Climbing will be prohibited in Massacre Rocks, Idaho

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One of southern Idaho’s most popular rock climbing destinations will be closed due to its cultural significance to the local Native American population.

On October 26, the The Bureau of Land Management has announced revealed plans to close a formation called Massacre Rocks to climbers due to the site’s historical and cultural ties to the Shoshone-Bannock people. The site will also be closed to users of off-road vehicles such as motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

Massacre Rocks has hundreds of single pitch basalt sport climbing routes. The BLM’s decision will ban all forms of rock climbing on 3,846 acres of the American Falls Archaeological District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“For more than 12,000 years, the Shoshone, Bannock and Paiute peoples occupied these lands, and the significance of the Archaeological District to these tribes cannot be overstated,” BLM District Manager Mike Courtney said in a statement. Press release. “We appreciate the public comments we have received on the draft proposal which has refined our approach to balancing the protection of cultural and sacred values ​​with compatible recreational uses. »

The land has been continuously occupied for 12,000 years and includes the traditional wintering grounds of the Shoshone-Bannock people. The BLM’s decision will result in the removal of hundreds of existing routes, but it will not impact climbing on adjoining lands managed by the Idaho Department of Lands, which are home to some 250 additional sport routes.

Chris Winter, executive director of rock climbing advocacy group Access Fund, called the decision “a difficult situation”.

“One of our core values ​​is that access should be sustainable,” The story of winter Escalation. “AAnd that means not only sustainable insofar as we protect natural resources, but also cultural resources and social values.

Access funds posted a Q&A about the BLM’s decision at Massacre Rocks.

Winter said he was disappointed with the process the BLM followed before its decision. In 2011, the BLM conducted its first assessment of the impact of rock climbing and other recreational activities on the American Falls Archaeological District, with the goal of designing a new management plan that takes into account the concerns of the Shoshone people. – Bannock for the earth. But then, in part because the issue was controversial, the BLM delayed releasing a draft plan until 2021, he said. During this ten-year hiatus, however, mountaineers and tribesmen have repeatedly allied themselves in other conservation efforts in other states – Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument perhaps being the most famous example. And Winter wishes climbers had the opportunity to develop the same kind of dialogue around Massacre Rocks.

“We encouraged the BLM to start a new scoping process because so much had changed,” Winter said. “We thought we could find common ground with the tribe, or at least better understand each other’s perspectives, which would lay the groundwork for a more collaborative relationship.” So we were really disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to go through that scoping process again.

There is a 30-day protest period, which ends November 24, during which people can lodge a complaint on the BLM proposal, but despite his reservations about the process, Winter says the Access Fund does not plan to protest. “We urge the climbing community to respect the decision issued by the office of land management,” he said, “as we believe the protection of this particular place is important.”

“Overall,” he added, “it is important that the climbing community accepts our moral and social responsibility for the cultural resources and history of Indigenous peoples in this country. I think it’s fundamentally important to the climbing community and one of our core values ​​at the Access Fund. What this means in practice is that it is difficult; and it will continue to be hard and uncomfortable for climbers. We may lose access to certain areas that are important to us. But we have proven that we can work with tribes in many places in the country. And the best way for us to do that is to come from a place of mutual respect and understanding, to keep our hearts and minds open to what it means to share this land, and we hope they come to the table with this same frame of reference. But it will be hard. And I don’t think this problem will go away anytime soon. »

Virginia F. Goins