Apply for a Climbing Conservation Grant

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
R. Tyler Gross | Joshua Tree, CA

The Access Fund’s Climbing Conservation Grant Program funds projects that preserve or enhance climbing access and opportunities and conserve the climbing environment throughout the US. Since our inception in 1991, Access Fund has funded over $1.3 million to local organizations, climbers, and public agencies (see our Grant History).

Because we're a member-supported nonprofit organization, we fund projects that demonstrate local climber support, collaboration with land managers, and a commitment to long-term change. Your group’s efforts should be quantifiable, with specific objectives, a detailed budget, and measures for evaluating success. Most grant requests range from $1,000 to $4,000. Access Fund considers requests for more than $10,000, but these projects should have national significance and use a high degree of matching funds. If requesting more than $10,000, please call Access Fund at 303-545-6772 before submitting your application. Read through the projects that were awarded during 2019's Second Round to see examples of proposals that were vetted and awarded by Access Fund's grant committee.

Click here to download the application.


Who can apply:
We welcome applications from local climbing organizations, government agencies, conservation organizations, land trusts, grassroots organizations, community organizations, and individuals. Tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status is not a prerequisite.

Applicants who request funding within consecutive cycles will not be considered. Applications from organizations that have never received Access Fund funding will be given priority over applications from past grant recipients.

We look favorably upon applications that take justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) into account. Visit here for more information on JEDI.

Grants to individuals: Individuals are required to report grant money as income. IRS Form 1099 will be issued for all grants in excess of $600. Please consult your tax adviser for information regarding your specific reporting requirements.

We fund work that:

  • is action-oriented.
  • encourages access or enhances opportunities for climbing.
  • is forward-looking and considers long-term impact.
  • reduces climber impacts on natural and cultural resources within the climbing environment.
  • increases our scientific understanding of climbing impact, climbing behavior, and economic impact to further improve best practices for climbing management. All research projects must have a clear plan for distributing and communicating the results.
  • develops knowledge about natural and cultural resource values, where the information is used to open climbing areas or mitigate climbing impacts.
  • raises awareness about climber responsibility toward conserving the climbing environment.
  • considers how the improvement will fit into the climbing resource as a whole and affect all users.
  • has proven support from a local climbing organization and/or climbing community.
  • demonstrates inclusive and nondiscriminatory access to the climbing area and incorporates JEDI principles when executing projects.
  • incorporates a degree of volunteer labor.
  • uses matching agency and local funds, as well as in-kind support and pro bono services (maximum consideration will be given to projects where matching funds total at least 50% of the entire budget).
  • is strategic in its targeting and goals.
  • accomplishes specific goals and objectives that can be effectively measured.
  • takes place in the United States.

We do not fund:

  • fixed anchors, bolts, bolt installation, etc. (See Anchor Replacement Fund for bolt replacement projects.)
  • outdoor programs or guiding (e.g., taking groups climbing, except programs that incorporate stewardship).
  • climbing equipment.
  • marketing or membership recruitment.
  • indoor climbing walls or artificial climbing facilities.
  • political campaigns.
  • projects that do not benefit a technical climbing area—such as rock, ice, and alpine routes where climbers commonly rope up—or bouldering areas.
  • funds for paid professional services and travel stipends are limited and at the discretion of the grant committee (e.g., professional trail crews).

Additional considerations:

Land manager approval:
If your project requires landowner/manager approval, an approval letter or email from the landowner/manager must be submitted with your application, and the project should be shovel-ready. Any proposal for facilities, trail work, or sign installation on public lands requires landowner/manager permission and support. Research involving surveys or work in the field may also require permission. For example, building a trail on federal public lands requires some level of environmental review and must comply with federal laws. State and other local agencies may have their own environmental review procedures. This means that projects with a facility component require a long lead-time in the planning phase to gain the necessary approval. Check early on with the agency or landowner to gain understanding of their approval process and secure their approval before submitting your grant application.

Local Climbing Organization support:
Most climbing areas across the country fall under the care of a local climbing organization (LCO). Access Fund often works closely with these important stakeholders to steward and protect local climbing areas. If the applicant is not an LCO, grant applicants may need to demonstrate coordination and support from the relevant LCO(s). This ensures that there is community buy-in for your project and that everyone who works on behalf of that climbing resource is on the same page. If there is an LCO in your project area, please explain in your application the steps you have taken to coordinate with your LCO, and submit a letter or email from the LCO indicating their support. Email [email protected] if you need help connecting with the LCO in your project area.

Land acquisitions:
Considering the management and financial resources of land ownership, Access Fund views land acquisitions as a tool of last resort and has adopted the following guidelines for land acquisition projects. If you are requesting funds for a land acquisition, please call Access Fund before submitting your application. Because grant awards rarely exceed $10,000, a high degree of matching funds is often required, with grant funding as an additional, not primary, funding source. Consider a Climbing Conservation Loan if additional short-term financing is necessary to protect an imminently threatened climbing area and allow your organization more time to fundraise. A fully executed purchase agreement is required before Access Fund grant funds will be allocated to any acquisition. Applicants can also apply for grant funds after the initial acquisition when loan funds are used.

Application process:

Step 1 Review project suitability:
Review Climbing Conservation Grant guidelines and assess whether your project is compatible with Access Fund’s criteria. Access Fund encourages applicants to call Access Fund at the earliest stage to discuss their ideas and ensure that the proposal meets our grant award criteria before submission.

Step 2 When to apply:
If your work fits within our guidelines, we welcome your proposal prior to our grant deadlines. Grant applications are reviewed in two cycles each year. Applications must be received at Access Fund by the deadline date.

Winter deadline: March 1
Summer deadline: August 1

Step 3 The application:
Click here to download the grant application. Electronic submissions (Word or PDF), with attachments sent separately, are required.

If you have a fiscal sponsor, you will need to include their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt letter, along with a consent letter from the organization.

For grant requests over $5,000, the grantee organization is required to submit a copy of their most recent annual financial statements, a copy of the organization's bylaws and articles of incorporation, a listing of the current board of directors, the IRS determination letter (501(c)(3) or other tax status), and recent IRS Form 990. Individuals and governmental agencies are not subject to this requirement.

Step 4 - Submit application:
Email the application and required attachments to [email protected].

If you do not receive a confirmation email within two business days of submitting your application, please resend your application and call our office at 303-545-6772.

Step 5 Release of funds:
Grant recipients will have up to six months, but no later than the end of the calendar year, to claim grant money (recipients will need to resubmit a grant application in the following year if the money is not claimed by December 31), and funding will be released only for projects that begin within six months of the grant being awarded.

Prior to the release of funds, all grant recipients shall agree in writing to:

  • Submit a project report within 30 days of completion of the project. If the project is not completed in the calendar year for which the grant was awarded, grant recipients will need to submit a progress report no later than the end of the calendar year. This should include:
    • A completed Access Fund final or interim report (provided by Access Fund). Click here to download final and interim report.
    • Photos (if applicable) showing before and after shots of the project, or volunteers in action. Access Fund may use these photos in our newsletter or on our website.
    • Any copies of local newspaper/magazine coverage.
  • Return any unused funds. If the project is not completed within one year of Access Fund approval or the agreed time frame, or is completed at less than budgeted, all unused funds shall be returned immediately to Access Fund.
  • Provide Access Fund recognition. All projects must acknowledge Access Fund by inclusion of the Access Fund logo on signs, publicity, and/or outreach materials. The following wording must be included: “This project was made possible by a grant from Access Fund.” Sample acknowledgment signs are available from Access Fund. The Access Fund logo can be obtained electronically at

Step 6 Use of funds:

  • Grantee will use the funds awarded solely for the purpose(s) stated in their application and must repay to Access Fund any portion of such funds not used for those purposes.
  • Grantee will not attempt to influence legislation within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Code using any of the funds granted by Access Fund.
  • Grantee will not use any portion of funds awarded to participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office, to cause any private inurement or improper private benefit to occur, or to take any other action inconsistent with 501(c)(3) of the Code.
  • Grantee will notify Access Fund immediately of any change in its operations as a tax-exempt entity.
  • Grantee will indemnify and hold Access Fund harmless from any liability or loss arising in connection with the performance of any work and the grant of funds described in grantee’s application.

Cornerstone Conservation Grant Matching

Access Fund is also proud to work closely with the American Alpine Club's Cornerstone Conservation Grant Program. For larger projects, consider matching a Climbing Conservation Grant with a Cornerstone Conservation Grant. The deadline to submit applications to the American Alpine Club is August 15th.


Please direct any questions and email grant applications to [email protected]. Access Fund strongly encourages applicants to inquire about project ideas prior to applying to ensure appropriate projects are submitted.

Photos courtesy of Lee Powell