The Access Fund is a national advocacy organization whose mission is to keep U.S. climbing areas open and conserve the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, the Access Fund supports and represents over 2.3 million climbers nationwide. They work with federal, state and local officials, local climbing organizations, and land managers to develop and guide climbing management policies for public and private lands.
On a national level, they advocate for climbing issues in the District of Columbia. Should an issue arise that might directly impact the climbing community, the Access Fund actively lobbies legislators toward a mutually agreeable policy.
“Everybody who is a climber, in Washington and nationally, should be a member of the Access Fund,” said Jonah Harrison, the Access Fund’s Regional Coordinator for Washington. “They should be aware and a part of it. We have strength in numbers. Policy makers really respond to organizations with a large and dedicated member base.”
A few years ago, Index, a great climbing area in the Skykomish Valley, was threatened and turned into a quarry.
“Washington Climbers Coalition worked to help the community raise $300,000 in a few months to purchase the land,” said Harrison, who also serves as the attorney for WCC. “We are in the process of transferring (the land) to state parks.”
The issue with Index was a catalyst for a lot of Washington climbers. Currently, Washington is one the best participating states in the Access Fund. Paul Fish, former president of the Access Fund and owner of Mountain Gear, continues to be a major donor and supporter of the organization.
The Access Fund is currently involved in an ongoing discussion with national park services regarding the appropriate use of fixed anchors (Director’s Order 41). All climbing organizations are working with North Cascades National Park to determine what that means for climbers in Washington, as fixed anchors play a major role in sport climbing.
The Access Fund also offers grant money for climbing organizations. It reviews proposals and determines the ones that will have the highest impact for the longest amount of time. Through a revolving capital program, the Access Fund recently loaned money to a group of climbers in southern Illinois. It made money available,so local climbers could acquire land and pay it off over time.
Climber education is also a major aspect of the Access Fund’s mission.
“A lot of climbers are coming out of gym,” Harrison said. “We are focusing on educating them, while maintaining relationships with land managers. We want land managers to see climbers as respectful users.
“When I started climbing – I’m 41 – there weren’t really climbing gyms. Mentors took us out. You knew from the beginning that was part of climbing.”
The Access Fund’s website – accessfund.org – offers a great deal of well-organized information, from current issues affecting climbers to steps climbers should follow when transitioning from gym to crag. From its website, you can become a member, make a donation, or get involved in its cause immediately through the Action Center. You can visit the Access Fund on Facebook, where one climber’s voice can become 2.3 million through the Access Fund.