Policy Update – June 2023

In this month’s policy update, we share about our staff retreat, the successes from the RIMS app’s second season, NEPA and the debt ceiling deal, our new strategic framework, and the flood fund.

Photo Credit: Holly Mandarich (@holly.mandarich)

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (6/29/2023)

Last weekend, Winter Wildlands Alliance staff kicked off our summer with a group camping trip at the City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. We had fun rock climbing, playing campsite games, and hanging out around the campfire. It was really nice to spend some time together since we are rarely all in the same place at the same time. I know some people are still finding snow to ski but as much as I love snowsports, I’m pretty stoked for warm weather, dirt trails, and dry rock.

The RIMS App

One of my projects this month was to analyze and report out on our 2022-2023 winter data collection effort. This past winter marked the second year for winter recreation monitoring with the Colorado Mountain Club RIMS app.

Trained volunteers and organization staff across 8 states and 18 National Forests used the RIMS app to collect data for on-the-ground winter visitor use assessments and to report winter recreation travel management violations and use conflicts.

Altogether, 681 assessments and reports were recorded, mostly in California and Colorado. Here’s a link to our season-end report.

Debt Ceiling Deal + NEPA

Another thing that happened this month, that I’m sure you heard about in the news, was the debt ceiling deal negotiated by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy. The news cycle moves so fast I feel like this happened ages ago, but it was early June!

For reasons completely unrelated to the national debt, the Fiscal Responsibility Act (“debt ceiling deal”) includes a section misleadingly labeled “Permitting Reform” that puts into law many of the Trump-era NEPA provisions we have been fighting since 2020. But, unlike the Trump NEPA Rule, which reinterpreted how to apply NEPA without actually changing the law, Congress has now re-written NEPA to weaken its ability to be used as a tool to protect the environment.

If you missed our blog post on this earlier this month, you can read about the changes to NEPA here. Time will tell how these changes affect our day-to-day work, but this is the first time NEPA has been significantly revised, so it’s certainly going to result in some changes to how agencies conduct environmental reviews and how the public engages in those processes.

Our New Strategic Framework

In more positive and exciting news, I’m excited to share our hot-off-the press 2023-2028 Strategic Framework! Our staff and board have been working on this for the past several months and it’s been pretty fun to drill into WWA’s core values and our overarching goals for the next 5 years. This document will guide all of WWA’s program work in the coming years. Personally, I’m really excited to have this to refer to when thinking about what new projects to take on, or how to approach our policy work.

The Great Boise Office Flood of 2023

And, finally, in not-quite policy news – did you know a second floor office could flood?! That’s what happened to our Boise headquarters earlier this month.

A super-intense thunderstorm brought hail that plugged the roof drains on historic downtown building where our office is located. The roof filled up like a swimming pool and water flooded into the building’s ventilation system, which then circulated water instead of air throughout the building. The result was that almost everything in our office was destroyed!

Thankfully most of our important documents live in the cloud these days and we were in the process of clearing out our merchandise stockpile with end-of-season sales but we lost many of our SnowSchool supplies, tabling and event materials, all of our letterhead and envelopes, sticker stash, and much of the other minutia of organizational existence.

Kerry, Kate, and Melinda had the mammoth task of sorting through the soggy, quickly-turning moldy, contents of the office to rescue what they could and our headquarters are temporarily relocated to a different suite in the same building that wasn’t affected by the great flood of 2023. Never a dull moment I suppose…. If you’d like to help us rebuild, you can donate to our flood fund here.