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Enough rock for everyone?

The U.S. Forest Service plans to permit limited climbing at East Shore’s Cave Rock, but will try to stop the expansion of public use at the site, according to a proposed action issued by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on Wednesday.

Cave Rock – an ancient volcanic rock formation – has become a center of controversy involving rock climbers, who enjoy the variety of difficult climbing routes, and the Washoe Tribe, who see the area as a powerful spiritual place.

The proposed action is not a final decision and marks the beginning of a formal public participation process.



“While I hope that additional people will choose to avoid Cave Rock out of consideration for the feelings of the Washoe Tribe, my proposed action does not mandate complete human avoidance,” said Juan Palma, LTBMU forest supervisor. “I cannot dictate the viewpoints of those who do not share Washoe beliefs, nor can I deprive the public of use of public lands.”

The proposed action would amend the LTBMU’s Land and Resources Management Plan by reducing the overall number of rock climbing routes, preventing the expansion of rock climbing recreation, while allowing maintenance of existing routes, and prohibiting commercial activity at Cave Rock.




The Washoe Tribe believes Cave Rock is a religious area. Highway tunnels were blasted through the volcanic formation decades ago.

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, the forest service lifted the ban. Four public workshops were held from January through May of this year to obtain public input from both sides.

The public comment period on the proposed action ends on March 1. A public workshop is scheduled for Feb. 25 for anyone interested in commenting on the action. The public is supposed to have another opportunity to comment on the management direction when a draft of an environmental impact statement is released later this year. A decision regarding the long-term management of the Cave Rock area is expected by the end of 1999.

A closure order, issued at the end of December 1998, is still in effect, which prohibits any activity, including the installation of new climbing bolts, that damages or defaces the surface of the rock. Rock climbing using existing bolted routes is currently allowed.

South Lake Tahoe resident Chad Praul, a rock climber familiar with the issue, said he approved of the proposed action.

“I like the plan. It’s sensitive to the wishes of the Native Americans, and continued rock climbing is allowed,” he said. “It’s important they continue to allow people to maintain the routes … As long as we’re able to maintain the routes, I think it’s good. I don’t really see the need for expansion.”

Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe Tribe, could not be reached for comment.

A public workshop concerning Cave Rock proposed action is set for Feb. 25, 3 to 7:30 p.m. at Kahle Community Center, 235 Kingsbury Grade, Stateline.

For a copy of the proposed action call Lisa O’Daly (530) 573-2669

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