CRAG-Vermont and Access Fund Permanently Protect Bolton Dome

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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.

Bolton Dome is on the ancestral lands of Wabanaki Confederacy and Abenaki / Abénaquis.Michael Pronzato

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.

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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.

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