Posts

Flikr photo by Michiel van Nimwegen

Skiers, snowmobilers, conservationists and other winter recreation stakeholders come together to help protect and find ways to co-exist with the iconic mountain carnivore

Known for its ability to cover distance quicker than a Nordie with perfectly waxed skis, and to cruise up and over mountains faster than the gnarliest ski-mo racer, the wolverine is among the most iconic of winter wildlife species. Skiers, snowmobilers, and others who love spending time in snowy places feel a special affinity with and appreciation for wolverines. Like wolverines, we’re snow-dependent critters who are facing a serious threat because of climate change. Unlike wolverines, we can handle a crowd — even if we’d prefer not to.

Winter recreation stakeholders and conservationists working together to find common ground and develop recommendations for the Forest Service.

Winter Wildlands Alliance has been working with the Idaho State Snowmobile Association and Round River Conservation Studies to reach out to the backcountry Snowsports community with information about wolverines, how our activities impact the species, and how we might mitigate that impact.

Unfortunately for all concerned, new research shows that backcountry winter recreation — snowmobiling and backcountry skiing alike — impacts wolverines. With help from skiers and snowmobilers using GPS units to track their own movement in the backcountry, scientists discovered that wolverines strongly avoid areas with lots of human activity, whether we’re snowmobiling, skiing, or just tromping through the woods on snowshoes.

Wolverines may use areas adjacent to popular winter recreation areas, and they may pass through areas with heavy recreation pressure, but they’re not sticking around in places where there are lots of people. In short, wolverines don’t den, rest, or eat in places that get a lot of backcountry ski or snowmobile use — even if those places are part of a larger wolverine home range. This is called “functional habitat loss,” and it poses a real concern for wolverine survival.

Wolverine and ski tracks, Moose Basin, Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Forrest McCarthy

The conservation concern here is two-fold. First, wildlife biology 101 tells us that an animal’s home range is the minimum amount of space that an individual requires to live and reproduce. If backcountry skiing and snowmobiling are effectively eliminating portions of a wolverine’s home range, it’s likely we’re having a negative effect on that wolverine’s ability to make a living and reproduce. And since wolverines are pretty rare, impacts to even a few individuals could have population-level impacts.

Second, because of climate change, there are (and will continue to be) fewer and fewer places for all of us — skiers, snowmobilers, and wolverines — to find snow. Pair this loss of snow with a growing interest in backcountry snowsports and new tools and toys that help us travel deeper into the backcountry than ever before, and wolverines may have a tough time finding snowy places that aren’t overly impacted by humans.

The good news is that with some self-imposed restraint we — the backcountry snowsports community — can help reduce our impact on these tough but vulnerable animals, without greatly impacting our own opportunities for fun and exploration in winter.

We’re all familiar with the concept of suburban sprawl. Now think about your favorite backcountry area and how recreation use can sprawl across the landscape as people seek out the next untracked peak or meadow. By limiting that sprawl, we can limit the functional habitat loss that wolverines are experiencing.

As tempting as it is to explore deeper and further into the backcountry, by sticking within established and agreed-upon recreation areas when skiing and snowmobiling in wolverine habitat, you can help reduce your personal impact on the species. And, if we all limit our personal impact, together we can make a big difference in wolverine survival.

For more information, check out the following brochure that we recently produced in partnership with the Idaho State Snowmobile Association and Round River Conservation Studies.

Wolverine Final Brochure

It’s our 14th Annual Festival season and we’re ready to dive deep into the powder with our film line-up announcement! As the backcountry community’s leading film festival, this year will host a variety of films focusing on education, advocacy, diversity, and environment.

Premiering in our hometown of Boise, ID on Saturday, Nov 3 at The Egyptian Theatre, the Backcountry Film Festival will then hit the road through the winter months to over 100 mountain towns around the world. The tour serves as a fundraising and education tool for local grassroots organizations and backcountry communities as well as travels the globe exploring themes connected to Winter Wildlands Alliance’s mission of promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands.

We’re stoked to announce the following films as part of our 2018-19 production:

Ode to Muir

Teton Gravity Research – Our exclusive Festival cut of Ode To Muir speaks the entire feature-length film as professional snowboarder, adventurer and founder of Protect Our Winters Jeremy Jones joins forces with two-time Olympian Elena Hight to embark on a 40-mile foot-powered expedition deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness.

Ski the Wild West

In 2017 Drew Petersen sought to ski the 11 highest peaks in the American West on one epic road trip. Accompanied by filmmaker and Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, Thomas Woodson, this film is sure to be a pleasant walk down memory lane for anyone who has adventured throughout the West.

The Abbey

DPS Cinematic – A spiritual view into any snowbird’s head waiting for the season to start.

The Backcountry Snowsports Initiative

In this upbeat, Sunday morning op-ed of a short film we learn about the human-powered recreation advocacy organization, the Backcountry Snowsports Initiative, and their annual hut trip near Leadville, Colorado where they host a variety of stakeholders to ski, cook, and talk about winter recreation policy.

Abandoned

Another exclusive Festival cut focusing on Berthoud Pass, a crew of backcountry skiers set out to explore Colorado’s lost ski areas hopes to find adventure amongst the ruins.

Blue

Blue is a testament to the inherent creativity, innovation and strength forged in women of the north. In it we present a spectacle of winter innovation—the icy playground providing a visual journey as never seen before by bike.

I Am Here

“My parents never even thought about climbing a mountain.” Yesenia grew up living in a small farmer’s cabin in the apple orchards of Oregon’s Hood River Valley. Watch Yesi’s journey to climb Mount St. Helens, pursue her own American dream, and inspire Latinx outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Surfer Dan

Beyond the tale of his frosted beard, this is a story about Dan Schetter’s passion for surfing and how he credits the sport to saving his life.

Searching for Christmas Tree

A university teacher looking to break free from a life of routine in China and a mysterious frozen waterfall that no one knows the whereabouts, spins this story of seemingly futile quests and ultimately transcending climb.

Westward: Brennan Lagasse

An important message from Winter Wildlands Alliance Ambassador, educator and athlete, Brennan Lagasse, on the significance and the impact of the backcountry.

 

We hope to see you this season and Keep Winter Wild together! Email Melinda Quick, Backcountry Film Festival Manager, with any questions about how to see the Festival in your mountain town: mquick@winterwildlands.org.

We are excited to begin our second season of working with volunteer backcountry scientists on the Helena National Forest. Winter Wildlands Alliance is coordinating with Wild Things Unlimited (WTU) and the Montana Wilderness Association, with support from the Helena National Forest, and Defenders of Wildlife, to get citizen scientists into the backcountry to monitor forest carnivore presence and activity along the Continental Divide in Montana. We will be using a combination of snow tracking and camera traps to document forest carnivores – which species and where they are – on the Helena National Forest.

The goal for project is to find out more about how forest carnivores, including lynx and wolverine, are using Forest Service lands along the Continental Divide. The area where we will be working, the Little Prickly Pear Creek drainage, is just over the Divide from where WTU has previously documented wolverine and lynx but little is known about how forest carnivores use the area on the east side of the Divide. The Helena National Forest is revising their long-term land management plan and the information collected during this project will help the Forest Service better understand the wildlife resources on the forest and guide management decisions that can help to protect wildlife and the wild lands they depend upon.

Last year backcountry scientist volunteers, along with WTU staff, conducted 53 snow-tracking surveys covering almost 200 miles. They documented lynx, wolverine, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, martens, weasels and more throughout the project area.  Volunteers were critical to the success of the project last year, allowing us to more than double the number of surveys conducted over the winter.

During our training workshop for new volunteers this past weekend we documented bobcat, coyote, both short and long-tailed weasels, snowshoe hare, and a variety of ungulate species. Snow tracking is a great way to read the landscape and understand how other species travel and live in wild places in the winter. For example, one group of volunteers came across a bloody cottontail rabbit buried in the snow. After studying tracks they were able to deduce that an epic battle had occurred, starting with a sneak attack by a weasel and ending in the rabbit’s demise (and the weasel’s dinner). We’re looking forward to reading more stories in the snow and gathering important information to inform the forest planning this winter.

At the intersection of snow, community, and human-powered recreation comes the Backcountry Film Festival. Created in 2005 as a way to gather the winter tribe in celebration of all things human-powered, the film festival is the common ground where similar interests and diverse skill-sets meet. The Backcountry Film Festival is renowned for its collaboration with filmmakers from all corners of the globe, ranging from grassroots to professional. The festival provides a fresh lineup committed to get you stoked on powder turns as well as environmental initiatives happening all around the world.

What is featured in the Backcountry Film Festival This Season?

The films feature awe-inspiring stories, aimed to connect with and gain insight to what is happening in the places we go to get fresh air and fresh powder.

blog-1280x813.jpg (1280×813)

Who attends the Backcountry Film Festival?

From polar explorers to weekend warriors, ages of three to one-hundred and three, the Backcountry Film Festival is attended by anyone with interest in the outdoors. Each year, the Festival is viewed by over 10,000 outdoor enthusiasts.

Where is the Backcountry Film Festival Held?

The Backcountry Film Festival is shown all over the globe. The World Premiere is in Boise, November 19th and 20th. Every show thereafter is posted at www.backcountryfilmfestival.org with location, date, venue, ticket information (if provided) and host organization information.

Who Sponsors the Backcountry Film Festival?

Black Diamond
Dynafit
FlyLow
Clifbar
Backcountry Magazine

Mountain Khakis

Outdoor Research

Elemental Herbs

Voile

Osprey

Ambler

Goal Zero

Atlas Snow Shoe Company

YakTrax

Odell Brewing Co

Often, host organizations work with local businesses to host screenings in their respective communities. If your local hosting organization has a website or social media site, you can check in to see who is sponsoring within your community!

Where can I Find More Information?

Find the showing nearest you at www.backcountryfilmfestival.org. The website is updated daily and will give you venue and host information. You can also follow news, updates, and articles on the Backcountry Film Festival facebook page.