Public Comment Deadline is March 1, 2019: Comment Now!

With our local partners at Friends of Plumas Wilderness, we support the forest’s preferred Alternative 2 with specific modifications from Alternative 5.

OUR TAKE: We like that Alternative 2 protects terrain east of Bucks Lake Wilderness, the Bucks Creek Loop Trail, the Historic Lost Sierra Ski Traverse Route, and the backcountry ski zone on Thompson Peak by Susanville. We urge that the Forest Service also include specific amendments from Alternative 5 to protect proposed Middle Feather, Bucks Creek, Chips, Grizzly, & Adams Peak Wilderness Areas, Lakes Basin Snowshoe and Ski Trails, Little Jamison Basin and to stop grooming on 24N33 to help prevent OSV trespass into the Bucks Lake Wilderness.

October has been a busy month here at Winter Wildlands Alliance! Last week, we wrapped up a meeting in Boise with other conservation partners, representatives from snowmobiling organizations, Forest Service staff, state biologists, and Fish and Wildlife Services biologists. We came together to talk about how winter recreation impacts wolverines, and to start working toward science-based recommendations that we can all agree on for managing winter recreation in wolverine habitat. It was just the first meeting of many, but we’re optimistic and excited to engage with such a broad range of partners in a collaborative manner.

Meanwhile, we’re nearing the end of the public comment period for the Chugach Forest Plan. The Chugach, America’s northernmost national forest, is soliciting public feedback on the draft EIS they have developed. The Chugach features spectacular coastal mountains with some of the best and wildest backcountry terrain in the world. In this planning process we’re advocating for Alternative D. Comment now (Public comment period ends November 1)!

Also in Alaska, we’re continuing the engage in the Wrangell-St Elias National Park backcountry management plan. Right now the Park Service is looking for comments from those who have personal connections to Wrangell-St Elias. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit Wrangell-St Elias, please consider telling the Park Service about your experience. Comments are due October 31.

We directed a lot of attention to Alaska in October but Utah is on our radar as well. Alaska has been working on getting an exemption to the Roadless Rule in order to open up untouched coastal rainforests on the Tongass to commercial logging (that comment period ended October 15). Now Utah is drafting a petition, asking the Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service for an exemption to the federal Rule and permission to write a state-specific Rule, just like Alaska. We’re working with our Utah-based grassroots groups to stand up for roadless lands in Utah. Stay tuned to our channels in case the opportunity arises for people outside of Utah to weigh in!

We’re also still working to save LWCF. Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund expire on September 30. There are two bills that would permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF – Senate bill S. 569 and House bill H.R. 6759. Please contact your Senators and Representative and ask them to both support these bills and push for a vote before the end of the year.

And hot off the press: the Plumas National Forest just published a draft EIS for its winter travel plan. Public comments are due December 10. Stay tuned for our outreach on that!

Finally, don’t forget to vote (and vote for public lands!) on November 6!

Photo by Luc Mehl

Public Comment Period Closes November 1, 2018!

The 5.4-million-acre Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska, America’s most northerly national forest, is currently revising its outdated 2002 Land Management PlanCovering an area the size of New Hampshire, stretching from the snowy peaks of Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula, the Chugach features spectacular coastal mountains with some of the best and wildest backcountry terrain in the world.

QUICK TAKE: The forest’s Draft Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzes the potential effects of four management alternatives. We prefer Alternative D.

What’s at Stake?

  1. WILDERNESS: Within the boundaries of the Chugach lies the 1.9 million acre Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA), created in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). A truly wild and roadless landscape that also includes the highest concentration of tidewater glaciers in North America, this area deserves the highest level of permanent protection in the new forest plan. Alternative D recommends full Wilderness designation for 97% of the Nellie Juan-College Fjord WSA!
  2. ROADLESS PROTECTIONS: Given that state politicians are pursuing Rulemaking to carve out an exemption to the National Roadless Rule for Alaska, the Chugach should incorporate specific protections for lands comprised of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs).
  3. WINTER RECREATION OPPORTUNITY SPECTRUM (ROS): The draft plan does not include a winter-specific recreation opportunity spectrum. Instead, it has a broad hybrid category dubbed “semi-primitive non-motorized winter motorized allowed.” Given the differences in use, access, and setting during winter versus summer, and as winter motorized use is not appropriate everywhere on the forest, the revised plan should include separate ROS classifications for winter. This will also set the stage for winter travel planning, required under the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule, by helping the forest service better define where over-snow vehicle use is and is not suitable.
  4. SUSTAINABLE RECREATION: We appreciate that the draft plan includes plan components and language related to recreation opportunities, settings, special uses, access, and scenery. However, these must be better integrated throughout the plan. A full complement of desired conditions and guidelines, including measurable objectives that link plan components to monitoring and adaptive management, is necessary for the plan to provide a clear path for sustainable recreation management into the future.

Alternative D Best Addresses These Concerns. Voice Your Support Now!

Photo by Luc Mehl. thingstolucat.com

  1. Submit a comment today (see instructions below and feel free to borrow language above or use this sample letter as a template);
  2. Support Alternative D for the way it addresses our primary concerns;
  3. Support management and monitoring that keeps the Nellie Juan-College Fjord WSA in wilderness quality condition. The draft plan would manage this area based on its existing characteristics. In the limited areas where evidence of human use or impacts have occurred, the Forest Service should work to restore the Wilderness quality experience wherever possible.
  4. Request that the Chugach include a winter-specific Recreation Opportunity Spectrum in the final plan. 

How to Comment

A 90-day comment period began August 4, 2018 and closes on November 1. Comments may be submitted in any of the following ways:

  1. Click here to submit comments online;
  2. FAX comments to (907) 743-9476;
  3. Mail or deliver written comments to:

Chugach National Forest Supervisor’s Office
Attn: Draft Land Management Plan
161 East 1st Street, Door 8
Anchorage, AK  99501

Please be as specific as possible in your comments, identifying locations and activities of specific interest or concern to you.

Comments received regarding this Draft Land Management Plan, including commenter’s names and contact information, will become part of the public record.

Submitting comments will automatically add you to our email list.

To view comments in the reading room click here.

For more resources, visit our Chugach National Forest page.

Touring on the Helena-Lewis & Clark NF, photo by H. Eisen

The Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest covers a vast portion of central Montana, encompassing island mountain ranges like the Belts and the Crazies, as well as much of the famed Rocky Mountain Front. The forest is home to funky little ski areas and beloved cross-country ski trails, as well as excellent opportunities for backcountry skiers looking to get away from the crowds.

The Forest Service is working on a new forest plan for the Helena-Lewis & Clark and they’re accepting public comment on the draft plan through September 6. The draft includes a broad range of alternatives and covers issues as diverse as grazing, timber production, and recreation. We’re focused on the parts of the plan that impact winter recreation and wildlands.

The Helena-Lewis & Clark is one of just a handful of forests in the country that already completed winter travel planning and we’d like to see the forest plan uphold the good winter travel management decisions already in place. However, we also think there are things the forest could do in the future to improve opportunities and experiences for skiers. For example, there’s a defunct ski area on the forest that we think has the potential to be managed as an unofficial backcountry ski area with just a bit of glading work. Likewise, although this forest covers 2.8 million acres of snowy mountain terrain, there is no avalanche forecaster on the forest or in all of central Montana. We’d like the forest to consider hiring an avalanche forecaster so that winter recreationists have a resource for understanding avalanche conditions across the forest.

In addition to suggesting some new ideas in our comments, we’re supporting proposals from across a variety of the Alternatives in the draft plan. For example, the vast majority of designated Wilderness on the Helena-Lewis & Clark is along the Rocky Mountain Front but there’s a whole lot of wild country in the island ranges on the forest too. We’d like to see some of these places recommended for wilderness and managed in a way to protects their wilderness character. Not all of these places are rad backcountry ski destinations but they’re important for other reasons – from wildlife habitat to providing clean drinking water and containing important pieces of history in the archeological record.

We think a mixture of the wilderness recommendations in Alternatives B and D, and prohibiting snowmobiles in areas that are recommended for wilderness, is the best path forward for protecting the wildlands of central Montana. Recommended wilderness is the strongest protection available in forest planning, and although sometimes is leads to tough trade-offs, sustainable recreation means finding a way to sustain and support the whole range of activities across the entire forest without adversely impacting the places we play or each other. Sometimes that means limiting the types of activities allowed in certain areas.

You can read our comment letter here. If you’d like to send in your own letter to the Forest Service (comments are due September 6) click below to be re-directed to the Helena-Lewis & Clark forest plan revision and commenting page.

Human-powered snowsports are an important part of the $887 BILLION outdoor recreation economy and the fastest growing segment of the winter outdoor recreation industry. With 16 MILLION annual participants, booming equipment expenditures and related tourism revenues, human-powered winter backcountry activities create jobs and bring income into rural economies while contributing to community development, quality of life, health, and public land conservation.

See below for the full report, compiled and written by Natalie Knowles. Or click here to download the pdf.

2018 Trends and Impact Report