Draft report almost ready for Cave Rock report | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Draft report almost ready for Cave Rock report

by Andy Bourelle

The U.S. Forest Service hopes to release a draft environmental impact statement about the management of Cave Rock in June. It will be the next step in a long process for determining the future of the volcanic rock formation on Lake Tahoe’s east shore.

Lisa O’Daly, community planner for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said the final decision on the issue – which has been talked about for years and become controversial – is expected to be ready by the end of 1999.

Rock climbers love to scale Cave Rock. It provides some of the most difficult climbing routes in the country. However, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California says that the rock is a powerful spiritual place, even with two highway tunnels blasted through it.

Cave Rock is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. While placing bolts for climbing is generally allowed on National Forest land, the Forest Service in 1996 determined climbing to be adversely affecting the heritage resource of Cave Rock. In 1997 the U.S. Forest Service ordered all rock climbing at the site halted because of its cultural significance to the Washoe Tribe. But because of the outcry from rock climbers, who threatened a lawsuit, the Forest Service lifted the ban. Five public workshops were held from January through May 1998 to obtain public input from both sides.

A proposed action was released in January. It called for the elimination of about 20 percent of the climbing routes bolted to the rock and a prohibition of any new bolt installation. Maintenance of the existing routes could continue, but additional recreational use of the area – climbing or otherwise – would be discouraged.

A public-comment period was earlier this year, and the Forest Service received more than 100 total comments on the issue. Officials now are compiling the draft environmental document. Its release also will be followed by a public-comment period.

More than 30 responses came back in support of the proposed action. Climbers indicated a willingness to compromise, provided that they still be allowed to go there. Climbers also stressed that it wasn’t necessarily a climbers-vs.-Washoe issue; all recreational activities at the rock were at stake.

The Washoe Tribe objected to the proposed action. To the tribe, whose elders traditionally traveled to the rock to commune with the creator of all things, there cannot be a compromise on the issue.

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