Alaska – Chugach Forest Plan Revision

With dramatic glaciers, craggy peaks, and awesome skiing the Chugach National Forest is a wild winter playground.  Right now the Forest Service is revising the Chugach forest plan and in order to ensure that this forest is as wild in 2040 as it is today we need you to get involved.

The revised plan will outline how the Forest Service manages the Chugach for the next 20+ years.  It sets the stage for everything that happens on the forest, including, among other things, where motorized use is allowed, where commercial guiding can occur, and whether any areas will be recommended for Wilderness designation.

The Chugach National Forest has experienced many changes in recent years including the opening of the Anton-Anderson Memorial Tunnel in Whittier, growing populations in the Anchorage area and Kenai Peninsula, advances in snowmachine technology, and climate change.  These changes are putting the Chugach at risk.

The Chugach faces unique risks because not one of it’s 5 million acres is permanently protected. This is despite the fact that the 2 million-acre Nellie-Juan/College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA) was designated by Congress in 1980 and has been managed to preserve it’s wilderness character ever since.  This management has protected non-motorized recreation opportunities, important wildlife and salmon habitat, and amazing scenery.  Today the Forest Service is proposing to remove protections from nearly a third of the WSA.  This is a step backwards for those who value wilderness, quiet recreation, and the western Prince William Sound.

To find out more you can review the proposed plan and submit comments on the Forest Service website.  In your comments I encourage you to make the following points:

* The revised forest plan should recommend the entire Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area for a Wilderness   designation. The proposed plan recommends only 1.4 million acres for Wilderness designation, removing protections for Knight Island, Port Wells, Harriman Fjord, Columbia Glacier, Glacier Island, Perry Island., Eshamy, and other wild places.

* The revised forest plan should protect significant blocks of the Kenai Peninsula for non-motorized use and future Wilderness designation.  For those who cannot afford to fly into remote areas, wild places that can be accessed from the road are an extremely valuable resource.

* The Forest Service should not allow recreational snowmachine use in the WSA or in any recommended wilderness areas.  This would not preclude snowmachine use for traditional subsistence activities but would protect the quiet, solitude, and wildness of these places.

To learn more about the plan revision you are invited to attend the Chugach town hall on Wednesday, February 10 from 6-8 pm at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage (720 W. 5th Ave).  At this event the Forest Service will give an overview of the proposed changes and answer questions, followed by a panel discussion.  Panelists include representatives from local businesses to backcountry skiers. The town hall will conclude with an opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas for the plan revision.

Comments are due by February 19, 2016.

 

Montana – Beaverhead-Deerlodge Winter Travel Planning

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) is taking another look at how it manages motorized winter use under its 2009 Forest Plan and is considering amending the plan. The Forest Service’s decision will determine how the agency manages snowmobiles across the eight mountain ranges, vast backcountry, and world-class wildlife habitat within the 3.3 million-acre forest.

You can read through the supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) on Forest Service website.  If you were involved in this planning effort back in the early 2000’s the alternatives the Forest Service is comparing may look familiar.  That’s because they haven’t changed.  However, when the BDNF wrote it’s 2009 forest plan it failed to analyze how snowmobile use under each alternative would impact other resources (like wilderness lands, wildlife habitat, and backcountry skiing).  This SEIS compares the impacts from snowmobile use under the current plan versus the impacts under the other alternatives considered when the plan was written.  The agency is required to minimize these impacts and we feel that change is needed.

We are asking the BDNF to amend the Forest Plan to no longer allow snowmobiling on the eastern side of Mt Jefferson.  For over 6 years we have worked with the Forest Service to monitor snowmobile use in this area and this monitoring has clearly shown that the current motorized/non-motorized boundary is ineffective.  Snowmobiles frequently travel throughout the non-motorized area in the upper Hellroaring basin and into the adjacent BLM Wilderness Study Area.  Moving the boundary to the Continental Divide will better protect wild lands and restore opportunities for  backcountry skiing that many feel have been lost on Mt Jefferson in recent years.

We would also like to see the BDNF take the common-sense approach of closing low-elevation or low-snow areas where snowmobiling rarely occurs.  This pre-emptive action would protect big game winter range and allow the Forest Service to better utilize it’s limited resources.

Please take a moment to write to the Forest Service and request that the agency do more to protect Mt. Jefferson and other important winter wild lands on the BDNF.  Comments should be sent to Jan Bowey at jbowey@fs.fed.us.

Comments are due by March 3, 2016.