2016 is over, and it was a bleak year indeed, but there was some last-minute good news thanks to President Obama’s declaration of two new national monuments, as well as the protection of large parts of our oceans from off-shore drilling.

In particular, the declaration of Bear Ears National Monument, 1.35-million acres in southeast Utah, is great news for climbers, not just because this declaration forever protects such world-class climbing areas as Indian Creek from nefarious kleptocratic business interests, but also because this is the first national monument declaration to specifically name rock climbing as an appropriate and valued recreational activity.

This huge win came largely thanks to the Access Fund’s tireless work in Washington and Utah on our behalf. If you’ve never joined the Access Fund, or need to re-up your membership, now is a good time to do so and say thanks.

The Access Fund has also logged a diplomatic win by forging a new alliance with the Native American community, who, through the Bear Ears Inter-tribal Coalition, has acknowledged their support of rock climbers and rock climbing.

You likely know all of this, though, and that’s not what this post is about. This post is a reminder of the disheartening reality that, although battles may be won, the war is never over. With threatening, dark days looming ahead, it has never been more important for all of us to pitch in and, to paraphrase Gandhi, become the change we seek in this world.

Climbers are motivated people—at least when it comes to getting up a piece of rock. I have a ton of goals for myself this year, especially now that I’ve all but fully rehabilitated two painful shoulders back to full mobility. I wonder what would happen if I use even 1/10th of the dedication I bring to training and climbing and apply that to donating my time, money, and energy to political efforts that are going to help us preserve the environment, halt climate change, and provide opportunities and assistance to those who need it? What if we all did that?

If that was the norm, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in now.

As a side note, Alex Honnold has been an inspiration to me on this level. I’m honestly not even that impressed anymore that he free soloes the warm-up grade of 5.12. What’s impressive is that Honnold has leveraged his celebrity for good. He says he gives away 30 percent (!) of his income each year to causes, including his own non-profit the Honnold Foundation, which is doing cool work with solar energy and environmental causes.

We’ve seen what can be accomplished when people come together, take action, and really, genuinely, and meaningfully make their voices heard. The #NoDAPL victory last year is one such example of this.

But already, the people with a lot of money in their pockets, a lot of greed in their hearts, endless disdain for those below them, and a lot of shortsightedness about our environment and the future of our energy sources are determined to ram that pipeline through any way they can … because wars are never won.

Look at Red Rock in Las Vegas. Clark County has recently filed a lawsuit against Save Red Rock, a grassroots organization of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts, to silence their opposition to fuckwad Mc’developer Jim Rhodes, who wants to rezone rural lands adjacent to Red Rock and build 5,000 homes and make a billion bucks. Red Rock would no longer be a wilderness oasis just a short drive from Vegas—it would be Vegas. This dude has been fighting to rezone this land since he bought it in 2002, and he has already been shut down once after public protest forced his negotiations to expire.

Now, of course, he’s back at it … because wars are never won.

With arguably the most fossil-fuel/big-oil friendly administration ever coming into office, there are going to be many more battles for those who care about the environment. Already guys like Newt Gingrich have suggested that if Donald Trump finds himself in violation of a law, he should just change it—in other words, how can you break the law if you re-make the law? Also, on Tuesday, Republicans made it easier for members of Congress to cede federal control of public land, which is a sneaky ploy that will subsequently allow state representatives, who are sycophants for big industry, to open up backdoors that will allow them to exploit what was originally supposed to be cherished and loved by the people.

So if you think that Bear Ears, or our oceans, or any of our National Parks are “forever protected,” it’s time to think again. These are all just proclamations on pieces of paper. They mean nothing. The real power is found in our collective vigilance. This is a responsibility we can’t ignore. It’s time to get motivated and carve off a little bit of that legendary climber stoke that we all have, and dedicate to fighting battles in a never-ending war.

This week, I called my Republican representative’s office and voiced my concern over their plan to dismantle the ethics committee. So did thousands of other people. And it worked. And it only took me 5 minutes. Your voice matters. Speak up—especially when it’s important.

If you want to help out Save Red Rock, they’re only halfway through their fundraising campaign. You can donate here. They’re also looking for folks to sign a petition and write letters.

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  • Matt Desenberg

    Well said. I think calling representative (repeatedly, in some cases) is the best way to get their attention vs. email. BTW, is that cover picture of Castleton? Who is the photographer? That’s a hell of a shot…

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