The Climbing Resource Access Group of Vermont (CRAG-VT) and Access Fund recorded a permanent easement this month to strengthen conservation and recreation protections at Bolton Dome, while simultaneously forging agreements with local indigenous groups to allow access to the land.
CRAG-VT acquired Bolton Dome in 2018, with support from Access Fund’s Climbing Conservation Loan Program (CCLP). Since the purchase, CRAG-VT opened the crag for climbing and established a sustainable trail network. Bolton Dome now features more than 75 routes, from 5.3 to 5.13.
In 2020, CRAG-VT reached out to Access Fund for additional support in their long-term commitment to land protection. The two groups established a conservation and recreation easement—a legal agreement to protect the climbing area, preventing any use of the property that would significantly hinder public access and recreation, specifically rock climbing, both now and in the future. The easement allows for other compatible uses, like hiking, while restricting certain activities, like forest management.
In addition, Access Fund and CRAG-VT worked with leaders of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation to develop language that will afford access to the greater Abenaki People (the Abenaki). The easement allows for certain recreational, cultural, and educational uses; the procurement of foods, materials, and medicines; and other traditional activities. CRAG-VT is entering into a second agreement with the Abenaki to further outline these uses and encourage this newly forged relationship.
Nulhegan Band Chief Don Stevens says of the partnership, “Native peoples have been the original stewards of lands for thousands of years, until we were removed from them. Ultimately, we would prefer unencumbered and permanent restitution of our traditional homelands. However, until this occurs, the Nulhegan Abenaki have found ways to partner with current landowners to access natural resources for traditional uses as our ancestors did. CRAG-VT and Access Fund have become one of those partners. They have realized the value and mutual benefit in having a relationship with the original Vermonters who call this place N’Dakinna (our land). We applaud their efforts and value the relationship.”
“We hope that more climbing organizations are motivated to partner with Indigenous entities and their members to see how climbers can support restoring land rights to Indigenous communities,” CRAG-VT President Kris Fiore says.
After subdividing off a 2-acre lot with the existing house, CRAG-VT resold the residential area in September 2018, returning $256,000 of CCLP funds to go back toward protecting other threatened climbing areas. CRAG-VT retained 46 acres for long-term ownership and management, where the easement applies. Former CRAG-VT board member and Bolton Dome property steward Dick Katzman donated $10,000 toward covering Access Fund’s permanent responsibility for upholding the easement but CRAG-VT is actively fundraising to cover the remaining costs of the acquisition and stewardship improvements. We encourage climbers to donate at cragvt.org/boltondomeproject.
The Access Fund conservation and recreation easement, coupled with CRAG-VT’s agreement with the Abenaki, will help CRAG-VT ensure long-term stewardship, protect this newly popular Bolton climbing area for public recreation, and expand access for the Abenaki to enrich the interests of its people.
Established in 1999, CRAG-VT is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving access and conservation of Vermont’s climbing resources. We serve the climbing community of Vermont through a variety of mechanisms: preserving and aiding in the protection of climbing opportunities in Vermont by building and maintaining long-term relationships with landowners; serving climbers, land managers, landowners, and the general public as an educational resource for responsible climbing, access status, historical information, species and habitat protection, and legal matters; and promoting responsible stewardship and reducing environmental impacts by conducting trail maintenance, volunteer cleanups, and producing educational materials. For more information, visit www.cragvt.org.
About Access Fund
Access Fund is the national advocacy and conservation organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. Since 1990, Access Fund has supported 81 land acquisitions by land trusts, public entities, and local climbing organizations, totaling 17,421 acres across 27 states. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.