From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (11/30/2023)
We may be in the darkest time of the year, but I love the late-November anticipation of what winter will bring. Lately I’ve been getting reports from friends across the country skiing, ice climbing, and wild ice skating. The early winter stoke is high! The stoke is high at Winter Wildlands Alliance too, with the Backcountry Film Festival tour in full swing, SnowSchool gearing up to get more kids than ever outside, and the usual jam-packed policy calendar. Here are some of the highlights on the policy front:
Trail Break Radio
First, have you heard about WWA’s new podcast?! Trail Break Radio was inspired by our recent Grassroots Advocacy Conference, as the sessions were so good we wanted to be able to share them with a broader audience. We’ve converted each conference panel into a podcast episode and are releasing them one week at a time. You can get caught up on back episodes or check out new ones each Friday. Find it on our website here, on Spotify, or on Apple Podcasts. If you’re on WWA’s mailing list, you should also be getting each episode delivered straight to your inbox weekly!
I also want to highlight the opportunity to comment on BLM’s Ambler Road supplemental EIS. We, and a coalition of local and national partners, took immediate legal action to prevent progress on the Ambler Road when permits were initially issued in 2020. Our litigation is on hold while the BLM re-considers its decision to issue the permits. The SEIS is intended to address some of the legal problems underlying the original decisions and includes an alternative that demonstrates why the impacts from the Ambler Road are too great for the BLM to approve this project. We’re calling on the BLM to choose the “No Action Alternative” and revoke the road construction permits. Read more and take action here.
AORA and EXPORE
On the other side of the country, Congress is considering a bipartisan recreation policy package that might be the hammer we need to get the Forest Service to up their winter travel planning game. In the Senate, a bill titled “America’s Outdoor Recreation Act” (AORA) and a very similar House bill, “Expanding Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Experiences Act’’ (EXPLORE), includes a section requiring the Forest Service to publish over-snow vehicle use maps within 10 years of bill passage. We’ve been working with Outdoor Alliance to advance this legislation. Only 12 forests have started winter travel planning within the almost 9 years since the Forest Service finalized the Over-Snow Vehicle Rule, and only 2 plans have been completed in that time. We have high hopes that this legislation, if passed, would force the Forest Service to pick up the pace on this important work.
Finally, I’m excited to announce that WWA is growing our policy team! We’re hiring a new staff member in California and a contractor position in Colorado. Both will be focused on winter travel planning in various capacities. We’re hoping to fill both positions in the next few weeks, but it’s not too late for qualified candidates to send in their application. If you know anybody who might be interested, both job descriptions are posted here.
Until next month,