Cave Rock ban lifted for 5 months
December 15, 2003
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
A rock climbing group filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in Reno challenging a U.S. Forest Service management plan that bans climbing on public land.
The Forest Service has agreed to postpone until May implementation of its Cave Rock management plan, which means it’s still OK to climb there for the time being.
The management plan would allow such activity as hiking and picnicking to continue at Cave Rock. But it would ban rock climbing and require removal of climbing hardware on the volcano core between Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove.
The Access Fund, a climbing group based in Boulder, Colo., says it is challenging the management plan because it would violate the Constitution by banning rock climbing in favor of establishing the religion for the Washoe tribe.
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The Washoe consider Cave Rock a place of great power where only a handful of tribe members are allowed to conduct ceremonies. The Forest Service says its plan singles out rock climbers because their use is a relatively new one in the area.
The plan calls for the land to be protected as a cultural resource and managed as it was prior to 1965. The rock did not become popular with climbers until the 1980s. It is primarily used by expert climbers because the rock face is sheer and requires technical skills.
“Our forest supervisor, Maribeth Gustafson, is confident in her decision,” said Rex Norman, a public affairs officer for the Forest Service. “We simply cannot determine management directions based on any religion, Native American or not. We must however, make decisions based on ‘user impacts and the resource.'”
The Pacific Southwest Regional Office of the Forest Service reviewed Gustafson’s decision on Cave Rock early last month and announced that it backed her decision 100 percent.
Steve Matuse, executive director of The Access Fund, stressed that the lawsuit filed by the organization has to do with the Forest Service management plan and not the Washoe tribe.
The Access Fund says it has been willing to talk with members of the tribe since climbing at Cave Rock became an issue in the 1990s.
“The Washoe have never spoken to us and refuse to speak to us,” Matuse said. “It has made it a lot more complicated.”
The Access Fund says it routinely negotiates with Native American tribes to resolve conflicts. Last week Access Fund Policy Director Jason Keith traveled outside Eureka on the coast to meet with members of the Nor Rel Muk tribe about issues involving a burial site.
Matuse said The Access Fund at one time had an acceptable plan worked out with the forest supervisor who proceeded Gustafson. It provided rock climbers with limited access to Cave Rock.
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org