The 5.4-million-acre Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska, America’s most northerly national forest, is currently revising its outdated 2002 Land Management Plan. Covering an area the size of New Hampshire, stretching from the snowy peaks of Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula, the Chugach features spectacular coastal mountains with some of the best and wildest backcountry terrain in the world. (See below for video and image gallery from our ambassador Luc Mehl!)
The Chugach released a draft forest plan on August 30, 2019. This kicked off a 60-day objection period which ended on October 29. The 2019 plan (draft forest plan) maintains current winter travel management on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Winter Access Plan was hammered out in 2007 and continues to work well for both motorized and non-motorized winter recreationists, and we are fine with the Forest Service choosing to maintain the status quo in this regard. However, we feel strongly that other aspects of forest management are in need of an update, and we’re concerned that the 2019 plan may be a missed opportunity.
Of highest concern for us is how the Chugach proposes to manage the 1.9 million acre Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA), located in the Prince William Sound. The WSA was created in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This truly wild and roadless landscape also includes the highest concentration of tidewater glaciers in North America, and we believe it deserves the highest level of permanent protection in the new forest plan. Unfortunately, despite strong public support for additional protections for the WSA, the 2019 plan fails to recommend additional areas within the WSA for Wilderness beyond what was recommended in 2002, and it waters down or eliminates important management tools that are necessary for protecting the Wilderness character of the WSA and its potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The 2019 plan also fails to to provide sufficient direction for managing for sustainable recreation, as required by the Forest Service’s planning regulations. Currently the plan includes a variety of inspirational “desired conditions” but it doesn’t include direction that will help land managers reach those desired conditions. In our objection letter we provide the Forest Service with suggestions for improving their sustainable recreation management and push for greater protection of the WSA.
Once the Forest Service has reviewed and responded to all of the objections they received they will publish a final Forest Plan. We expect to see the final plan in 2020 or early 2021.
The epicenter of a tragic wildfire in 1910, the Great Burn has been left alone for a century of regrowth. Today, it is a recommended wilderness area along the Montana-Idaho stateline with an abundance of wildlife habitat. As the Forest Service rewrites the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Plan, the Great Burn needs continued protection.
https://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/STC_0279-scaled.jpg19202560Julie Brownhttps://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/WWA_Logo_OrangeBlue-300x89.pngJulie Brown2020-03-10 12:42:242020-03-10 13:28:28Wildlife, Wilderness, and the Great Burn
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…
https://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/primary_9259_20170516135156-1.jpg8181871Hilary Eisenhttps://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/WWA_Logo_OrangeBlue-300x89.pngHilary Eisen2019-06-27 17:20:192019-08-05 14:22:21June Policy Update: Good Bills, Travel Plan Objections, NEPA on the Ropes