Policy Update – October 2023

In this month’s policy update, we provide insights on the Inyo National Forest’s winter travel plan, OSV planning developments in Colorado and Utah, and the proposed Ambler Road project in Alaska, along with opportunities for public engagement in these decision-making processes.

Photo Credit: Pierre Jarry

From Hilary Eisen, WWA Policy Director (10/27/2023)

Right on schedule, late October has brought Bozeman’s first real snow storm. There’s no denying that winter is just around the corner and, to kick things off, WWA premiered our 19th Annual Backcountry Film Festival to a sold-out crowd in Boise last night. It’s a great lineup of films this year and we’re stoked for the tour to start! You can watch the trailer and find a screening near you online here.

Winter Travel and OSV Planning: California to Colorado to Utah

On the policy front, our main project this month was to draft and submit scoping comments to the Inyo National Forest for its winter travel plan. The Inyo’s Proposed Action leans heavily towards motorized use, with all but one winter trailhead designated for OSV access. The Forest has promised to develop other alternatives based on public comment and we’re advocating for a common-sense, equitable travel plan that provides more non-motorized opportunities and better protects sensitive wildlife habitat. The planning process is expected to take 3 years.

We’re also looking at the start of OSV planning in Colorado. The Rio Grande National Forest is going to be hosting public meetings in early-mid November to share preliminary Winter Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) maps. These maps, which will show where OSV use is suitable across the forest and will guide OSV planning, should have been created during the recent forest plan revision process, but since they were not the Forest Service is drafting them now. The Rio Grande, and neighboring San Juan National Forest, anticipate starting OSV planning in 2024.

Elsewhere in Colorado, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests are about to wrap up forest plan revision and will also likely be starting OSV planning in the near future.

In other forest planning news, the Manti-La Sal (Utah) draft plan/DEIS is open for public comment until November 16. We’re working with Outdoor Alliance on a comment letter and I’m particularly focused on how the forest defines and maps winter ROS settings.

Ambler Road (Alaska)

Outside of forest and OSV planning, the other big planning document that dropped this month was the BLM’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Ambler Road in Alaska.

We’ve been fighting this proposed 211-mile industrial access road through the Brooks Range (and Gates of the Arctic National Park) for several years and are glad that the Biden Administration decided to take a second look at the project after the Trump administration initially approved it.

The SEIS doesn’t consider any new alternatives but it does find more potential for negative impacts from the project than the original EIS did. You can learn more about the Ambler Road and send a comment letter to the BLM at the Defend the Brooks Range campaign website here. Comments are due in December and we’ll have more information on the WWA website next month!

Until next month,