The Trout Creek climbing area in Central Oregon – one of Oregon’s truly unique and treasured recreational resources – was closed by the Bureau of Land Management on February 1, 2012. Rock climbers from around the country have traveled to Central Oregon to experience the incredible “traditional” crack climbing of Trout Creek, which is situated on a scenic butte overlooking the world-famous Deschutes River just outside of Madras.
BLM has been considering a seasonal closure of the Trout Creek area for several months because of potential issues related to Golden Eagles. A dedicated group of local climbers had been making every effort to talk to the BLM to ensure that Golden Eagles are protected while also preserving reasonable public access. Local climbers have been trying to obtain from BLM information on whether and to what extent Golden Eagles have used the area in order to develop a plan to manage human access for the benefit of wildlife. Golden Eagles are not listed as either threatened or endangered, but they are protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.
Despite the efforts of the local climbing community, BLM first refused to disclose for several months information on Golden Eagle use of the area. Although the agency was slow to produce relevant data, it had assured the local climbing community that it would conduct a public environmental assessment process before closing the area.
Despite those earlier promises, BLM suddenly made the decision to close Trout Creek without any advance notice, without any public comment process, and without any environmental analysis. BLM decided to close Trout Creek from February 1st – August 31st, and the closure could be lifted in May or June if Golden Eagles have chosen a nest besides the one on the main wall or if no nesting has occurred.
The climbing community and especially the Trout Creek locals have been excellent stewards of the environment and respect the importance of preserving wildlife habitat. At the same time, there are many open questions as to whether BLM’s heavy-handed tactics are necessary in this situation, including: 1) to what extent do Golden Eagles use the nests near the climbing area; 2) what buffer is necessary to protect Golden Eagles; and 3) how long must the area remain closed before it is determined whether the birds will nest in an particular season. These issues should have been answered as part of a public process instead of being made by BLM behind closed doors without any public involvement.
Please contact the following people to let your voice be heard. BLM personnel are good, hard-working people, so please be respectful. The Crag Law Center will be providing additional information as it becomes available.
Oregon State Director
Prineville District Manager
Recommended Talking Points:
- Trout Creek is an irreplaceable, world-class recreational resource for Oregon, and it helps to support the local recreation-based economy in Madras and Central Oregon;
- Climbers care about Golden Eagles and are committed to protecting their habitat while preserving climbing access to the extent possible;
- The current closure of Trout Creek was a closed-door decision made without any advance public notice or public input; and
- BLM must conduct a public environmental assessment, disclose all relevant information, and take input from the interested public on Trout Creek access and wildlife management issues.