Field Institute Helps Protect Rock Art and Rock Climbing at Indian Creek

Spectacular rock formations attract increasing numbers of visitors each year to the BLM’s Indian Creek Special Management Recreation Area outside of Monticello, Utah. 

RMFI Trail WorkSome come to witness the unique pictographs created thousands of years ago by ancient inhabitants. Others come to experience a unique climbing experience found nowhere else in the world, and some come to help protect the sites from overuse.

Since 1996, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute has worked with the BLM’s Monticello Field Office to reduce impacts associated with visitor use in the area.  They have built, rerouted, or stabilized the climbing area trails; helped restore the land with native plants, and assisted the BLM in implementing its Resource Management Plan.

Through a cooperative agreement, the Field Institute also matches BLM funds.

Indian Creek boasts a high concentration of cultural sites and the Field Institute is helping to protect them as well. Members have removed climbing aids near cultural sites to help deter climbers who might damage them. They have restored “social trails” near the Newspaper Rock Cultural Site, installed interpretive kiosks, and built rock retaining walls to reRMFI Trail Workduce soil erosion.

Today, wildlife is more likely to inhabit these restored areas.

Climbers are encouraged to come too.  Hundreds of climbers, from all over the world, camp and climb in Indian Creek in the spring and fall. Their visits help boost local economies. Each year, more foreign visitors come to climb the area’s unique sandstone cracks. This type of climbing, called crack climbing, is unique to Indian Creek; it exists nowhere else.

Members of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute have been climbing and camping in the Indian Creek area for many years. By enlisting high school and college students to help them construct new climbing access trails and do other work, they are introducing dozens of young Americans to the sport of rock climbing and to conservation ethics as well. Since 1996, the Field Institute has sponsored more than 21,700 hours of volunteer youth time, a monetary value of more than $477,400. 

The Institute also has helped the BLM establish working partnerships with other nonprofit groups such as Friends of Indian Creek, the Access Fund, the American Alpine Club, the Great Old Broads, and Fort Lewis College Climbing Club. Collectively, they have done much to restore and maintain this fragile landscape that so many people cherish.

BLM-Utah (Robert Leaver, Outdoor Recreation Planner) nominated this program for the Secretary’s Partners in Conservation Awards. The Department will announce those selected for formal recognition October 18. 

The Interior Department’s Partners in Conservation Awards Program recognizes partnerships that promote conservation, protect natural and cultural resources, use innovative approaches for resource management, and engage youth and diverse entities in accomplishing the Interior Department’s mission.