Access Fund

Action Alert: North Carolina Forest Plan Fails Climbers and Threatens Access

Some of the most popular climbing in the East—like Looking Glass Rock, Linville Gorge, and Whiteside, to name just a few—are facing threats from a flawed, new forest plan draft that is set to govern all activities within two North Carolina forests for at least the next 15 years. 

Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are home to more than 3,000 climbing routes and over 75 cliffs, crags, and boulder fields that offer a diverse range of climbing—everything from bouldering, sport, trad, aid, ice, and even 1,000-foot multipitch walls.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) just released a draft of its new forest management plan, which, once approved, will govern all activities in these forests for many years to come—perhaps decades. Access Fund and our partners at Carolina Climbers Coalition (CCC) have identified several troubling issues with the draft plan that could threaten climbing access and hinder critical climbing conservation and management—as well as set a dangerous precedent for climbing on public lands across the country.

Despite eight years of unprecedented collaboration with USFS officials and other stakeholder groups, this draft forest plan largely ignores best practices, as well as Access Fund and CCC’s guidance on managing climbing in the forests. Instead, the plan:

  • Threatens access to 99% of climbing in the forest by proposing an unrealistic, inflexible approach for dealing with the unofficial, nonsystem trails that we use to access climbing. 

  • Postpones specific forestwide climbing management direction, instead using a flawed, piecemeal approach that would allow the USFS to bypass public input on future climbing management issues. 

  • Proposes an unrealistic permitting process for placing and maintaining fixed anchors/bolts in Wilderness areas that will result in safety issues, undermine the Wilderness climbing experience, and create confusion and conflict. 

  • Ignores the power of collaboration, stewardship, and education for resource protection, proposing instead to prohibit activities or close access to areas as the only means for protecting sensitive resources. 


We need your help to push back on this draft forest plan and help guide USFS officials toward more productive climbing management strategies. Please take five minutes to submit a letter, using our easy letter-writing tool. Please customize your opening paragraph in the space provided and make edits to the draft letter we have provided, so that it will not be disregarded as a form letter. Deadline for comments is June 29.


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