From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (6/30/2021)
With record-breaking heat hitting much of the West this week it’s kind of nice to focus on policy work that ties directly to winter (thinking about snow is as close as I get to having air conditioning!). And, as we witness climate change in action every day, our work to make public lands more resilient and protect wild winters is more important than ever.
2021 Grassroots Advocacy Conference
We’ve been busy planning our upcoming Grassroots Advocacy Conference. The conference, Can We Save the Backcountry from Ourselves, will be August 24-25. It’s virtual this year, with three 1-hour Zoom sessions each day at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm (MST). Attend all 6 or just a few, it’s up to you! Registration is free, but required.
To learn more and register visit our Conference webpage here.
Forest Service Budget
Aside from conference planning, one of the main things we’ve been focused on is the Forest Service budget. In part because it’s appropriations season in D.C., and because almost every issue we work on seems to tie back to the Forest Service’s budget.
We’ve been talking about Forest Service funding and capacity for a while now, and recently we’ve worked with our partners at The Mountaineers and Outdoor Alliance to submit Congressional testimony regarding the Forest Service’s budget (tied back to this report that I shared last month).
The good news is that the President’s proposed FY22 budget does increase the Forest Service’s budget in important ways (including for programs related to recreation and climate). It’s not as big of an increase as we think is needed, but it’s a step in the right direction and we want to see Congress act on it. Getting the Forest Service budget to where it truly needs to be will take time, but we’re in it for the long haul.
Forest Service Staffing
In other Forest Service news, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced this week that Randy Moore will be the next Chief of the Forest Service. Moore is currently the Regional Forester in Region 5 (California), which means he’s no stranger to winter travel planning, busy backcountry areas, equitable access, and other important issues that we work on! We’re excited to welcome Moore and know his role will make a difference in the work we do.
CEQ published an interim final rule this week that extends the deadline for individual agencies to write or revise their own NEPA regulations in accordance with the 2020 CEQ NEPA Rule (the one we’re suing over). This new interim rule extends that deadline by two years, until Sept. 14, 2023. The extension takes effect immediately, with CEQ taking comments on it until July 29. This is a good first step and the first of 3 actions we expect CEQ to take in the coming months to restore NEPA.
Welcoming Our New WWA Staff Member
Finally, I want to welcome WWA’s new membership director, Kate Thorpe! Kate lives in Boise and has spent the last several years working at Conservation Voters for Idaho. We’re super excited to have her on board!
Stay cool, and happy 4th!