It’s been a long, long time coming – 15 years, 1.1 million public comments and the most grind-it-out, exhaustive campaign Winter Wildlands Alliance has ever embarked on – so all of us at WWA are thrilled with today’s release of the Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan from the National Park Service.

From a Yellowstone National Park that a decade ago looked, smelled and sounded more like a wild west race track than the pristine winter refuge it was set aside to be, our nation’s first national park has made a remarkable recovery. Fewer vehicles, commercial guiding requirements, and tighter restrictions on noise and emissions have led to a Yellowstone today that is cleaner, quieter, and far better for skiers and snowshoers and for the Park’s iconic winter wildlife. With today’s announcement of final regulations  governing snowmobile and snowcoach use in the Park, the protections leading to this recovery are set in place for the long haul and ensure future generations can experience the enchantment of Yellowstone’s winter season on its own terms.

Over the 15 years it’s taken to accomplish this success, WWA and our partner organizations have utilized every tool available including direct citizen advocacy, meticulous use of scientific research and substantive data, and, when called for, taking our case to the courts. Today, I offer a personal and heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all of you who created the groundswell of public support that got us here.

For the coming winter, Yellowstone will continue to operate under the same interim plan as the past four winters. This plan allows up to 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches per day in the park and sets strict noise and emission standards for all over-snow vehicles.

Beginning in winter 2014-15, the new winter use plan will take effect. This plan puts in place even stronger noise and emissions standards and manages over-snow vehicle use through “transportation events.” A transportation event is one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles (with a daily average group size not to exceed 7 snowmobiles). 110 transportation events will be allowed each day split among the different Park entrances and no more than 50 events per day can be snowmobile groups.

Another component of the plan is that certain side roads and trails will be set aside for skiing and snowshoeing and all of Yellowstone’s winter backcountry areas will be protected for wildlife habitat and for human-powered access.

WWA and our partners have worked closely with NPS officials as they proposed and developed the new transportation event approach. We believe this approach accomplishes our goal of protecting and preserving Yellowstone’s magical winter ecosystem while providing sustainable access that allows visitors to experience the natural sights and sounds of winter in the Park. We congratulate Yellowstone National Park on the completion of this plan. We congratulate you, our members and constituents, who insisted on a plan worthy of our nation’s most iconic winter sanctuary!

A program of Winter Wildlands Alliance, SnowSchool is an unforgettable winter adventure that combines hands-on science education with outdoor snowshoe exploration for 28,000 K-12 students each winter.  The recent cold autumn weather is a good reminder that the SnowSchool season will soon be upon us.  But it’s far from business as usual this year; with major changes happening across the country’s educational landscape it’s clear that the SnowSchool program must also evolve in order to stay relevant.

Chances are you’ve heard about the education reforms happening across the country right now.  A coalition of twenty-six states has led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.  This new educational framework moves American science instruction away from a presentation of mere facts, and towards more contextualized and meaningful science learning.  Based upon international benchmarking, the Next Generation Science Standards aim to more fully engage students in the practices of science.   This development has also coincided with the National Governor’s Association led creation of the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and language arts.   With a majority of states adopting one or both of these reforms, the result is big changes in American education.

To keep SnowSchool up-to-date amidst these changes WWA has been working hard to align the program with the new national standards.   SnowSchool has always been about introducing youth to the wonders of their local winter landscape and fostering ecological literacy among students.  At WWA we believe our ability to achieve this goal is greatly enhanced by aligning SnowSchool with new developments in education.  And while our existing 2013 SnowSchool Curriculum and Activity guide has recently been updated to align with the new national standards, the process will be an ongoing one.  To stay relevant in the new world of science education a program like SnowSchool must strive to be more than a simple “one and done” field trip.  To address this issue WWA has been working for some time on developing components of the SnowSchool program that create dynamic classroom learning experiences which in turn connect to learning experiences in the winter environment.

The results are, for example, 6th grade students working with hydrologists in the classroom to construct a model of their local watershed system prior to their snowshoe field trip.  And this winter at the high school level SnowSchool students will work with snow scientists to gather local snowpack data and, once back in the classroom, compare the data with historical trends.   The result of these modifications is that SnowSchool participants are transformed into passionate student scientists and snowshoe explorers.  As we work to implement these ideas on a national scale, your continued support of WWA helps provide an exciting SnowSchool experience for thousands of students across the country.

Land use is a touchy subject for snow and off-road dealers, often spurring an us-against-them mentality for most parties involved in the heated debate. But Mark Menlove,executive director of the Winter Wildlands Alliance, argues that digging deeper into the debate will reveal that us-against-them isn’t the case. “Certainly, a part of our mission is to work for balance between opportunities for nonmotorized and motorized winter activities,” Menlove says of the WWA. “But to say we’re trying to eliminate snowmobiles is simply not true.” Click HERE to read full article.