The Reluctant Enthusiasts
By Jason Fitzgibbon
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast....a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.
As Ed Abbey so eloquently stated, it is not healthy - mentally or physically - just to fight for the land, it is of utmost importance that we get out there to enjoy it. And those words still ring very true; the land would have far fewer advocates if it were merely something to fight for, as opposed to something that we fight for because of the limitless joy it brings us. Unfortunately, the opposite also holds true; if we all devoted our lives to merely enjoying the land, and left the fighting for a select few, our growing outdoor community would have a rather significant problem on our hands. And such is the case now, with more and more of us enjoying the land, some of our most beloved places are at risk of being loved to death.
The Buttermilk Boulders, just west of the small town of Bishop, California, epitomize this issue well. Within recent years, there has been a massive surge in the number of people climbing and camping in the area, and the results of the increased traffic have left local land managers in a bit of a tizzy. Increased wear and tear to the area and a general lack of land stewardship (by many folks that are entirely new to outdoor recreation) has also placed quite a heavy burden on local environmental and climbing advocacy groups such as Friends of the Inyo, who have been making efforts to step in where overwhelmed and underbudgeted land managers have been unable to.
Friends of the Inyo
Since 1986, Friends of the Inyo has worked to ensure the public lands of the Eastern Sierra exist in an intact, healthy, natural state for people and wildlife through preservation, stewardship, exploration and education.
Over the past decade, Bishop, California's Buttermilk, Happy, and Sad boulder areas have seen a sharp rise in climbing use and human attention. Use-trail proliferation, vehicle trespass, vegetation destruction, disturbance to wildlife, inappropriate campfires, graffiti, and the presence of trash and human waste are just a few of the ways that the increase in visitation is being felt. Friends of the Inyo is thrilled that people are getting out and enjoying the land, but wants to be sure we all minimize our effects on the high desert ecosystems that surround our favorite climbing areas.
Friends of the Inyo relies on outreach and stewardship to make sure they are talking the talk and walking the walk of responsible, clean climbing. They regularly partner with organizations like the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, Touchstone Climbing, Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival, and others to host volunteer restoration projects and engage with visiting and local climber communities. Through these partnerships they have had hundreds of people participate in climbing-related stewardship events. Friends of the Inyo is encouraged to see so many climbers believe stewardship is as important as sending.