LWCF 101

Have you heard about the upcoming Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) re-authorization recently and wondered what the fuss is all about?  Are you scratching your head wondering what exactly LWCF is in the first place?  If you’ve never heard of LWCF, you’re not the only one. Although it’s been called “America’s most successful conservation program,” it’s not very well known.  We’re here to help, with a brief primer on this critical program – LWCF 101:

  • This bipartisan program began in 1965 when Congress agreed that a small portion of federal leasing revenues from energy development should be reinvested to protect public land.
  • LWCF is funded by a percentage of the more than $6.7 billion in annual offshore oil and gas lease revenue, not taxpayer dollars.
  • Every year, LWCF can receive up to $900 million of offshore gas and drilling revenue to spend on conservation efforts, though Congress often appropriates it at a much lower amount.
  • LWCF provides funding to acquire land from willing sellers and make it part of local, state, or national public lands.
  • Money intended for this program continues to be diverted for other purposes, and recently the fund has received only one-third of its authorized funding level.
  • LWCF needs permanent authorization and full funding (at $900 million).
  • The funds go to protecting national treasures in and around national parks, forests, monuments, and refuges.
  • LWCF Stateside dollars provide crucial support to create and enhance state and local parks and to develop close-to-home recreation facilities across the country.
  • Full and dedicated funding is needed for LWCF to fulfill its promise to protect local, state, and federal outdoor recreation and natural areas in America.

On September 30, LWCF will expire forever, meaning that all the funds that we need to protect important trails, national parks, and urban recreation centers, will be gone. LWCF has been used since 1965 to create new parks in urban environments, complete national parks, and protect recreation across the country.  Without your voice this critical conservation tool may be lost forever.  Please email your Representative today telling them to reauthorize LWCF.

 

 

 

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Help Us Speak Up For Your Public Lands

Right now, a battle is being waged over the West’s public lands, including many of the places we love to ski. Out-of-touch politicians backed by private interests like the American Lands Council want to transfer millions of acres of your land to states or private interests, a move that would almost certainly shut down your access to these beloved areas.

Public lands belong to all Americans. They are home to stunning landscapes and recreational opportunities that everyone can access. Together, Americans care for these special places, protecting them so that everyone can enjoy them, including the next generation.

Some politicians would like to sell off public lands to generate profit for individual states or private entities. Elected officials – state legislators and county commissioners – in 11 western states have written bills or passed resolutions proposing that individual states “take back” America’s parks, national forests, BLM lands, wildlife refuges, and open spaces, arguing that these lands and the profits that they generate should belong to the states. If their efforts were to be successful access to millions of acres of land would be lost, including some of the world’s most iconic backcountry ski destinations. Wyoming’s Teton Pass, Utah’s Wasatch, Turnagain Pass in Alaska, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains – these are just some of the countless peaks, passes, and ranges across the West being eyed for takeover.

If our public lands were sold to state governments, they would be the responsibility of state taxpayers to maintain and protect. State governments could privatize, sell, develop, or auction off our public lands to the highest bidder. Even if a state didn’t intend to sell off these lands it may not have a choice. A single wildfire can cost $100 million to fight. This expense would bankrupt most state budgets, forcing them to sell or auction off land to cover the costs. Imagine if the places you love to ski were suddenly privatized.

Although some state legislatures voted down land transfer bills, the idea of selling off public lands is gaining momentum. Most state legislatures have adjourned for now but in Congress, a symbolic amendment supporting the sale of public lands passed this spring. Just recently Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul stated that he supports relinquishing federal management of public lands. These actions challenge the foundation that underpins National Parks, National Forests, and public access to wild places. The Public Land Heist is the most serious threat that has faced our public lands in a generation.

If our mountains, forests, and rivers are privatized or sold off, there’s no replacing them. We need to speak now to protect the places we love to play. Winter Wildlands Alliance is working closely with our partners at Outdoor Alliance and other recreation and conservation groups to fight this legislation and ensure our public lands remain accessible to everyone.   Visit www.protectourpublicland.org to learn more and sign up for regular updates on our campaign to protect access to public lands.

The only way to keep our public lands in public hands is for the American people to speak up. If enough of us rally together, we can put an end to these terrible proposals and protect the incredible landscapes and backcountry areas we love. Please sign the petition and send a clear signal to your elected officials that America’s public lands are not for sale. By signing, you will become part of a growing movement of people who are working together to keep public lands public.

Curious which recreation areas are threatened in your state?

Alaska

Alaska

Arizona

Arizona

Colorado

Colorado

Idaho

Idaho

Montana

Montana

Nevada

Nevada

New Mexico

New Mexico

Oregon

Oregon

Utah

Utah

Washington

Washington

Wyoming

Wyoming

 

 

 

6th Biennial Winter Wildlands Alliance Grassroots Conference A Success!

Over 60 attendees from joined Winter Wildlands Alliance for a busy but fun Grassroots Conference in Golden, CO in late June. Participants came to learn about the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule, Forest Service winter travel management planning, grassroots organizing, SnowSchool, and efforts to define a set of ethics for the backcountry ski and snowboard community.

The conference kicked off with an evening keynote by noted backcountry ski guide Donny Roth, who shared his thoughts on why it’s important to protect the winter backcountry, much as a gardener cares for their own backyard. Then, the following morning, we learned how winter recreation advocates can use the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule to get involved in determining how their backcountry playgrounds are managed. Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the Forest Service called on skiers to help the Forest Service identify the places that matter to us and stressed the importance of public participation in the winter travel management process. Participants then heard from a number of speakers who described in detail what exactly the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule is and how winter travel planning works.

Just over the hill from Golden, the White River National Forest has already gone through winter travel management planning and several people who were involved in this process – from Forest Service staff to skiers to conservation advocates – were on hand to share their experiences and lessons learned. In addition, conference attendees learned about working with diverse stakeholders and collaborative decision-making from representatives of the Vail Pass Task Force. This multi-stakeholder group has been coming up with collaborative solutions for managing the popular Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area for over 20 years.

We also invited representatives from the snowmobiling community – leaders from the Idaho, Colorado, and California state snowmobile associations – to come to the conference and share their thoughts on winter travel planning. In their presentation leaders from the Idaho, Colorado, and California state snowmobile associations discussed how the snowmobile community contributes both money and volunteer labor to maintain the groomed trail network and stressed that snowmobilers go into the backcountry for many of the same reasons that skiers do – for adventure, solitude, and family fun. We all recognize the value of collaboration and it’s clear that there’s quite a bit of agreement between Winter Wildlands Alliance and the state snowmobile associations when it comes to how to best engage in winter travel planning. It is our hope that these discussions with snowmobilers at the Grassroots Conference, including with representatives from the American Council of Snowmobile Associations,  opened the door to more conversations, and collaboration, to ensure that winter travel planning brings balance to the backcountry in a way that provides high quality recreation opportunities for all user groups.

On the last day of the conference we shifted our focus from policy and travel management to look more at grassroots organizing and the broader issues that affect the winter recreation community. Former WWA board member Reid Haughey started the day off with donuts and a presentation on the roles and responsibilities of non-profit boards. We then heard from a panel representing three different organizations with different approaches to grassroots organizing and learned how to use everything from social media to good old fashioned ski trips to engage our community.

Winter Wildlands Alliance’s very own Cailin O’Brien-Feeney brought the day back to winter travel planning with his presentation on Best Management Practices for over-snow vehicle management. He then teamed up with Brian Smith from Adventure Projects to present the internet’s newest ski beta sharing sensation – Powder Project. Powder Project is more than just a cool site for getting information on where to ski – data collected from the website will help Winter Wildlands Alliance and our partners identify and advocate for protecting important backcountry ski terrain.

We wrapped up the conference with an engaging discussion on backcountry ethics. The Utah Avalanche Center’s Drew Hardesty shared the UAC’s newest video promoting conscientious backcountry behavior and made the case for why the backcountry community would benefit from a defined set of ethics for how to behave when we’re out playing in the powder. Ned Houston, from the Vermont Backcountry Alliance, followed up by sharing the set of ethics that the Vermont Backcountry Alliance developed this past winter to promote community and protect access for backcountry skiing in Vermont. Black Diamond’s creative director, Alex Hamlin, joined the conversation to talk about why this idea of backcountry ethics is something that matters to the outdoor gear industry and how Black Diamond is helping to move the conversation forward.

In between presentations the room was abuzz with conversation as conference participants got to know each other, shared stories and information about the issues they’re working on at home, and made plans for future collaboration. It was tough to have to cut these great conversations short at the end of every break but nobody wanted to miss out on any of the excellent presentations either!

Winter Wildlands Alliance is absolutely thrilled with the turnout, quality of presentations, and interest of participants at this most recent Grassroots Conference. The conference educated and inspired attendees to be leaders in winter travel planning efforts on their local National Forests and we look forward to working with everybody to bring balance and certainty to the winter backcountry.

New report tracks winter recreation on national forest lands

In anticipation of our Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Golden, CO later this week we are excited to announce the release of our latest report, Winter Recreation on National Forest Lands, A Comprehensive Analysis of Motorized and Non-motorized Opportunity and Access.  This report covers 77 National Forests and 176 million acres of land within the forests that receive regular snowfall and confirms that bigger more powerful snowmobiles continue to dominate a disproportionate amount of forest acres and trails compared to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

This report is an update and expansion of our 2006 report on the same topic and includes 19 National Forests not covered in the earlier report.  Utilizing data gathered through Freedom of Information Act requests, the report shows that while cross-country ski and snowshoe visits outnumber snowmobile visits by nearly two-to-one with 6.9 million ski/snowshoe visits compared to 4 million snowmobile visits, only 36 percent of forest acres are protected for non-motorized activities while 53 percent of the acres are open to snowmobiles and another 11 percent unclassified. Management of groomed winter trails is even more disproportionate with 78 percent open to snowmobile use.

With the release in January of the new Over-Snow Vehicle Rule requiring each National Forest Unit with regular snowfall to write a winter travel management plan, we wanted to better understand current management across the country in order to provide meaningful input as the Agency begins to implement winter travel management.  The information in the report is presented on a forest-by-forest as well as Regional basis and examines use levels, miles of available motorized and non-motorized groomed trails, and acres open and closed to over-snow motorized use.

It’s difficult to directly compare this report with the 2006 data given the expanded scope of the current report, but in terms of percentages the gap between motorized and non-motorized opportunity appears to be narrowing. The 2006 report showed 30 percent of the National Forest acres and 10 percent of groomed trails protected for non-motorized winter activities.  Nearly all of the change in terms of more equitable opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing and other quiet winter activities came through the small number forests that voluntarily implemented winter travel plans before the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule was released.

The new Rule creates an opportunity for Forest Service managers to think proactively about how to balance all winter recreation across a forest and provide quality recreation opportunities for all users.  This new report gives those interested in backcountry and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling a baseline understanding of how National Forests manage winter recreation today in order to best prepare for planning for tomorrow.