Speak Up to Protect Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is kicking off the planning process to create a new Climbing Management Plan (CMP) for this world-class climbing destination, and we need you to speak up to ensure the best outcome.

Climbing at Joshua Tree National Park, ancestral lands of Serrano and Western Shoshone. © R. Tyler Gross

This new CMP will ultimately determine management and regulations for fixed anchors, bouldering, climbing access trails, wilderness climbing, and how recreation is balanced with the protection of cultural and natural resources. At a public meeting on April 20th, the park introduced key aspects of the CMP and invited climber input. Joshua Tree staff have been responsive to climbers and intentional in incorporating our community’s feedback.

A Key Concern

While the majority of the plan outline was well presented, Access Fund is concerned with how park planners presented on Wilderness climbing. They asserted that fixed anchors are prohibited in designated Wilderness—which is not in line with National Park Service policy and is not a position shared by other national parks.

NPS Wilderness climbing policy clearly states: “Climbing is a legitimate and appropriate use of wilderness” and also states that “Occasional placement of a fixed anchor for belay, rappel or protection purposes does not necessarily impair the future enjoyment of wilderness or violate the Wilderness Act.” As such, parks across the country—like Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and Grand Tetons—permit the use and maintenance of fixed anchors.

It is critical that the park understand NPS policy and the long-standing precedent of appropriate conditional fixed anchor use in Wilderness. Right now, park planners have set a questionable, baseline assumption that fixed anchors are prohibited in Wilderness. And they have also begun to couple this assumption with proposed management strategies, without first exploring a spectrum of ideas and solutions—which is the purpose of the CMP planning process.

Access Fund supports a fair and transparent planning process, and we are committed to working with the climbing community and Joshua Tree park planners to craft the best possible CMP—one that protects cultural resources, safeguards sensitive ecological zones, and allows Wilderness experiences that are consistent with NPS policy and the Wilderness Act.

Take Action Now >

Joshua Tree park planners need to hear from the climbing community—both on the question of Wilderness climbing and other aspects of the CMP. Please take 5 minutes to fill out the NPS survey, with a special emphasis on clarifying NPS policy on Wilderness climbing.