Policy Update – January 2022

In this month’s policy update, we share updates on winter travel planning, voluntary backcountry skiing closures in the Tetons, and two other big policy actions we are tracking.

 Photo by Adam Clark of athlete Amie Engerbretson

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (1/25/2022)

Stanislaus OSV Map + Upcoming Winter Travel Planning

Exciting news! The Stanislaus National Forest posted an Over Snow Vehicle Use Map (OSVUM) on their website in January. This is the final piece of the travel plan that the forest published in July.

The Stanislaus winter travel plan is the first “early adopter” plan written following the 2015 OSV Rule, and is a helpful template for winter travel planning on other forests. Now that there’s an OSVUM, the Forest Service has a mechanism for enforcing the plan. We are excited to transition into the implementation phase of travel management on the Stanislaus and we look forward to seeing other national forests in California complete winter travel planning soon.

In the meantime, forests in the northern Rockies (the Flathead and the Idaho-Panhandle) are just getting started. We will be applying the lessons we’ve learned about winter travel planning in California to these new planning efforts in Montana and Idaho.

Teton Bighorn Sheep + Backcountry Recreation

In non-travel planning news, if you have plans to ski in the Tetons this winter, please be aware that Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Caribou-Targhee National Forest are asking backcountry skiers to voluntarily avoid key bighorn sheep habitat areas (click here for a map).

Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists and the federal land management agencies are in the midst of a multi-year effort to figure out how to manage winter recreation in bighorn sheep habitat in order to minimize human impacts to wintering sheep.

The voluntary closures this winter are the first step in implementing recommendations from the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group following a multi-year effort to educate skiers about sheep and to understand how and where people recreate in the Tetons in winter.

We, and our local partners at Teton Backcountry Alliance, have been heavily involved in these conversations, with a goal of helping the backcountry skiing community to be partners in conservation. Over the coming months we’ll be continuing to spread the word about sheep conservation and help the land management agencies identify long-term solutions.

Save the Boundary Waters + Restoring Roadless in Alaska

Finally, I hope that you had an opportunity to voice your support for protecting the Boundary Waters before the comment period ended January 19. President Biden listened to outdoor recreationists and took a critical step towards protecting the Boundary Waters by proposing a 20-year mining moratorium in the watershed. During the comment period we, along with over 200,000 (!) other organizations and individuals, submitted a comment letter in support of the moratorium.

Also this month, we worked with our partners at Outdoor Alliance to generate and voice our support for restoring roadless to the Tongass National Forest.

It’s been a busy month!