We don’t need to extol the many, many virtues of climbing around Bishop, CA here—this desert mecca of gorgeous granite and volcanic rock has been attracting climbers from all over the world for decades. But with great climbing comes great responsibility, and our favorite areas are getting loved to death.
That’s why we’re excited to help support the efforts of Friends of the Inyo and their partners Bishop Area Climbing Coalition and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association to fund an amazing program—The Bishop Climbing Rangers. Touchstone Climbing is matching up to $10,000 in November to bring this program to life. But why exactly should you support this new ranger position? We sat down with BACC secretary Ben Ditto to get more details about this exciting new role to help protect Bishop climbing.
Tell us a bit about the impetus behind the Bishop Climbing Ranger position. Where did the idea come from? How did you start formulating the role?
National Parks such as Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Grand Teton, and Devils Tower use climbing rangers to interface with climbers during busy seasons in high-impact areas. Honestly, we’re just copying an idea that’s been proven through years of use. Climbing rangers are public faces for land management agencies rules and regulations. Most other public lands user groups have these representatives: Game wardens check on fishermen and hunters, police officers patrol the off highway vehicle community, and wilderness rangers interface with hikers.
As the BACC started to conceptualize how we could stimulate a positive change for climber impacts on our public lands, we took a look at our mission statement for inspiration. The mission of the Bishop Area Climbers’ Coalition is, “To serve as a unified voice for climbers and to support the Bishop California area through stewardship, education, and community engagement.”
Climbing rangers in the Eastern Sierra are a logical implementation of that mission.
Beyond Rules and Regulations, Climbing Rangers use Leave No Trace ethics as the backbone of their educational message.
What is Friends of the Inyo, Bishop Area Climbers Coalition, and Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association’s involvement? Do they often work together on these kinds of projects?
The BACC, FOI, and ESIA are 501c3 non-profit organizations who operate in the Eastern Sierra. FOI and ESIA have long-standing stewardship programs and solid working relationships with the National Forest Service and BLM. BACC has worked with FOI on stewardship projects in the past, so we had a relationship with them already. We knew less about ESIA initially, but their connections to the federal agencies and their professionalism navigating fundraising and community awareness made it clear that only with their involvement could this climbing ranger program proceed.
How does the position operate? How can climbers expect to interact with the rangers?
Visiting climbers will have many opportunities to interact with the climbing rangers in the Buttermilks, Happy Boulders, Sads, Owens Gorge, Pine Creek, and Alabama Hills. From organized climber coffees and stewardship events, to casual interactions at the crags and boulders, the climbing rangers will engage with climbers to educate them on a variety of topics related to being respectful stewards of our climbing areas and surrounding land.
Climbers in the Bishop Area and Alabama Hills can expect to interface with the climbing rangers if they are: parked illegally, overstaying the camping limits, disrespecting other climbers or user groups, and generally not following the rules. These climbing rangers are first and foremost an educational resource.
Who will the rangers report to? What do the rangers have the authority to do? What will their day-to-day tasks look like?
Technically, the climbing rangers will be employees of ESIA but will report to the Forest Service and BLM directly on a daily basis. The BACC has an advisory role in the day to day responsibilities of the climbing rangers but no direct oversight.
The climbing rangers will largely act as educators and stewards. Their primary role will be to discuss strategies for sustainable behavior with our visiting climbers. Where to camp, where to park, how to be respectful to other user groups. One way of thinking about this position is as a continuation of the gym-to-crag program.
What are your goals in creating the Climbing Ranger position?
The BACC’s goal is to stimulate a positive change to the impact caused by the growth of climbing in the local area. On the one hand, climbing tourism is contributing greatly to our local economy, but on the other hand, unchecked development will degrade the resources that are so sought after.
We started out by asking the question: What is at stake if we do nothing, yet our public spaces continue to be popularized at an unprecedented rate’? Certainly there are many answers to this question. For example, other user groups will continue to be disenfranchised and displaced, land managers will enact restrictive policies, flora and fauna will continue to be adversely affected, and our own experience in these precious locations will be negatively affected.
How long is the position up for? Is the hope that this will be a year-round position, or seasonal?
This year the climbing ranger position will last between November 18 and May 1.
At this point the climbing rangers are positioned to work seasonally with the increased visitation during the cold winter and spring months.
I know that the current rangers have already been selected. How can people apply for future roles?
Anything else you’d like to add?
This project wouldn’t be possible without the support of our climbing and business community. We’ve had generous donations from numerous individuals, corporations, and foundations. Thanks Touchstone for being a part of that.
Help reach our $10,000 goal by the end of November!
We’ve already raised over $8,000 through our Reel Rock 14 showings and community support. Help us get to $10,000 and Touchstone will match it!
You can also check out our climbing hold sales happening at Berkeley Ironworks, Great Western Power Co., Dogpatch Boulders, Diablo Rock Gym, LA Boulders, Cliffs of Id, Hollywood Boulders, and Verdigo Boulders starting Wednesday Nov 20th, with 100% of sales going to the fundraiser.