.
  • Access Fund opposes a bill that would codify President Trump's reduction of Bears Ears National Monument. We met with Congressman Curtis (R-UT) to discuss his recently introduced Shash Jaa National Monument and Indian Creek National Monument Act (HR 4532). Although we submitted testimony on the bill last month, we wanted an in-person meeting to discuss our concerns that the bill would remove landscape-scale management for the Bears Ears region, codify a President's authority to modify a National Monument, and diminish the integrity of the Antiquities Act. This bill is trying to thread the needle to mitigate seemingly unresolvable disagreements between Native Americans, conservationists, recreationists, Utah delegates, and San Juan County residents. Access Fund will continue to work with Curtis' office on HR 4532 to find a solution that does not threaten Bears Ears and other National Monuments. If this bill advances, we may need to activate the voices of the climbing community. Stay tuned for updates.
  • A major overhaul of the Department of the Interior is in the works. Secretary of the Interior Zinke has proposed a major reorganization of the Department of the Interior (DOI), which oversees the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Right now, the DOI is centralized in Washington, DC, with individual parks and BLM offices reporting up to the executive office. Zinke is proposing a de-centralization of the DC operations, splitting the country into 13 DOI regions that would act independently and set unique policies for their own regions. This is a bold and expensive proposal, and the effects of this reorganization would be profound.
  • Federal Government measures the economic impact of outdoor recreation. We're pleased to see that the Bureau of Economic Analysis completed its first report on the outdoor recreation industry, showing that it contributes $373 billion a year to the US gross domestic product (GDP). Recreation areas (like climbing areas) are renewable economic resources, and these statistics will help Access Fund's advocacy efforts by showing that climbing can be a vital economic driver, especially in rural America.

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