But his recent Access Fund Blog Post "Expanding the Tribe" is just wrong.
Let's look at a few of Jeff's contentions;
"Access to many older areas has become easier and more secure."
Jeff has apparently never been to Franklin, WV, a sport crag developed on private land by some of the biggest names of the early New River Gorge era, a popular crag where hundreds of AF members climbed for a decade without giving a thought to securing access or organizing an Adopt-A-Crag.
Despite having a Regional Access Cordinator just over the hill in Seneca Rocks, Franklin climbers still have no resolution on access and the ownership question is murkier than ever. Same goes for Nelson Rocks, an iconic crag of hard climbs now owned by a church group, and Champe Rocks, off limits to climbers for over two decades, a situation that is unlikely to change when it is the local Fund members and employees of the Regional AF Coordinator who routinely "sneak" onto private land to access this crag.
Business isn't booming around here, either, no matter what is happening around New River. There are fewer stores or shops in any of the towns around Seneca Rocks, which has been a climbing destination since the 80s; Franklin, Petersburg, Upper Tract and Cabins all have more "For Sale" signs than ever, despite being deluged with climbers and other outdoorsmen every year.
Climbers are cheapskates, Jeff, period. That's why everything that isn't online is going out of business, and people who earn 100k/yr wait for year end sales to buy a $50 helmet. Kemper's Store sits directly on the road that leads to the crag, and went out of business because people who gfly to Thailand and Mexico said it looked "too sketchy". I was in Slade, KY and spent plenty of time in Fayetteville, WV back in the day, and Kemper's never looked any shadier than the businesses I saw there, thronging with climbers.
As for the contention that we didn't have dogs because they were a sign of conformity: bollocks. We didn't have dogs at the crag because they tend to relieve themselves without much concern for human proximity or trail etiquette, they dig holes in belay areas, chase wildlife and invade packs not their own, and they bark, making communication difficult in a sport where communication is literally life-or-death.
The Dawn Wall was a non-issue for me because it was so hugely popular, like Duck Dynasty and American Idol, and about as devoid of content.
My problem with this non-event was that, in the midst of the Dawn Wall media frenzy, the issue of the amazing climbing destinations of Queen Creek, Apache Leap and Oak Flat Campground being given to a foreign mining company was completely lost.
This was what we call a precedent; the single biggest loss of Public Lands in U.S. history, and no one was talking about it, including advocates who should have been screaming to the high heavens, all because two professional athletes were tweeting from a big wall in Yosemite.
The Dawn Wall wasn't going anywhere; Apache Leap and Queen Creek stand a good chance of disappearing as climbing destinations in the next administration, now that precedent has been set without meaningful contest.
Opinions vary, but I was not the only one who felt this issue had been punted around for most of a decade, left on the back burner by the advocates who were courting major corporate dollars.
So, to recap; the President whom Jeff rationalizes stroking for his favor was sitting back after having given away 2400 acres of Public Lands, land considered sacred to the Apache, on which the largest outdoor bouldering contest in the world had been held for two decades, an area specifically protected from mining and development, set aside by Presidential order 50 years before Obama saw the White House.
Incidentally, there is 9 BILLION dollars worth of copper ore and countless other mineral resources buried thousands of feet under that land, but the United States will not see a penny of that money.
The economic health of the country directly affects climbing, Jeff... wouldn't that money be better in American pockets?
Getting those riches out will devastate the environment of the entire region; drawing down all the water in a riparian habitat and burying a beautiful view shed in millions of tons of overburden.
The company benefitting from this giveaway specializes in automation of mining techniques, so any jobs promised will likely evaporate long before the project begins, and those that remain will likely be taken by out-of-state workers, brought in by the mines.
Knowing the entire story, potential impacts and history of the land, this President signed the land swap into effect anyway, four years to the day after issuing an apology to Native Americans for the theft of their sacred lands by the United States Government..
That's the President we were stroking, instead of launching another lawsuit against his administration and/or protesting into a showdown.
Remember that the Access Fund, for whom Jeff is writing, was a key player in the compromise that let this generations-old heritage slip through our fingers.
It is also an interesting study in conflict of interest that Jeff is part-owner of a company that wells bolting gear, specifically rap bolting gear, much of it to a new generation of climbers with little or no respect or use for the founders in whose footsteps they refuse to admit following, making this blog post a sort of sales pitch, in point of fact.
Climbing will change, that is true.
Blindly accepting and condoning all aspects of that change for profit is a spreading disease among advocates and climbers seeking to make a living from the sport.
Tribes exist out of a mutual consent of the members to observe certain constraints on their freedom, when with the tribe.
Our continued access to public lands with the freedom to roam and develop crags depends on the individual members of the climbing tribe giving up a bit of their individuality, conforming to a certain standard, respecting certain precedents, and adhering to established principles even when NOT with the rest of the tribe.
Members should always remember that the sum is greater than the parts.
You are not climbing, I am not climbing, neither is Jeff, or any one person.
Don't make yourself bigger than something centuries old with an almost limitless future.
You get back the respect you give to the sport, and the crags.
And I'm as much a part of the problem as the solution; I've published a guide and increased traffic tenfold, trying to raise funds and awareness to support trail work, replace aging hardware, increase interaction between climbers and local businesses, and in any other way I can think of, to counter the region's slide into obscurity.
I've seen red-tagged projects stolen from the people who put weeks and months of time into them, along with hundreds of dollars of hardware, seen trails decimated by uncaring Spring Break groups just looking for the next place to trash and post on FB, and watched as the beta I put together is copied, stolen, and given away by people who do nothing to support the efforts of local NFS stewards.
Don't tell me I have to accept that these people are the new face of The Tribe. I've spent most of my life so far cleaning up after the waves which would each be 'the future of climbing'; trying to reach out and change their perspectives, and then just trying to limit the amount of fallout from their indifference.
My advice would be that these new folk had better start showing some respect for and paying attention to the old school, those of us who inherited responsibility for these lands directly from the founders of that tribe. We are still very much a part of the climbing world, and there is a great big boot attached to our regard, one that can swing with no respect for persons, if that is what it takes to get the newcomers' attention and correct their misapprehension of their own importance.
Just one old man's opinion, after four decades putting up new lines and building trail, putting far more money and effort into climbing than I have gotten back in bankable dollars, because that was never my reason for being here in the first place.