President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law on January 1, 1970. 

With summer solstice in the rearview mirror, it’s time to start looking forward to the coming winter! Just kidding. Here at Winter Wildlands we love summer too! Earlier this month our staff gathered for a staff retreat at City of Rocks to camp, talk shop, and climb rocks. We are excitedly planning our 8th Biennial Grassroots Advocacy Conference and Wild Weekend, all of which will be in Boise this October. Save the date for October 24-27, 2019!

This month on the policy front:

  • Washington D.C. — We’ve been keeping track of a number of good bills that are making their way through Congress. Some of the ones we’re supportive of include the Colorado Outdoor Recreation & Economy Act, the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2019, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act. There are many others too — we’ll continue to keep the Bill Tracker page on our website up-to-date, so check it out for the full list.
  • Forest Service planning and environmental assessment – On June 13th the Forest Service published proposed changes to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. According to the Federal Register notice, the Forest Service is proposing to change its NEPA regulations to increase efficiency in its environmental analysis. While we definitely agree that the Forest Service could be more efficient when it comes to NEPA, we’re wary of much of what they’re proposing here. Many of the proposed changes appear to be aimed at reducing public input in public lands management and expediting logging and road building. Comments on the proposed changes are due August 12. We’re still analyzing what the Forest Service has proposed, so stay tuned!
  • Winter travel planning – in late May we participated in an objection resolution meeting for the Tahoe winter travel plan. Over the weeks following that meeting, we’ve been encouraged  The Stanislaus will be hosting a similar meeting in early August. And, we’re hoping to (finally) see a final winter travel plan on the Lassen National Forest this summer! Winter travel planning on the Shoshone is on hold while they hire a new Environmental Coordinator.

That’s all for now. I hope you’re enjoying the long days of summer and finding time to get out on our public lands!

Hilary Eisen
Policy Director

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!

Carston Oliver, Wasatch Mountains, UT. Photo by Adam Clark

The state of Utah is gathering public comments to inform a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to propose scaling back or entirely doing away with Roadless protections on national forests across the state. Please take action today to Keep the Wasatch Wild!

The Roadless Rule helps protect backcountry areas on our national forests — like those on the Wasatch — from unnecessary road building, logging, and development. It’s intended to “provide lasting protection in the context of multiple-use management” for the 60 million acres of roadless areas on our National Forests and Grasslands. Extensive road building in conjunction with commercial timber is prohibited on these roadless areas, but they are still open for lots of different recreational activities, including backcountry skiing (and snowmobiling, hiking, climbing, hunting, mountain biking, etc.). While these areas are protected from new development, the Roadless Rule is less restrictive than Wilderness areas in terms of what it does and does not allow.

The Roadless Rule is widely supported by the public. But as with many environmental protections in these times, it’s under attack. Earlier this year, Alaska lawmakers tried to get an exemption from the Roadless Rule included into the Congressional spending bill. But the public spoke up against this and lawmakers dropped the attack. Then Alaska decided to ask the Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) for an exemption to the Rule and permission to write its own, Alaska-specific Rule. Permission was granted to Alaska and now Utah is clamoring to be next in line.

Lawmakers claim to be open to the idea of keeping some areas protected as they are today. But if Utah is allowed to move forward with writing its own version of the Roadless Rule, it could open up a number of prime backcountry ski zones (and other recreation areas) to unnecessary development. This rulemaking process will also swallow up a ton of the Forest Service’s time trying to unnecessarily revise a Rule that works well and is popular with the public.

Unlike the Forest Service’s existing 371,000-mile road network, which has an estimated $3.2 billion maintenance backlog, the Roadless Rule is not in need of repair. We don’t need more roads in Utah’s backcountry when we can’t even maintain the ones we already have. Help get the message across to Governor Herbert – Utah should leave the Roadless Rule alone.

Take Action to Protect Roadless Lands in Utah! 

Use the form below to send in a comment to the Governor’s Office