Policy Update – July 2021

The first OSV plan, a virtual trip to DC with Outdoor Alliance, our 2021 Grassroots Advocacy Conference, and NEPA news.

Photo Credit: Ben Irey (on the ancestral lands of the Crow, Flathead, Cheyenne and other Nations)

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (7/27/2021)

It’s been another month of record heat, drought, and smoky skies and even though it has only been two months since I last skied powder, I’m counting down the days until winter.

Grassroots Advocacy Conference

I’m also counting down the days until our August 24-25 Grassroots Advocacy Conference! Have you registered yet?! We’re hosting our first ever virtual Conference this year and I think this is an exciting opportunity to bring more people into the event. Conference sessions include:

  • Curbing Our Enthusiasm: Managing Increased Recreation Use on Public Lands
  • The New Era of Winter Travel Management: Implementing the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule to Bring Balance to the Backcountry
  • Improving Capacity on the Ground: Meeting Visitors Where They Are
  • Investing in Our Greatest Asset: Why Funding the Forest Service is More Important Than Ever
  • Grow or Die? Ski Area Expansions on National Forest Lands
  • Responsible Influence: Creating an Ethic of Inclusion and Conservation through Social Media

Everything there is to know about the conference, including the *free* registration link is online here: www.winterwildlands.org/conference.

The Stanislaus, California, and the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule

Our big policy news this month is that the Forest Service has published the first winter travel plan fully drafted under the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule!

Publication of an OSV Use Designation Project Record of Decision for the Stanislaus National Forest on the forest website is a somewhat anticlimactic end to a long process, but we’re really excited to see the very first winter travel plan completed since the Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Rule was published in 2015!

The plan is by no means perfect – several important backcountry ski, cross-country ski, and snowshoe zones were designated for OSV use, and the plan includes some truly concerning forest plan amendments to allow the forest to designate OSV use in areas previously classified as non-motorized in the forest plan – it’s still a positive development for winter recreation management and an improvement over the status quo. Importantly, under the new plan, OSV use is only allowed in areas or on trails that have been designated for such use. All other areas and trails are closed by default. This is a significant paradigm shift that ensures OSV use only occurs in places where the Forest Service has determined that such use is appropriate and will have a minimal impact on wildlife, forest resources, and other uses. Even though we disagree on the level of that impact in certain cases, the process that the Stanislaus followed to make their decisions, and the ways in which they documented their decision-making, are relatively good examples for other forests to follow.

We expect to see four more winter travel plans finalized in California before this coming winter, and are excited to apply lessons learned in the Sierra Nevada to winter travel planning elsewhere.

Outdoor Alliance DC Fly-In

In other California news, earlier this month Outdoor Alliance California – co-led by WWA’s Advocacy Director, David Page – organized a virtual “DC fly-in” to meet with members of the California Congressional delegation to talk outdoor recreation and conservation policy. Outdoor Alliance has a trip report up on their blog if you want to read more!

CEQ + NEPA Updates

Finally, we were glad to see the Council on Environmental Quality starting to take steps to reverse course on the disastrous 2020 NEPA Rule (which undercuts key elements of the National Environmental Policy Act). At the end of June CEQ announced they were extending the deadline for Federal agencies to develop or revise their specific NEPA regulations to comply with the 2020 Rule, from 2021 to 2023. We filed comments in support of this development.

Stay cool, and I hope to “see” you at the Grassroots Advocacy Conference!

-Hilary