Policy Update – May 2022

In this month’s policy update, we share news on important legislation we’re working on, grassroots group success, and a reminder to submit your input for Teton bighorn sheep habitat conservation.

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (5/25/2022)

Well, here we are at the end of May and it’s still snowing in the Rockies! I actually can’t remember ever experiencing a May without snow but it never fails to delight me.

We started off this past month with a WWA staff retreat at our home base in Boise. Our Advocacy Director, David, and I both work remotely (California and Montana, respectively) and we don’t get to see the rest of the WWA team as often as we’d like. It was really nice for the two of us to spend some time with Todd, Kerry, Melinda, and Kate.

Grassroots Group Success

While we were in Boise we happened to cross paths with one of grassroots groups leaders, Gus Bekker from El Sendero Ski and Snowshoe Club. Like many of our grassroots group leaders, Gus volunteers with El Sendero and has poured his heart into working to make his local backcountry a better place for skiers.

Recently El Sendero celebrated a major victory – official designation of two winter non-motorized areas on state lands in the Wenatchee, WA backcountry. This was a vision El Sendero first set out to achieve over a decade ago, and thanks to spring storms, they were able to celebrate with powder skiing!

Important Legislation

Meanwhile, there are a few DC things I want to bring to your attention. There are a couple of new (or newish) bills that have some bearing on winter recreation. First, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee recently passed the “Outdoor Recreation Act”. This bill includes a travel management section that mandates the Forest Service publish over-snow vehicle use maps for applicable (snowy) forests within 10 years. The House has yet to consider this bill, and when (or if) they do we will work to improve the travel management language to clearly articulate that this travel planning must comply with the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule.

Another bill to keep an eye on is Representative Blumenauer’s Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Recreation Enhancement and Conservation Act, which would improve transportation and access to winter recreation opportunities on the Mt. Hood National Forest and the Columbia River Gorge, among other things. Outdoor Alliance has a great write-up about the bill here.

And, it’s appropriations (Congressional funding) season! The President’s budget proposes $110M for the Recreation, Wilderness, and Heritage account, roughly a 189% increase from current levels. The President’s budget also proposes a nearly $300 million increase for the BLM. While the President’s budget is mostly a political statement, it does set the tone for Congressional appropriations negotiations. We have been working closely with our Outdoor Alliance partners to write and submit testimony to the appropriate committees to push Congress to do more to fund our public lands and it’s nice to have a President’s budget that is asking for the same things we are.

Teton Bighorn Sheep Input

Finally, if you ski in the Tetons, please take a minute to weigh in on how the Park Service should protect bighorn sheep winter habitat in the range. Details on our website, here.

Whether your Memorial Day weekend includes skiing or if you’ve moved on to summer activities, I hope it’s a good one.