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Cornerstone Conservation Grants At Work—Red Rocks

Posted on: February 7th, 2012 by Abbey Smith

Scott Massey, the Vice President of the Las Vegas Climbers Liason Council sent us a report about his organization’s Cornerstone Conservation Grant. The Cornerstone Grant awards $25,000 a year to local individuals and organizations who want to give back to their crags.

It has been an interesting past year or two at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Some developments have occurred that appear to be very positive for climbers, and are indicative of an even more important trend—increased communication between local user groups and the managing agency, the Bureau of Land Management. As always, The American Alpine Club has provided crucial support to facilitate this. There are also developments that may have a detrimental effect on the area. It is the hope that through educating and getting people involved, we can continue to have a positive influence on the land and it’s users.  

I am Scott Massey, Vice-President for the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council. This year, the LVCLC had the privilege of receiving funds from the AAC’s Cornerstone Conservation Grant. We used this money to begin a human waste bag initiative in Red Rock. Due to ever-increasing numbers of climbers visiting the rock climbing heaven of Red Rock, proper disposal of human waste has been an increasing problem. After discussing this with BLM recreation staff, we agreed to a trial program of human waste disposal bags at five locations, helping to facilitate climbers being responsible users of this awesome area.  

As of January 2012, all five dispensers were installed, with temporary signage while we hammer out the details of the permanent signage. They were placed at the these following locations:

• Kraft Mountain Trailhead, right next to the new trail the LVCLC built last spring to the Kraft Boulders

• First Pullout, on the hike towards the Panty Wall and other popular crags

• Second Pullout, at the Gallery and the Black Corridor—two crags with the biggest waste problem

• Black Velvet Canyon, about ¼ mile from the trailhead parking lot.

These locations were chosen due to their high use and/or their lack of toilet facilities. So far, we have only received great feedback about this, but the program is still in it’s infancy. I would love to see this become an integral part of climbing culture here, with waste bags available at most of the major areas of Red Rock. Many thanks to the AAC and our other supporters, Mountain Gear and the Access Fund, for making this initiative possible.  

“We’d like climbers to act responsibly, and do their honest best to mitigate their impact.”

Another positive occurrence has been a renewed discussion with the BLM about the bolting policy in Red Rock. As many of you know, there has been a ban on new bolts for over 25 years in the Wilderness of Red Rock, which includes all of the sandstone escarpment except for the Calico Hills. That, of course, has not stopped many first ascensionists from placing plenty of bolts, but since 2001 or so, increased enforcement has driven new-routing involving fixed hardware underground.   In the past year, this conversation has been renewed between the BLM, the LVCLC, the Access Fund, and a handful of private citizens. The BLM has agreed to take a look at the bolting policy expressed in the RRCNCA Resource Management Plan, their guiding document, and is proposing a RMP amendment that could allow new bolting in some capacity. All amendments such as this require, at the minimum, an Environmental Assessment, so public meetings and comment periods will be scheduled once the preliminary paperwork has been completed. Keep an eye open for this sometime early spring.   

One major concern that has arisen is the threat of development on Blue Diamond Hill, the chunk of land that blocks the view of Las Vegas from most of Red Rock. A notorious local developer owns many acres there, land that used to be a gypsum mine. He is currently attempting to get permission to build a small city up there, with both residences and commercial businesses. The legal battle has been going on for awhile. The concern, besides being a superfluous development in a horrible housing market, is that it would irreparably alter the view and character of Red Rock. Feel free to visit to get the more in-depth story.  

What does the future hold? Hard to say specifically, but definitely a lot of potential. It would be great to get Las Vegas climbers involved in taking care of their climbing areas. We’d love to be able to put in new routes that require a discreet bolt or two. We would like Red Rock to stay as wild as it can, a place where adventure is the norm, not the exception. We’d like climbers to act responsibly, and do their honest best to mitigate their impact. We would like the generations that follow us to appreciate the land, and do their best to preserve it for the generation that follow them.


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