Winter Wildlands Alliance just wrapped up a weekend full of events: the world premiere of the 15th Annual Backcountry Film Festival, the Snowball fundraiser for SnowSchool, and the three-day Grassroots Advocacy Conference. In Boise, Idaho, the “Wild Weekend” was a chance to showcase all that happens in the Winter Wildlands Alliance office. But it was also an opportunity to connect people with each other, to share knowledge and experience, and to inspire.

This week, we are hosting our 8th Biennial Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Boise, Idaho, and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to learn and to share alongside people who are passionate about public lands, recreation, the great outdoors, wild places.

This year’s theme is “Growing Equity on Public Lands.” We don’t have all the answers. But we want to ask questions. We want to learn. We want to hear about diverse experiences and perspectives. We want to absorb relevant information. We want to get everyone in the same room to have meaningful dialogue, to rumble with the hard things, so we can all take steps to make a positive impact. (And after all these deep conversations, you bet we’ll be kicking back and having fun at the World Premiere of the Backcountry Film Festival on Friday night. Come Saturday, we’re dressing up early for Halloween and doing the ski boot jig on the dance floor at Snowball.)

Here’s a look at some of the conversations that we’ll be having with a solid lineup of speakers who are joining us from across the country. They are community organizers, government employees, nonprofit workers, journalists, policy directors, professors, lawyers, scientists, tourism officials, and more. They are also skiers, paddlers, climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, mountain guides, fly fishers, among others.

Keynote by James Edward Mills
When: 6:30pm on Thursday, October 24, at the Basque Center
A journalist whose work specializes in stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, and sustainable living, James Edward Mills will start the conference with a keynote talk about “Growing Equity on Public Lands.”

There Is Room for Everyone—How to Embrace Diversity
When: 9am on Friday, October 25
Let’s keep the conversation going. Panelists include Jolie Varela, Justin Forrest Parks, Theresa Simsiman. Varela is a citizen of the Nüümü and Yokut Nations. She is the founder of Indigenous Women Hike. Forrest Parks is a climber, mountaineer, outdoor enthusiast and community advocate. He is the co-founder of Sending in Color and a coalition member at Diversify Outdoors. Simsiman is the California Stewardship Director for American Whitewater.

Planning the Future of Public Lands
When: 10am on Friday, October 25
This isn’t speculation. We will hear from people on-the-ground experience. Panelists include Alison Flint, the director of litigation and agency policy at The Wilderness Society; Francisco Valenzuela, a retired professional with the U.S. Forest Service who co-authored “Recreation Equity: Is the Forest Service serving its diverse publics?”; and Hilary Eisen, policy director at Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Messaging the Sacred
When: 11am on Friday, October 25
This is all about the bigger picture. Panelists include Charles Wolf Drimal of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation; Midy Aponte, senior vice president of Spitfire Communications, where she works with foundations like World Resources Institute, Ford Foundation, and the Environmental Defense Fund; and Laura Yale, a Colorado-based filmmaker who has produced award-winning documentaries like Jumbo Wild and Treeline.

Wolverines and Winter Recreation
When: 1pm on Friday, October 25
Outdoor recreation has a big impact on wildlife. This presentation will look specifically at wolverines and winter recreation, led by Winter Wildlands Alliance Policy Director Hilary Eisen, who recently tracked wolverines in Mongolia. Eisen will be joined by Dr. Kimberly Heinemeyer, a scientist who studies the ecology of mid-sized carnivores in the Rocky Mountains.

Experiential Education: Passing the Knowledge
When: 2pm on Friday, October 25
Winter Wildlands Alliance Director of SnowSchool Kerry McClay will be leading this workshop, with Salome Mwangi, who works with the Idaho Office for Refugees.

How Do We Pay For It? New Strategies for Funding Public Lands
When: 9am on Saturday, October 26
A really good question, with insight from people who follow the money. Panelists include John Gardner, who is the senior director for budget and appropriations at National Parks Conservation Association; Louis Geltman, policy director at Outdoor Alliance; and Susan James, an avid pursuer of outdoor adventure with an unexpected career in public land management, most recently with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The Outdoor Economy: Is It Ruining the Outdoors?
When: 10am on Saturday, October 26
We can all agree that outdoor recreation is good thing, except when it runs smack into big issues like over-tourism, sustainability, and a lack of affordable housing. Our panelists approach this issue from every vantage: Lucy Kay, CEO of the Breckenridge Tourism Office; Danna Stroud, executive director of Travel Paso and formerly with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy; Todd Walton, executive director of Winter Wildlands Alliance with a career in PR in the outdoor industry; and Yoon Kim, founder of Outdoor Media Summit and Blogs for Brands.

E-Recreation: A Brave New World?
When: 11am on Saturday, October 26
E-bikes are no longer a fringe sport. They are shifting recreation on public lands. To help us understand what this means, and the stakes at hand, our panelists include Todd Keller, director of government affairs for the International Mountain Bicycling Association; Brad Brooks, acting senior director of agency policy and planning for The Wilderness Society; John Wentworth, member of the Town Council at Mammoth Lakes and chairman and CEO of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation.

Climate Science Into Action: What Can We Do?
When: 1pm on Saturday, October 26
Empowering the audience with knowledge and opportunities for action, snow scientist and glaciologist Hans-Peter Marshall will be presenting with Kerry McClay, director of SnowSchool. The Marshall and McClay have sparked a partnership between NASA and Winter Wildlands Alliance, empowering kids to help scientists measure and monitor the snowpack.

Collaboration: Three Case Studies
When: 2pm on Saturday, October 26
This is how things get done. Panelists include Erik Murdock, policy director at the Access Fund; Mike Fiebig, river protection director for the Southwest U.S. at American Rivers; and Tony Ferlisi, executive director of Mountain Bike the Tetons.

A fall scene with trees and snow-capped mountains in Alaska's Tongass National Forest

Photo Credit: Flickr

The Trump Administration proposes to allow logging on the Tongass National Forest and exempt it from the Roadless Rule, stripping protections from old growth forests that are vital to the fight against climate change.

One of the world’s largest carbon sinks is under siege by the Trump administration. On Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service proposed to allow logging on 9.3 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which is the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America and one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures. The move would exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule and reverse nearly two decades of conservation that protects a critical ecosystem in the fight against climate change. 

The Tongass is the country’s single most important national forest for carbon sequestration and carbon change mitigation. The U.S. Forest Service estimates the Tongass stores 10 to 12 percent of the total carbon captured by America’s national forests. Many of the trees in the Tongass are over 800 years old, standing over 200 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter. 

A recent IPCC report inventories the impacts of climate change on the planet’s last remaining winter ecosystems: glaciers are melting, coastlines are eroding, and permafrost is disappearing. Alaska is warming at roughly twice the rate compared to the rest of the country, which is causing a profound impact on communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems across the state. Protecting the Tongass is critical to fighting climate change and saving winter.

“Cutting old growth trees on the Tongass has an effect on powder skiing in the Wasatchand elsewhere in the lower 48,” says Hilary Eisen, Winter Wildlands Alliance policy director. “Our snow seasons are getting shorter. We’re getting more rain instead of snow. And not only are we failing to address climate change, but this action actually takes us backwards. It undos 18 years of pro-active conservation work that protected these critical carbon sinks.”

The U.S. Forest Service will publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Rule this week. The agency is recommending an alternative that strips longstanding protections against logging and road-building that have been in place since the Roadless Rule was enacted in 2001.

The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration wants to reverse long-standing protections against logging at the “request of Alaska’s top elected officials” who say timber production will boost the local economy. However, the timber industry provides just under one percent of southeastern Alaskan jobs, compared to seafood processing’s 8 percent and tourism’s 17 percent. Logging the Tongass will have a devastating impact to both Alaska’s salmon fishing and tourism. 

The Tongass is home to a wealth of wildlife—including whales, bald eagles, otters, beavers, wolves, and bears. There are five species of salmon in Tongass rivers. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Alaska’s recreation industry supports more than 70,000 jobs in the state, generating more than $2 billion in wages and salaries. The Outdoor Industry also contributes $7.3 billion to Alaska’s economy. Rivers and forests on the Tongass provide ample opportunities for paddling, climbing, mountaineering, backcountry snowsports, mountain biking, and hiking.

Winter Wildlands Alliance and our partners at the Outdoor Alliance strongly oppose exemptions or exceptions to the Roadless Rule in Alaska—and elsewhere. The Roadless Rule preserves wild landscapes across our National Forest system and provides opportunities for recreation and adventure. It’s also a fundamental tool to conserve sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats. The public will have 60 days to provide comment on the Forest Service’s plan to rollback regulations on the Tongass. We will keep you informed as soon as the draft EIS is published and available to the public.

Maybe it’s just us, but it seems like it always snows in early fall. The first snowfall is a tease, a reminder that warm, long days are behind us and the time to prepare for winter is now. For those of us who ski or ride untracked fields of powder, the first snow is a giddy celebration of what’s to come. We’ve got the butterflies for all the ski days ahead. Don’t you? 

To celebrate the first flakes of winter, we are giving everyone who signs up to be a member for Winter Wildlands Alliance a Flylow trucker hat. We only have a few left, so sign up to be a member now. Yeah, we know a membership means a lot more than a hat. It’s joining a far-reaching movement of backcountry skiers and riders who are passionate about untouched lines of snow, who find meditative enjoyment on the skin track, whose best days last not from first to last chair but from sunup to sundown. 

Our members are at the core of everything we do. They support our work in winter conservation. They promote our advocacy for human-powered recreation on public lands. They help us to introduce the next generation to winter. They show up at the Backcountry Film Festival, where we stoke out the community and raise money for grassroots causes across the country.

A hat is not the reason for joining Winter Wildlands Alliance. But it’s made by our partners at Flylow, who include “skiing” in their job description, so you know it’s a hat worth wearing all season long.

Get your hat and become a member now.

 

BOZEMAN, MT—Crosscut Mountain Sports Center is excited to announce the addition of a new backcountry ski access route to their trail system, starting this winter. Backcountry skiers will be able to use this un-groomed route to access the Bridger Mountain backcountry via Crosscut Mountain Sports Center.

“We’re excited to expand our offerings. Backcountry skiing is among the fastest-growing sectors of the mountain sports world and an activity that fits well with Crosscut’s mission” says Sam Atkins, Crosscut’s Interim Executive Director.

“This new route will provide backcountry skiers a more direct route to access National Forest lands and the terrain around Bradley’s Meadow and Wolverine Bowl. We’re grateful to Crosscut for recognizing and responding to the interests of the backcountry ski community” says Charles Wolf Drimal, Vice President of Montana Backcountry Alliance.

Access is included with a Nordic Season Pass purchase. Backcountry skiers can also purchase an annual uphill pass for $25 or an uphill day pass for $5. More details are here

Winter Wildlands Alliance is also partnering with Crosscut Mountain Sports Center and Montana Backcountry Alliance for a trail work day on October 12 to prepare the new trail for use. Volunteers are needed to help with cutting brush and other trail work. If you’re interested in volunteering, please RSVP by emailing info@crosscutmt.org and plan to meet in the Crosscut parking lot at 10am on the 12th.