FoWR’s scoping response letter to the USFS

24 Feb

FoWR’s scoping response letter to the USFS

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June 12th, 2007

This is a copy of FoWR’s response to the USFS scoping letter. It has been reformatted for posting on the blog.

Dear District Ranger Capell,

I am writing on behalf of the non-profit organization Friends of Williamson Rock to support the USFS Angeles National Forest Santa Clara/Mojave River Ranger District’s proposal to develop a trail that will protect the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF) and its critical habitat, while also providing access to the Williamson Rock climbing area. We sincerely appreciate the Santa Clara/Mojave River Ranger District’s continuous outreach to the climbing community throughout this process and thank you for the opportunity to provide scoping comments.

Friends of Williamson Rock (FoWR), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and an Access Fund Affiliate. FoWR is committed to preserving climbing access and activity, as well as protecting the natural environment of the Williamson Rock area.(1) FoWR encourages an ethic of personal responsibility, self- regulation, strong conservation values and minimum impact practices among climbers.

FoWR was organized in 2005 in response to a request from Jody Noiron, Angeles National Forest Supervisor, and Cid Morgan, the previous District Ranger, to provide a liaison to work with the USFS regarding current and future issues that affect the climbing community and its interest in Williamson Rock. FoWR has been working cooperatively with the Santa Clara/Mojave River USFS district since the closure was announced in December 2005. We have made every effort to broadcast the closure among climbers and to have the closure respected by the climbing community. In response to USFS requests, FoWR has researched and written proposals addressing the issues at hand: protection of the MYLF and continued access to the Williamson Rock area.

Since the closure, representatives from FoWR have been on several field trips to Williamson Rock with USFS representatives. On these field trips, FoWR provided a trail expert to help determine how best to maintain access without affecting the MYLF critical habitat, which is upstream and downstream of the actual climbing area. Additionally, FoWR applied for, and received grants from REI, the Access Fund, and many individual donations, which can be used towards studies of the area, trail building, signage, and any other help we can give to the USFS.

I. Climbing at Williamson Rock

Williamson Rock is a very important resource to climbers in Southern California. The area is also well known among climbers from outside the region, including international climbers. It is THE primary site for summer climbing in Southern California due to its elevation, exceptional climbing routes and beautiful setting. The climbing guide, Southern California Sport Climbing lists hundreds of routes at Williamson Rock (Mayr, 2006). Climbers represent the principal recreation user group of the area. Nearly all of FoWR’s 500 members live in Southern California.

FoWR recognizes that recreational access at Williamson Rock must be balanced with proper management to protect the critical habitat needs of the MYLF. FoWR appreciates the USFS’s acknowledgment of the importance of climbing opportunities and believes the proposed trail provides a workable solution that will allow the MYLF and climbers to coexist. FoWR believes that climbers can not only coexist, but can help maintain the critical habitat of the MYLF. Climbers, are strong supporters of the environment, open space and conservation. In some cases, particularly crags that are in proximity to large urban areas, the presence of climbers is appreciated as a deterrent to other public land users who may litter, start fires, and are loud and disrespectful of other people and the environment. Climbers also know it is important to be respectful of the areas they climb at if they want to continue to climb there. This is evidenced by the many established climbing areas throughout California, including Joshua Tree National Park and Yosemite National Park. Designing a trail that will allowing climbing access to Williamson Rock, while working with FoWR to disseminate information and education to protect critical MYLF habitat, would allow use of this valuable climbing resource and support its conservation for future generations.

II. Williamson Rock Trail

The access trail proposed in the Angeles National Forest’s (ANF) Williamson Rock Area and Trail scoping map (2) appears to incorporate the main existing climbers trail. This proposed trail also reflects recommendations by the United States Geological Society (USGS) that “a trail could be constructed that would eliminate foot traffic from the frog area and offer a more direct route to the climbing area as well. Educational signs about the MYLF and about sound sanitation practices could also improve the current condition of the frog habitat there”.(3) Preliminary assessments indicate that the majority of the rock is located outside the stream bed corridor and several hundred feet away from where the MYLF has been located to date, making it probable that the ANF’s proposed trail would not impact MYLF habitat.(4) Consequently, education of climbers and appropriate signage will help to eliminate any intrusion into the MYLF habitat. In partnership with FoWR, there are many ways to educate climbers about any access protocol:

  1. the dissemination of information throughout the climbing community via climbing gyms, gear shops, and websites and climbing advocacy groups
  2. signage at a strategic location(s) on the access trail
  3. information in climbing guides.

In addition to dissemination of information, there are several benefits that a continued partnership with FoWR would provide. FoWR will perform volunteer stewardship projects that will maintain and, if needed, modify the proposed trail. FoWR and the climbing community will monitor the success of the proposed action. Last, and not least, a partnership would provide the opportunity for the USFS to engage the climbing community in the resolution of a critical resource challenge. Such an engagement would no doubt prove extremely instructive, and serve as an invaluable exercise in public lands stewardship.

Now, more than ever, the future of our public lands rests on cooperative partnerships between land management agencies and the public. Given the conservation challenges that exist within the Southern California region a cooperative partnership with FoWR and the climbing community will afford benefits that have the potential to extend far beyond Williamson Rock. Friends of Williamson Rock stands ready to assist the Santa Clara/Mojave River Ranger District’s further exploration of the feasibility of the


We, the members of Friends of Williamson Rock, strongly support the proposed action of developing a trail that will protect the mountain yellow-legged frog and re-opening Williamson Rock to climbing. We are willing to work in partnership with the USFS in every way, with planning, labor and money, to ensure that this is done.


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