Policy Update – September 2021

With our Policy Director, Hilary, out on sabbatical, our Advocacy Director, David Page, fills in to discuss DC, Save Moose Mountain, and our latest Trail Break.

From David Page, WWA Advocacy Director (9/27/2021)

Note: Every seven years, Winter Wildlands staff are able to take a 3 month paid sabbatical. Policy Director, Hilary Eisen, is now on sabbatical through December. David Page, WWA Advocacy Director, will fill in while she’s away and enjoying the outdoors.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill?

Things are moving and are complex in DC right now. There’s a lot that matters to conservation, public lands, climate action, equitable access, and outdoor recreation in both the infrastructure bill and the multi-trillion-dollar budget reconciliation bill, both of which are likely to be voted on in the House of Representatives soon. For more details and a quick action form to send a message to Congress, go to this Outdoor Alliance blog post.

Meanwhile, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a series of amendments containing significant land protections from the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act (PAW+) that we and our partners have been working on for many years in California, Colorado, Washington and Arizona. The full suite of PAW+ protections passed the House back in February, but had not much hope of entertainment in the Senate. We’ll see if these amendments survive the final NDAA conference with the Senate and thereby make it to the President’s desk. More to come.

Save Moose Mountain – Comments Due Oct 25

You may remember having seen the film Last Call for Moose Mountain as part of last season’s Backcountry Film Festival. Moose Mountain, located on the Superior National Forest on the North Shore of Lake Superior, is the crown jewel of skiable terrain in Minnesota.

Lutsen Mountains LLC, now operating on adjacent private land, wants to develop this terrain—495 acres of prime public land—into a commercial ski resort, with seven chairlifts, one surface lift, two new base facilities, a “mountain-top chalet,” two new snowmaking reservoirs, a reroute of the Superior Hiking Trail/North Country National Scenic Trail (SHT/NCNST), and 1,260 new parking spaces. (For context, the existing ski area currently has 200 parking spaces on private land.)

We’ve already seen it happen at Snow King (WY), despite significant community opposition. And we’re seeing a spate of similar proposals elsewhere, such as at Grand Targhee (WY/ID), Tamarack (ID), and Mission Ridge (WA). We’re hoping you’ll join us in helping out our friends in Minnesota (and at WWA Grassroots Group Superior Highland Backcountry) by asking the Forest Service to take no action and consider other, more sustainable alternatives to granting a ski resort permission to develop prime public lands.

The Forest Service has published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and is accepting public comment through October 25. People can read more about our concerns and take action here (also use savemoosemountain.org for sharing). Spread the word: Save Moose Mountain!

Trail Break Newsletter – Fall 2021

The latest edition of our Trail Break print newsletter is arriving in mailboxes now! In response to feedback on past editions, we’ve decided to slim down, de-glossify, and green up the format. You can even burn it in your woodstove when you’re done reading it.

There’s a great feature article in this one by Heather Hansman on ski area expansions and the need for clearer forest service policy regarding ski area development on public lands. We hope you enjoy. As always, we are open to ideas and content submissions for future editions. Check it out on our website in mid-October here.