Through Winter Wildlands Alliance SnowSchool we strive every year to be a national leader in promoting winter outdoor education for youth.  In recognition of our efforts on this front WWA was invited this past month to present on the SnowSchool program at the annual conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education.  In attendance at the “A Force for the Future” themed conference in Spokane WA were leaders and innovators in the field of environmental education from dozens of countries covering all continents.  The focus of the SnowSchool presentation was WWA’s unique snow science curriculum and our recent success working collaboratively with local organizations to serve youth in diverse communities.  Co-presenting with the Northern Idaho Flagship SnowSchool Site (Selkirik Outdoor Leadership and Education) we detailed engaging hands-on snow science activities that can be done almost anywhere and that connect to K-12 science curriculum.  This type of ongoing outreach and exposure helps sustain program growth nationally.  Look for more updates from us on new SnowSchool sites as the season progresses!  Click here for more information on SnowSchool.

Pacific Valley Near Natural Area, Stanislaus National Forest. Photo by Steve Evans, CalWild

 

Comment Deadline: October 9, 2018

Two important and sensitive roadless areas are currently at high risk of being designated open to motorized over-snow vehicle (OSV) use on the Stanislaus National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada.

  1. The Pacific Valley, a beautiful 10,500 acre roadless area south of Highway 4 and surrounded by the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The area includes a portion of the headwaters of the Mokelumne River and the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail. Pacific Creek is home to a population of threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and has been found eligible for Wild and Scenic River Status. Pacific Valley provides important old growth forest habitat for the Pacific fisher and pine marten, and is home to a tiny — recently rediscovered — band of endangered Sierra Nevada red fox.
  2. The Eagle roadless area south of Highway 108 and north of the Emigrant Wilderness, which ranges from 6,300-9,700 feet in elevation and is a beautiful potential addition to the popular and often crowded Emigrant Wilderness just to the south. The area supports old growth forests and is also rich in Native American cultural values.

Both of these areas were designated Near Natural Areas in the 1991 Stanislaus National Forest Management Plan and confirmed by Forest Plan Direction in 2017 to be managed as wild, non-motorized areas:

Emphasis is placed on providing a natural appearing landscape in a non-motorized setting. Public motorized use is not normally allowed and no timber harvest is scheduled. Wildlife habitat management, watershed protection, dispersed non-motorized recreation, livestock grazing and minerals uses are allowed. The area is characterized by a high quality visual setting where changes are rarely evident… It meets the Forest Service criteria for the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum class of Semi-primitive Non-motorized.

Sierra Nevada Red Fox, NPS Photo

For years, the forest service has failed to implement non-motorized management in winter, and snowmobilers have taken advantage of the lack of enforcement. Now, in the final stages of winter recreation planning, the Stanislaus is proposing to ignore the Forest Plan and officially designate these areas for over-snow vehicle use.

If these areas are officially opened to snowmobile use, they will likely never be considered for wilderness protection again. Snowmobile use will continue to degrade the quiet winter recreation experience sought by cross country skiers and snowshoers. Most importantly, continued snowmobile traffic could be the death knell for the tiny remaining population of endangered Sierra Nevada red fox, which barely survives along the Sierra’s snow-covered highlands.

 

Do you remember the first time you ventured out into the forest to explore the quiet wilds of winter?  For some, such memories conjure up a sense of wonder at the fascinating mysteries locked in snow and ice.  For others this experience is forever linked with a sense of freedom and the inherent joy in a snow-cushioned romp with friends.  Snow connects kids to nature like few things can, and for thousands of students across the country our SnowSchool sites are their first introduction to winter wildlands.

And while it’s not winter yet, we can all feel it getting closer.  So in anticipation of the coming cold weather SnowSchool sites nation-wide are ramping up operations to help introduce thousands of students to winter this year.  Every winter Winter Wildlands Alliance brings our SnowSchool program to new communities of kids across the country by working to establish new SnowSchool sites. By partnering with organizations in diverse areas WWA can provide the educational resources and leaderhsip support necessary to quickly launch a winter program to serve new populations of students. As a result of our ongoing efforts WWA is adding 4 new SnowSchool sites in anticipation of the coming winter – Siskiyou Field Institute in Oregon, Northwest Avalanche Center in northern Washington, Salmon Valley Stewardship in Salmon Idaho and Kenai Wildlife Refuge in Alaska!  Please click the provided links to learn about the amazing work each organization is already doing.  While every site is as unique as the communities they serve, all SnowSchool sites share the common goal of getting kids outside in the winter to experience the wilds of winter.  Look for more updates as the season approaches!

-Kerry McClay, Ed.D.

WWA National SnowSchool Director

Learn more at www.snowschool.org

 

 

 

 

We were deeply disappointed late last week to learn that our good friend and longtime ambassador, internationally-renowned ski mountaineer and guidebook author Andrew McLean had been arrested along with his wife on charges of theft and criminal mischief.

Here’s the story according to Park City, Utah’s Park Record.

Let’s be super clear. We do not condone criminal activity of any kind, nor do we support any actions intended to obstruct or hinder anyone’s use of or recreation on public lands by any legitimate means.

Furthermore, we lament that Andrew’s actions seem to have been directed against someone in the hunting community, a community some us are part of, a community we’ve worked closely with on public lands defense issues and for which we have nothing but deep respect.

“All I can say is that I made a serious mistake, am doing everything possible to make it right, and that I have no excuse for it,” Andrew told TGR regarding the incident.

Andrew’s contributions to the backcountry community over the past 30 years speak for themselves. He’s an eager, effective, generous ambassador and we value him as a friend, ski partner and colleague. By mutual agreement, Andrew is taking indefinite leave as a WWA ambassador pending the outcome of these charges.

Stanislaus National Forest photo courtesy John Buckley, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center (CSERC)

The smoky haze that has settled over the West tells us we’re nearing the end of August. It doesn’t take many days of haze for all of us at WWA to start longing for the fresh clean skies of winter!

Forest Service Planning

We started off August wrapping up the Eldorado NF winter travel plan comment period. Now, we’re ending the month with the start of another comment period related to winter travel planning in California. The Stanislaus National Forest‘s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published on August 24, 2018, initiating a 45-day public comment period to end on October 9.

We’ve also been busy with forest planning. We just submitted comments on the Helena-Lewis & Clark (MT) forest plan revision yesterday and we’re in the midst of reviewing the Chugach (AK) draft plan and Inyo (CA) final plan. One of the fun things about working on public lands management all across the country is the opportunity we have to share good ideas from one national forest with other forests. We do that a lot in forest planning. For example, because of our advocacy, the Inyo forest plan includes winter-specific recreation zoning modeled after the approach used by Flathead National Forest (in Montana).

Legislation

Our work at the Congressional level revolves around 3 main things – keeping public lands public, defending the integrity of our environmental laws and public management of public lands, and advocating for funding and tools to manage recreation and protect public land (to see what bills we’re tracking, click here). On that note, we want to highlight the main issues and legislation that we’ve been focusing on this month.

  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund expires September 30 unless Congress acts to re-authorize it. LWCF is the most successful conservation program in American history, using funds from offshore drilling to purchase land and easements and build and maintain recreation infrastructure. It has overwhelming bipartisan support both across the country and in Congress. The only reason Congress hasn’t re-authorized it already is that they don’t think it’s a priority. If we’re going to save LWCF we need everybody contacting their Congressional delegation and raising a ruckus. Learn more about LWCF and take action here.
  • Recreation-Not-Red-Tape is a bill that we are super excited about. It aims to reduce barriers to outdoor recreation access, and improve outdoor recreation aspects of public land management. One provision directs land managers to inventory for places on our public lands that could be protected as new National Recreation Areas, which would protect places based on their outdoor recreation value. This is a critically needed tool to proactively protect areas that don’t make the cut for Wilderness but that we don’t want to risk losing to logging, mining, drilling, etc. We’re working hand in hand with our friends at Outdoor Alliance to get this bill through Congress and you can use their advocacy form to contact your representatives about it.
  • Senator Cantwell (WA) recently introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2018, which would legislate the Roadless Rule. This bill directly responds to the unprecedented threats to the Roadless Rule we’ve been seeing recently, including Congressional attacks, states seeking special interest exemptions, and the Trump Administration, which all share the goal of wanting to remove protections from millions of acres of roadless national forests. Please, reach out to your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor S.3333!

Finally, we’re excited to share our recently updated human-powered snowsports trends and impacts report. You can find it on our website here!