Federal Suit Filed Over Climbing Ban at Tahoe Landmark

Lake Tahoe
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A rock climbing group filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court challenging a U.S. Forest Service management plan that bans climbing on Cave Rock, a landmark on Lake Tahoe's east shore.

Steve Matuse, executive director of The Access Fund, stressed that the Boulder, Colo.-based group's lawsuit targets the Forest Service management plan and not the Washoe tribe, which has opposed climbing on Cave Rock because of its spiritual significance to the tribe.

The Forest Service has agreed to postpone until May implementation of its Cave Rock management plan, which means it's OK to climb there for the time being.

The management plan would allow such activity as hiking and picnicking to continue at Cave Rock. But it would ban climbing and require removal of climbing hardware on the volcanic core located on U.S. 50 between Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove.

The Forest Service says its plan singles out rock climbers because their use is a relatively new one in the area.

The plan calls for the land to be protected as a cultural resource and managed as it was prior to 1965. The rock did not become popular with climbers until the 1980s. It's primarily used by expert climbers because the rock face is sheer and requires technical skills.

"Our forest supervisor, Maribeth Gustafson, is confident in her decision," said Rex Norman, a public affairs officer for the Forest Service. "We simply cannot determine management directions based on any religion, Native American or not. We must however, make decisions based on 'user impacts and the resource.'"

The Pacific Southwest Regional Office of the Forest Service reviewed Gustafsons decision on Cave Rock early last month and announced that it backed her decision.