An advocacy group for climbers is urging its members to temporarily refrain from scaling Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe through the summer while its lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service is pending.
The Forest Service had asked The Access Fund to support a voluntary climbing closure during July and August "to protect the area during this high use time of the summer," according to a statement issued by the Forest Service.
The volcanic core along Tahoe's east shore is held sacred by the Washoe tribe.
In a notice posted on its Web site, The Access Fund said it agreed to the voluntary closure "out of respect to the religious practices of the Washoe during these two months."
"Whether or not you as an individual climber respect the voluntary closure, it is critical that you obey all the rules" and avoid giving the Forest Service cause to take a "stricter approach," said the group, based in Boulder, Colo.
Last fall, the Forest Service updated its Cave Rock management plan and determined a climbing ban was necessary to restore the area's cultural and historical resources to how they were before 1965.
Located along U.S. 50 between Zephyr Cove and Glenbrook, Cave 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.
The Cave Rock management plan would still allow other recreational activities, such as hiking and picnicking.
In November, the agency agreed to postpone the ban pending resolution of the lawsuit filed by the climbers' group.
John Maher, a Forest Service heritage resource manager, said the Access Fund's name will be listed on signs posted to inform the public of the voluntary closure.
"This is a voluntary closure The Access Fund is supporting," Maher said. "The Forest Service isn't implementing anything. But we're in support of anything that lessens the effects up there.
"We don't consider this to be as much as needs to be done to protect Cave Rock but it goes a little way toward it," he said.
In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, The Access Fund argues the proposed climbing ban is unconstitutional because it promotes the closing of public lands for religious purposes.
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