Winter Recreation Survey

Help Winter Wildlands Alliance and our land management partners better understand what kinds of human-powered recreation are happening on public lands in winter. Three quick questions!


Congress Considering Rolling Back the Roadless Rule: Act Now!

Congress is considering the first ever legislative attempt to allow road construction and logging in roadless national forest lands, undermining a key 2001 conservation rule. The Roadless Rule prohibits road construction, timber harvesting and other development in some parts of the National Forest System—so-called “inventoried roadless areas.” These roadless areas include many of our most accessible winter backcountry areas, cherished by skiers and snowboarders for the recreation opportunities they provide. Check out this map (made by our friends at the Outdoor Alliance) and click on “Roadless Areas” to see all the places currently protected by this rule.

Here’s how it’s happening: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R, AK) has added obscure “riders” to the 2018 Senate Interior Appropriations bill to exempt Alaska’s two national forests, the Tongass and Chugach, from the Roadless Rule.  Murkowski’s riders would remove protections from about 15 million acres, encompassing nearly one-quarter of all forest-based inventoried roadless areas in the U.S. If allowed to pass, this will set precedent for forest-by-forest or state-by-state exemptions to to this important conservation rule, jeopardizing the roadless areas where you ski and snowboard. Not only that, Murkowski’s amendments directly threaten some of the best, most accessible human-powered skiing in Alaska. Turnagain Pass is one of the roadless areas that would be opened to road building and other forms of development if Murkowski’s riders stand.

Roadless areas (red) across the U.S.

The Senate Interior Appropriations Committee will decide this week whether to let Murkowski’s riders stand. We need you to contact your Senator TODAY and tell them to insist that Senator Murkowski drop her riders and leave our roadless areas alone.

Bill Will Make Idaho Parks & Rec Director Political Appointee, Forfeit Harriman State Park

House Bill 496 will allow the Director of Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation to be appointed by a Governor, rather than by a diverse board. The board is selected by the Governor but because it’s a diverse group, they’ve always appointed a Parks and Rec. Director based on merit, not political affiliation. HB 496 would change this, and as an additional causality, forfeit Harriman Ranch State Park.

To understand why here’s a quick review of Idaho history:

In 1965 Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie created the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) and its board to professionally manage the state parks. With knowledge of how drastically different natural resources were managed with each political turnover, and motivated by the Harriman brothers’ ranch donation – which was incumbent on the establishment of a professional Parks and Rec agency – Smylie decided the Parks Director should be hired by a board, based on merit alone, free from partisanship.

Currently, the Department of Parks and Recreation is governed by a board of six people, each representing a different region in Idaho. Board members are appointed by the Governor based on professional relevance. The board has the power “to appoint a director to serve at its discretion” (Title 67, Chapter 42, Idaho Code). HB 496 would remove the board’s appointment powers and hand it directly to the Governor, undoing decades of tradition of merit-based, collective hiring.

Not only that, because Harriman Ranch State Park was donated to the State of Idaho only as long as IDPR staff are not politically appointed, this bill could result in the return of the park to the Harriman family. Harriman State Park is a special place for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and winter photographers and it’s loss would be felt acutely by the Idaho winter recreation community.

Rep. Joe Palmer (R-Meridian) introduced HB 496 to undo Governor Smylie’s legacy. It was killed by a 6-6 split. But then, a couple days later, the bill was revived and passed out of committee to the House Floor.

If you live in Idaho and appreciate and support professional management of our natural areas and want to keep this Idaho gem in public hands, please contact your State Legislators and ask them to vote no on House Bill 496. All you need to do is fill in your information below, add a personal comment and your letter will be delivered to your legislators.

Fill out the letter below to send a letter to your state legislator on the issue.

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Comment Now on the Custer Gallatin Forest Plan Revision

The Custer Gallatin National Forest has released a Proposed Action for its forest plan revision. This is the Forest Service’s initial proposal for how it might face the challenges of ensuring that growing populations and increasing recreation use on the forest are balanced with protecting the forest’s unique and important ecological role.

Based on the comments they receive between now and March 5 on the Proposed Action, the Forest Service will develop a range of Alternatives. The final revised forest plan will evolve out of that range of Alternatives, so your comments now have a big impact. For more details on the plan and our perspective on it, click here. Otherwise, please submit a comment today using the form below. Editable comments are provided in the message window on page 2.


A New Look at NEPA? Sounds Good. But Let’s Not Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water.


EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE something pretty rare comes along and you can’t help but take notice. For instance, early this morning we witnessed a super blue blood moon eclipse. That happens even less than once in a blue moon! Along the same lines, of things that happen “once in a blue moon” (or less), the Forest Service is taking a new look at what they do to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, and they’re accepting preliminary comments through the end of this week.

The NEPA process is the environmental review the Forest Service does whenever they make a major decision. It helps ensure that public lands and waters remain healthy, resilient, and attractive outdoor recreation destinations and it’s the primary avenue that we, the public, have to participate in decisions about the way Forest Service lands and waters are managed. The vast majority of comments submitted thus far in the process are from the extractive industry – it’s time for the outdoor recreation community to speak up.

Click here to submit a comment on

Because of the way the Forest Service is collecting comments we’re unable to provide a one-click comment template for you to use. You’ll have to write your own letter. But feel free to use the following talking points:

  • I strongly support the principles of NEPA and believe that environmental review and public comment are a vital components of the land management decision-making process, since it helps to ensure that public lands and waters remain healthy and resilient.
  • I urge the USFS to approach any changes to the NEPA regulations carefully so that the agency has the tools needed to ensure that the lands they manage remain attractive recreation destinations for a wide range of users.
  • I believe NEPA and environmental review are important to preserve opportunities for the recreating public to participate in decisions about the way the agency’s lands and waters are managed.
  • The Forest Service should continue to invest in more up-front public process, including collaboration, to help improve and expedite project planning and implementation.
  • One way the Forest Service could streamline its approach to NEPA is to better utilize programmatic, landscape-scale analysis and decision-making, with tiered project-level analysis and appropriate use of categorical exclusions.
  • The Forest Service should not consider expanding upon existing categorical exclusions to enable larger-scale salvage logging.

Comments are due Friday. Act now!