This past July, we all celebrated the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.
This law provides funding for public lands by allocating up to $1.9 billion per year to address the maintenance backlog in National Parks and on other public lands – and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually.
And the Great American Outdoors Act is already paying dividends for skiers. The crucial LWCF funding in this bill helps the Forest Service and other federal agencies purchase private lands from willing sellers and convert them to public ownership, protecting them from development and ensuring public access.
In Montana, the Lolo National Forest is using LWCF funds to purchase Wisherd Ridge, a favorite backcountry skiing spot near Missoula, MT. Currently, The Nature Conservancy owns these former industrial timberlands, and they plan to sell it to the Forest Service for permanent protection.
National policy work compliments local grassroots efforts
Wisherd Ridge has been a popular backcountry spot for Missoula skiers for decades. Recently, as the number of local skiers has grown, increased traffic has created some conflict with residents who live in the area where skiers park. Neighbors were growing frustrated with backcountry users blocking their driveways and causing traffic problems.
To address the parking and congestion issues, WWA’s local grassroots partner, Montana Backcountry Alliance (MBA), reached out to residents to learn about their concerns, and implement agreeable solutions to let backcountry skiers continue to access Wisherd Ridge.
To address residents’ concerns, MBA now works with a local company to plow the parking areas and have snow removed so there are ample parking spaces to accommodate recreationalists’ vehicles.
MBA’s efforts ensure that skiers can continue to access Wisherd Ridge, and, thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act, this area will soon be in public ownership, protected forever for public use. It’s just one example of how WWA’s national efforts compliment the local work being done by our grassroots groups.
The Backcountry Film Fest supports local efforts
WWA’s Backcountry Film Fest helps to fund this holistic approach. “We’ve been really successful hosting the WWA film festival. The event is our primary source of fundraising, and it has grown in popularity each year with upwards of 900 people attending last year,” said Adam Switalski, a board member with MBA. “With the funds we raise, we are able to plow roads and parking areas to increase access and reduce conflicts.”
Switalski says they are also able to promote safety by supporting their local backcountry avalanche forecast centers and maintaining a robust social media presence “This year we’re planning on hosting the WWA film festival virtually,” he explains. “It is our hope that although we cannot meet in person, Montana’s backcountry winter enthusiasts can still join together for a night of great backcountry movies while supporting our work.”
Sharing the backcountry experience through the film fest brings our community together to celebrate our shared love of winter and raise money to support WWA and our local partners like Montana Backcountry Alliance.
We can’t wait to connect with you this winter. In this pandemic season, the Backcountry Film Festival will be remote, but it will still support our local partners. Visit winterwildlands.org/tourschedule to purchase tickets for your local screening.