Appeal filed againt Cave Rock climbing ban |

Appeal filed againt Cave Rock climbing ban

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Two appeals were filed by this week against a U.S. Forest Service ban on climbing at Cave Rock. The appeals have stalled implementation of the ban and climbing there remains legal for now.

The lead forester for the Pacific Southwest Region has 45 days to rule on an appeal filed by South Shore resident Terry Lilienfield, and The Access Fund, a Colorado-based climbing organization that has 8,000 members, many of whom live in the Reno-Sparks area.

“We have until Nov. 6,” said Rick Alexander, spokesman for Jack Blackwell, regional forester of the Pacific Southwest Region. “But possibly we’ll make that decision sooner. We are moving quickly to review it, but’s its a tough issue and it may take the full 45 days to wade through it.”

Lilienfield, a climber for 20 years and a Meyers resident, said she considers the ban unbalanced and unconstitutional in that it allows some uses — hiking, fishing, picnicking — but excludes climbing.

“I support something more cooperative,” Lilienfield, 40, said. “I don’t think (climbing) is worse than hiking, fishing or the tunnels or the road work that’s about to go on.”

The policy director for The Access Fund, Jason Keith, says his group aims to replace the outright ban with an arrangement that would allow climbing to continue on a limited basis. Such an arrangement exists for Devil’s Tower, a climbing spot in Wyoming in the midst of tribal land.

If the appeals are rejected, a lawsuit and a request for a court injunction could keep climbing at Cave Rock legal, at least temporarily. The Access Fund would not say whether it would file a lawsuit if its appeal is dismissed. Lilienfield said she would not file a lawsuit because she doesn’t have the resources.

The Forest Service decided in August to ban climbing at Cave Rock in part out of respect for Washoe tribe, which considers the rock a spiritual site.

“It’s a source of power,” said Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe tribe. “An essential power that holds the history and culture of the Washoe people.”

The ban outlaws climbing but allows other uses in an effort to return Cave Rock to the way it was before 1965. Climbing the rock didn’t become popular until the late 1980s. Since then, a number of bolts and permanent climbing routes were embedded in the rock. The decision rendered in August by the Maribeth Gustafson, the forest supervisor of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, calls for the bolts to be removed.

Work to remove the bolts, if they do come out, will likely be done by a Oregon man who uses a mix of epoxy and rock dust to fill holes left by the bolts.

“That sounds like probably the way we’d go,” said John Maher, Forest Service heritage resources manager. “We still need to talk the Washoe tribe.”

If Blackwell supports Gustafson’s land management choice after reviewing the appeals, and no lawsuits are filed, the climbing ban will take effect 15 calendar days after Blackwell announces his decision.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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