Right now, a battle is being waged over the West’s public lands, including many of the places we love to ski. Out-of-touch politicians backed by private interests like the American Lands Council want to transfer millions of acres of your land to states or private interests, a move that would almost certainly shut down your access to these beloved areas.

Public lands belong to all Americans. They are home to stunning landscapes and recreational opportunities that everyone can access. Together, Americans care for these special places, protecting them so that everyone can enjoy them, including the next generation.

Some politicians would like to sell off public lands to generate profit for individual states or private entities. Elected officials – state legislators and county commissioners – in 11 western states have written bills or passed resolutions proposing that individual states “take back” America’s parks, national forests, BLM lands, wildlife refuges, and open spaces, arguing that these lands and the profits that they generate should belong to the states. If their efforts were to be successful access to millions of acres of land would be lost, including some of the world’s most iconic backcountry ski destinations. Wyoming’s Teton Pass, Utah’s Wasatch, Turnagain Pass in Alaska, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains – these are just some of the countless peaks, passes, and ranges across the West being eyed for takeover.

If our public lands were sold to state governments, they would be the responsibility of state taxpayers to maintain and protect. State governments could privatize, sell, develop, or auction off our public lands to the highest bidder. Even if a state didn’t intend to sell off these lands it may not have a choice. A single wildfire can cost $100 million to fight. This expense would bankrupt most state budgets, forcing them to sell or auction off land to cover the costs. Imagine if the places you love to ski were suddenly privatized.

Although some state legislatures voted down land transfer bills, the idea of selling off public lands is gaining momentum. Most state legislatures have adjourned for now but in Congress, a symbolic amendment supporting the sale of public lands passed this spring. Just recently Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul stated that he supports relinquishing federal management of public lands. These actions challenge the foundation that underpins National Parks, National Forests, and public access to wild places. The Public Land Heist is the most serious threat that has faced our public lands in a generation.

If our mountains, forests, and rivers are privatized or sold off, there’s no replacing them. We need to speak now to protect the places we love to play. Winter Wildlands Alliance is working closely with our partners at Outdoor Alliance and other recreation and conservation groups to fight this legislation and ensure our public lands remain accessible to everyone.   Visit www.protectourpublicland.org to learn more and sign up for regular updates on our campaign to protect access to public lands.

The only way to keep our public lands in public hands is for the American people to speak up. If enough of us rally together, we can put an end to these terrible proposals and protect the incredible landscapes and backcountry areas we love. Please sign the petition and send a clear signal to your elected officials that America’s public lands are not for sale. By signing, you will become part of a growing movement of people who are working together to keep public lands public.

Curious which recreation areas are threatened in your state?

Alaska

Alaska

Arizona

Arizona

Colorado

Colorado

Idaho

Idaho

Montana

Montana

Nevada

Nevada

New Mexico

New Mexico

Oregon

Oregon

Utah

Utah

Washington

Washington

Wyoming

Wyoming

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer Imaging

2015 GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY CONFERENCE

June 18-20 2015: American Mountaineering Center, Golden, Colorado

Our sixth Grassroots Advocacy Conference took place June 18-20, 2015 in Golden, CO.  This conference was an opportunity for individuals and organizations who care about winter recreation to gather to hear the latest on policy issues, network, share successes, and meet with land managers.

Our keynote speaker, Donny Roth, kicked off the conference on the evening of June 18. Donny is a Winter Wildlands Alliance ambassador, ski guide, sponsored athlete and free range skier who focuses on, and advocates for, human powered skiing. Additional presentations and seminars will range from effectively utilizing the new Over Snow Vehicle Rule to protect winter backcountry areas, to using maps as advocacy tools, to defining a set of ethics for the winter backcountry community.

To view a detailed conference agenda please click here
Notes

Notes from day 1 (Friday)

Notes from day 2 (Saturday)

Handouts and Materials

Winter Recreation Report,  2015

Best Management Practices for Forest Service Travel Planning, April 2015

Minimization Criteria Fact Sheet

Vail Pass Task Force Framework for Development

Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area Management Plan History

Vermont Backcountry Ethics – long version

Vermont Backcountry Ethics – short version

Conference Cosponsors  
obc logo
Black Diamond
TWS logo
BCM_2010_LOGO-MAG

 

Please join us June 18-20 in Golden CO for our sixth Grassroots Advocacy Conference.  This conference is an opportunity for individuals and organizations who care about winter recreation to gather to hear the latest on policy issues, network, share successes, and meet with land managers. It is open to Winter Wildlands Alliance members, our partners, and others who are passionate about protecting winter wildlands and human-powered recreation.

Our keynote speaker, Donny Roth, will kick things off on the evening of June 18. Donny is a Winter Wildlands Alliance ambassador, ski guide, sponsored athlete and free range skier who focuses on, and advocates for, human powered skiing. Additional presentations and seminars will range from effectively utilizing the new Over Snow Vehicle Rule to protect winter backcountry areas, to using maps as advocacy tools, to defining a set of ethics for the winter backcountry community.

To find out  more and register for the conference please visit our Grassroots Conference webpage.

WWA Seeking 1,000 Comments in 45 Days

Last April Winter Wildlands Alliance won a historic victory when a Federal Court agreed with our claim that the Forest Service has an obligation to manage snowmobiles under the same guidelines used for all other off-road vehicles in other seasons. The court ruled that the exemption of over-snow vehicles (OSVs) in the 2005 Travel Management Rule was unlawful and it directed the Agency to develop a new rule outlining the process under which each national forest will create a winter travel plan to complement their existing summer travel management plans. This new Over-Snow Vehicle Travel Rule (OSV Rule) is a huge opportunity to protect winter ecosystems and bring balance to the backcountry.

But, the proposed rule released today falls short of its potential, and your engagement will be crucial if the Forest Service is going to get it right. Stakeholders have just 45 days – until August 4 — to comment on the draft. WWA has an ambitious goal to rally at least 1,000 backcountry and Nordic skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and winter mountaineers to weigh in with unique comments to ensure the Forest Service finalizes a rule that meets its obligation to minimize the impacts of winter motorized use, and finally brings balance to the backcountry.

The draft says each national forest must now take a proactive approach to designating appropriate trails and areas for winter motorized use as either open or closed, or with certain restrictions (like dates or a minimum snow depth). Forests that have previously completed comprehensive winter travel plans also would not have to redo them. Both of these aspects of the rule are great, but when we dig a little deeper the draft is problematic.

  •  The draft would allow individual national forest units to choose either an ‘open unless designated closed’ approach or the opposite ‘closed unless designated open’ approach, as is the case with all other off-road vehicles in all other seasons. This element of the draft is inconsistent, and would be confusing on the ground.
  • The draft also appears to grandfather in past decisions about over-snow vehicle use, regardless of whether they were comprehensive, minimized conflict and resource damage, or involved the public. Administrative decisions that did not allow stakeholder involvement, or that apply to only part of a forest, should not be allowed to pass for proper planning.
  • Also, the rule proposes to change the definition of an “area” to include landscapes even broader than a Ranger District, with groomed trails in that area not subject to analysis. Groomed trails concentrate use, and cross-country snowmobile travel, while certainly appropriate in some places, also has impacts. Both of these deserve a harder look than is possible when designating areas that could be hundreds of thousands of acres as the draft proposes.

The Forest Service needs to hear from skiers and snowshoers about how management of the backcountry has the potential to improve your experience on national forest lands — or how a lack of management has degraded your experience. This is a chance for WWA members to share your story.

The Take Action page at http://winterwildlands.org/take-action/provides everything you need to comment. Personal comments are proven to make the biggest difference to decision-makers — so please take 10 minutes to weigh in on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to impact how the backcountry is managed.
Once the public comment period closes the Forest Service will analyze all comments and will issue a final rule no later than September 9, 2014 as directed by the court. After the final rule is released the Forest Service will issue guidance and a schedule for developing individual winter travel plans on national forests.
The draft rule can be viewed online here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FS-2014-0004-0001
For questions on the draft rule, or help writing comments please contact:

Hilary Eisen
Recreation Planning Coordinator
heisen@winterwildlands.org

Even though this news is delivered on April 1st, this is no joke. It’s a historic win for Winter Wildlands Alliance and for all those who value piece and quiet in the winter backcountry. All of us at WWA offer a huge thanks to Advocates for the West and attorney Laurie Rule who presented a compelling case on our behalf.

Following is a news release we issued this morning: Federal Court Overturns Forest Service Exemption of Snowmobiles. Read more.