In Community

Public policy, just reading it sounds weighty and like we’d rather climb rocks than talk politics. But what if we can do both? That’s where Erik Murdock comes in. He’s the Policy Director for the Access Fund. Translation: He’s the guy who works with everyone from big-name politicians in D.C. to local forest management groups to protect more lands for public recreation in a way that allows for climbing access. Yup, he helps make sure we can legally climb on some of the best rock in the most scenic, rad places in America. Now that we’ve established that Erik is the man, here’s a bit more about his climbing, the Access Fund, and what this has to do with evoAF.

Erik was first introduced to climbing nearly 30 years ago while in college in Indiana, but really fell in love with scaling rocks in the early 90’s when he moved to Tucson to earn his Masters in Geology and, later, PhD in Natural Resource Studies from the Arizona State University.

“I love all forms of climbing. My favorite climbing area is the one in my backyard wherever I am. I spent 26 years climbing in the Tucson area, so my favorite climbing areas would be Cochise Stronghold and Mount Lemon. Now my backyard is Rocky Mountain National Park.”

So how did a Natural Resources PhD working (and climbing) in Joshua Tree as a Park Ranger and applying for Access Fund grants become a the Policy Director for the Access Fund?

“After working in exploration geology, academia and land management, I started to get a holistic view of our public lands, which lead me to think about advocacy work and how I could make a difference. My work on drill rigs, in universities and in  national parks gave me the confidence to present well-balanced ideas about how to manage and protect our climbing areas.”

Erik began working for the Access Fund five years ago during the Obama administration, when opportunities to protect land for recreation and national monuments where abundant.

Now, with the Trump administration, things are a bit different. There ARE opportunities for protecting climbing areas. But in general, Erik has switched to a defensive posture and spends more time advocating for public input. His current focus is on bills that will protect lands in Emory country Utah, just north of Bears Ears, in a way that will allow for climbing AND environmental conservation–the area’s current wilderness designation does not allow for climbing.

The Access Fund’s long-term policy goal is to have Congress and federal land agencies come together to provide clear guidelines for climbing management on public lands.

“There’s a lot of confusion across the country about what’s legal, and how climbers should be able to use public lands. We’d like to clarify things, and prevent a lot of unnecessary management conflicts.”

So what can we, the climbing community, do to suport the Access Fund’s work (beyond signing up for an Access Fund membership with the promo code “EVO”)?

“Use your public lands! Get out, and see what public lands mean to you, so you have things to say.”

Then, write a letter or call your district congressional representative or state senator and tell them that you support the Access Fund’s initiatives. Tell them that you appreciate the Access Fund’s work to keep the climbing community informed about public land use issues.

The good news: “Your congress person will listen to your call, because they owe their job to you.”

Want to learn more about the Access Fund? Erik’s work? Join Erik at EVO for our second annual Fireside Chat, Wednesday Oct, 10. Here’s what you should know:

“The first fireside chat at EVO started a movement. We’ve done close to 20 fireside chats all across the country over the past year: In Washington D.C., at REI, at bars, at community centers.”

By attending, you’ll learn about current Access Fund projects, and then have the opportunity to voice your ideas on those and other topics. The Access Fund takes your input and energy and turns it into action, voicing your ideas in D.C. and starting projects they wouldn’t have known about without these chats.

A huge thank you to Erik for taking the time to chat with us about his work with the Access Fund and the upcoming Fireside Chat. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, Oct 10–there will be beer! And waived EVO Membership startup fees for those who sign up for an Access Fund Membership and/or donate $35+ at the event. 

Featured Image: Erik sport climbing at Mt. Lemmon, AZ. Photo: Murdock Collection.

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Ella Vondungen climbing Rifle