Policy Update – April 2022

In this month’s policy update, we share news on Colorado’s Partners in the Outdoor conference, bighorn sheep in the Tetons, Phase 1 of NEPA restoration, and a shoutout to our grassroots groups.

Photo by Jason Hummel (@jasonhummel) of Carl Simpson (@freebirdski)

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (4/26/2022)

They say April showers bring May flowers… so does the fact that my home mountains here in Montana received the biggest snow dump of the year this past weekend mean we’ll be seeing a superbloom of wildflowers once the snow melts? I don’t know, but I’ve been enjoying the powder skiing!

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Partners in the Outdoors Conference

Earlier this month I traveled to Vail, CO to attend the Colorado Parks and Wildlife “Partners in the Outdoors” conference. It was a great opportunity to meet up with many of our Colorado partners in both the non-profit and governmental sphere, and to dig into the conference theme: “how do we ensure that both outdoor recreation and conservation thrive amidst a changing Colorado?” Of course, this question isn’t just relevant in Colorado and much of what was discussed at this conference was relevant to WWA’s work regardless of location. For example, we’re grappling with this very question in the Teton Range right now.

Bighorn Sheep in the Tetons

On April 20 Grand Teton National Park published a scoping notice for it’s much anticipated Bighorn Sheep Winter Habitat Protection Plan. The Teton bighorn sheep population is small and sensitive to pressures from backcountry winter recreation. In an effort to address these issues, the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group convened a series of public workshops in 2020 to share information about bighorn sheep and to gather information from users on winter backcountry recreation.

After a season of voluntary closures, now the Park Service is seeking public input as it develops a long-term plan for protecting bighorn sheep winter habitat within Grand Teton National Park. During this scoping period the Park Services is looking for ideas that fall into 3 broad categories: public outreach and education, monitoring, and habitat management. 

Earlier in April we – and Teton Backcountry Alliance, Teton Climbers Coalition, Access Fund, and American Alpine Club – published an online survey for backcountry skiers, riders, and climbers to share their perspectives on Teton bighorn sheep conservation and backcountry winter recreation. The survey will help us to better understand our community’s concerns, priorities, and ideas regarding Teton bighorn sheep habitat protections, and will help to inform our scoping comments. We’ll also share the survey results with the Park Service.

Scoping comments are (currently) due May 20. We have requested a 30-day extension to give the public more time to engage and will let folks know if the comment period is extended!

Phase 1 of NEPA Restored

In other news, we celebrated a NEPA victory this month, just in time for Earth Day! Over the past two years, our #ProtectNEPA campaign has fought to protect wild winter landscapes. We sued the Trump administration for gutting NEPA in 2020 and then petitioned the Biden administration in 2021 to take action to repair the law by restoring critical regulatory requirements that were removed in 2020. Last week, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a final rule restoring key pieces of NEPA, provisions that were in effect for decades before being gutted in 2020. This “Phase 1” NEPA Rule effectively overturns three parts of the 2020 Rule and restores key pieces of NEPA. The final rule will take effect on May 20, 2022, but it only restores some of the provisions from the original 1978 regulations. Now, CEQ will tackle Phase 2 of restoring NEPA, which will consider broader changes to the 2020 NEPA regulations.

Grassroots Groups

We’re working on many other projects with our grassroots groups around the country, and we couldn’t do this work without our grassroots partners. Find your local grassroots group to join and support their work today!