Protecting the Backcounty

Together, the Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia National Forests cover nearly 4.6 million acres of public land in the Southern Sierra, including Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, the Kern River, the Needles climbing area, the Buttermilks, and some of the wildest, most dramatic sections of the world-famous Pacific Crest Trail. These three forests offer some of the best alpine climbing, bouldering, backcountry skiing, whitewater boating, mountain biking, trail running, and backpacking in the world, all within a short drive of the largest and fastest-growing population centers in the West.

The Forest Service is currently in the final stages of planning for how it will manage these areas and activities for the next 20-30 years. At stake are things like recreation access, infrastructure development and maintenance, trails, scenic viewsheds, permitting for guides, outfitters and educational groups, wilderness designations, and the possibility of new scenarios for stewardship and forest partnerships.

Furthermore, as “early-adopters” in this new planning process, these forests will set the tone and framework for upcoming planning on other forests in California and across the country. Winter Wildlands Alliance is working on these forest plans with local partners Friends of the Inyo, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation (MLTPA), the Eastern Sierra Recreation Collaborative and others, as well as our national coalition partners at Outdoor Alliance.

The Forest Service published draft plans for the Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia in May 2016.  We worked throughout the summer of 2016 to help skiers and other outdoor recreationists comment on the plans – providing input on how they could be improved to better address quiet recreation, protect forest resources, and ensure that these forests remain spectacular for generations to come.

 

Public Informational Meeting, Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes

Draft Plan Documents

 

Do you have a film that embodies the joy of being in the Backcountry? Does it take place in Winter?  Are you using human power in your adventure?

What are we looking for in a film?  We like winter faceshots and epic skiing but we also want to be inspired and share a good story.  Tell us who you are and why you are out in the backcountry. We also like stories of conservation and environmental issues that impact winter recreation.

Your film should be no longer than 25 minutes

Submitting is FREE and the deadline is Sept 15th

Contact Keili Bell for more info kbell@winterwildlands.org

 

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.

Today is a big day for the future of balance in the backcountry. Almost 10 years after the Forest Service issued the Travel Management Rule – directing the management of wheeled-vehicle use, but making management of snowmobiles optional – we finally have a national rule that does the same for winter use. The long overdue Over-Snow Vehicle Rule was published in the Federal Register today and you can read it online here.

During the comment period on the draft rule, our community spoke out in unprecedented numbers and with overwhelming support for strengthening the rule. We’re pleased to report that the Forest Service heeded some of that public input by adopting a prohibited-unless-allowed approach to snowmobile use that is consistent with motorized management in other seasons, rather than the confusing “either/or” approach proposed in the draft rule.

We do still have several concerns with issues that remain in the final rule. Like the draft, the final rule allows for past management decisions to be incorporated into new travel plans without further opportunity for public involvement. While this makes sense for decisions that were done recently and with a full environmental review, we are concerned that this loophole will allow forests to sidestep the intent of travel management planning and scrape by with out-of-date decisions that avoid minimizing the impact of snowmobiles on wildlife, the environment, and non-motorized recreation.

In addition, a revised definition allowing a designated “area” for over-snow vehicle use to be nearly as large as an entire Ranger District is troubling in that it may result in snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles continuing to dominate the winter landscape, posing serious threats to other users and to critical wildlife habitat.

Under the new rule, National Forests must designate specific roads, trails, and areas for snowmobile use and publish these designations on an Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) use map. Once an OSV map is published, snowmobile use outside of designated areas and trails will be prohibited. Forests that already have snowmobile designations in place must also publish an OSV use map, and we expect to see many of these Forests publish maps for the 2015-2016 winter season.

By zoning different areas for motorized and non-motorized use, winter travel planning is an opportunity to bring local stakeholders and communities together to find balanced solutions for winter use. With the national framework in place, winter travel planning now transitions to place-based processes where local advocates are essential. As forests across the country begin to implement the new OSV Rule, Winter Wildlands Alliance will be leading the way and looking to you to help advocate for balanced opportunities for winter recreation in the places you visit.

We want to send out a giant Thank You to our community for all of their work and support over the past decade. This new opportunity is a direct result of 10 years of never-give-up effort by Winter Wildlands Alliance and our members. It wouldn’t exist without a strong community of people who value wild winter landscapes and the human-powered recreation opportunities such places provide. We aren’t finished yet but we now have a critical tool for bringing balance to the backcountry.