Last Collaboration held on Cave Rock |

Last Collaboration held on Cave Rock

B.H. Bose

The U.S. Forest Service sponsored its fifth and final Cave Rock public meeting, and judging by the attendance people are ready for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to propose action.

“The crowds at the collaborations have been up to 75, and have averaged around 60,” said Don Lane, recreation specialist with the Forest Service. “Last night (Wednesday) we had 40, which tells us that the public has spoken and that we have heard most of the issues.”

The series of public “collaboration” sessions, as Lane called them, started in January, after the Forest Service decided it wanted to hear from the public in an informal atmosphere. Cave Rock, located just north of Zephyr Cove, has been a point of interest for a long time, Lane said. With rock climbing and other activities taking place on the ancient volcano neck, it has become even a hotter issue of late.

“It has been documented and explored before the turn of the century,” Lane said. “We have found out in recent months just how important it is to the Washoe people, both culturally and spiritually.”To the Washoe Tribe, Cave Rock is a sacred place. Members of the tribe see the area as a powerful, sacred place and are fighting to stop any activity that desecrates the rock.

Cave Rock has also become a popular place to rock climb over the years. A closure order prohibiting any activity, such as the installation of climbing bolts, that might damage or deface the surface, was issued Dec. 30, 1997. It currently is still in effect.

In search a more comprehensive, long-term plan, the Forest Service will soon produce a plan of action for the sensitive area. To help the organization work toward that plan, it invited the public to come and air any issues it might have. While the general public was encouraged to attend the last of the meetings, held in the Tallac Historic Site, most were rock climbers and members of the Washoe Tribe.

“The meeting succeeded in what it was initially supposed to do. It was getting redundant, the issues were being repeated over and over,” said Steve Wyatt, a member of the Indian Peoples’ Committee to Save Cave Rock. “I want to continue meeting with everyone, but the talks are no good as long as the climbers continue to climb Cave Rock.”

The focus was new issues, and very few came up, leading Lane and others at the Forest Service to realize they had probably heard most of the feelings associated with activity at the rock. It also told them it was time to start drafting the plan, which they did as early as the next morning.

“We spent all day in meetings with other team members,” Lane said, referring to the team of specialists – a geologist, a wildlife consultant, a drill expert, a recreation manager, a few others that will ultimately devise the plan. “We have listened to the public, have tried to summarize what we heard, and are now ready to take the first formal step and analysis by developing a formal plan.”

The plan is simply the first step of many. After its completion, the Forest Service will hold a public hearing to again get the general feeling for the future action.

“We will review it really closely and if there is even a hint of us getting the short end of the stick we will go back and say revise your plan,” Wyatt said.

After the plan is finalized, a environmental impact statement – a more comprehensive study of the impacts, will be completed.

“There is a concern about the cultural values, but it is also public land so there are certain laws that have to be adhered to,” Lane said. “Hopefully the framework for a future plan will be done in a few weeks and then we can work toward a full environmental impact statement.”

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