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Carston Oliver, Wasatch Mountains, UT. Photo by Adam Clark

The state of Utah is gathering public comments to inform a petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to propose scaling back or entirely doing away with Roadless protections on national forests across the state. Please take action today to Keep the Wasatch Wild!

The Roadless Rule helps protect backcountry areas on our national forests — like those on the Wasatch — from unnecessary road building, logging, and development. It’s intended to “provide lasting protection in the context of multiple-use management” for the 60 million acres of roadless areas on our National Forests and Grasslands. Extensive road building in conjunction with commercial timber is prohibited on these roadless areas, but they are still open for lots of different recreational activities, including backcountry skiing (and snowmobiling, hiking, climbing, hunting, mountain biking, etc.). While these areas are protected from new development, the Roadless Rule is less restrictive than Wilderness areas in terms of what it does and does not allow.

The Roadless Rule is widely supported by the public. But as with many environmental protections in these times, it’s under attack. Earlier this year, Alaska lawmakers tried to get an exemption from the Roadless Rule included into the Congressional spending bill. But the public spoke up against this and lawmakers dropped the attack. Then Alaska decided to ask the Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) for an exemption to the Rule and permission to write its own, Alaska-specific Rule. Permission was granted to Alaska and now Utah is clamoring to be next in line.

Lawmakers claim to be open to the idea of keeping some areas protected as they are today. But if Utah is allowed to move forward with writing its own version of the Roadless Rule, it could open up a number of prime backcountry ski zones (and other recreation areas) to unnecessary development. This rulemaking process will also swallow up a ton of the Forest Service’s time trying to unnecessarily revise a Rule that works well and is popular with the public.

Unlike the Forest Service’s existing 371,000-mile road network, which has an estimated $3.2 billion maintenance backlog, the Roadless Rule is not in need of repair. We don’t need more roads in Utah’s backcountry when we can’t even maintain the ones we already have. Help get the message across to Governor Herbert – Utah should leave the Roadless Rule alone.

Take Action to Protect Roadless Lands in Utah! 

Use the form below to send in a comment to the Governor’s Office

Photo by Luc Mehl

Public Comment Period Closes November 1, 2018!

The 5.4-million-acre Chugach National Forest in southcentral Alaska, America’s most northerly national forest, is currently revising its outdated 2002 Land Management PlanCovering an area the size of New Hampshire, stretching from the snowy peaks of Prince William Sound to the Kenai Peninsula, the Chugach features spectacular coastal mountains with some of the best and wildest backcountry terrain in the world.

QUICK TAKE: The forest’s Draft Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzes the potential effects of four management alternatives. We prefer Alternative D.

What’s at Stake?

  1. WILDERNESS: Within the boundaries of the Chugach lies the 1.9 million acre Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area (WSA), created in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). A truly wild and roadless landscape that also includes the highest concentration of tidewater glaciers in North America, this area deserves the highest level of permanent protection in the new forest plan. Alternative D recommends full Wilderness designation for 97% of the Nellie Juan-College Fjord WSA!
  2. ROADLESS PROTECTIONS: Given that state politicians are pursuing Rulemaking to carve out an exemption to the National Roadless Rule for Alaska, the Chugach should incorporate specific protections for lands comprised of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs).
  3. WINTER RECREATION OPPORTUNITY SPECTRUM (ROS): The draft plan does not include a winter-specific recreation opportunity spectrum. Instead, it has a broad hybrid category dubbed “semi-primitive non-motorized winter motorized allowed.” Given the differences in use, access, and setting during winter versus summer, and as winter motorized use is not appropriate everywhere on the forest, the revised plan should include separate ROS classifications for winter. This will also set the stage for winter travel planning, required under the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle Rule, by helping the forest service better define where over-snow vehicle use is and is not suitable.
  4. SUSTAINABLE RECREATION: We appreciate that the draft plan includes plan components and language related to recreation opportunities, settings, special uses, access, and scenery. However, these must be better integrated throughout the plan. A full complement of desired conditions and guidelines, including measurable objectives that link plan components to monitoring and adaptive management, is necessary for the plan to provide a clear path for sustainable recreation management into the future.

Alternative D Best Addresses These Concerns. Voice Your Support Now!

Photo by Luc Mehl. thingstolucat.com

  1. Submit a comment today (see instructions below and feel free to borrow language above or use this sample letter as a template);
  2. Support Alternative D for the way it addresses our primary concerns;
  3. Support management and monitoring that keeps the Nellie Juan-College Fjord WSA in wilderness quality condition. The draft plan would manage this area based on its existing characteristics. In the limited areas where evidence of human use or impacts have occurred, the Forest Service should work to restore the Wilderness quality experience wherever possible.
  4. Request that the Chugach include a winter-specific Recreation Opportunity Spectrum in the final plan. 

How to Comment

A 90-day comment period began August 4, 2018 and closes on November 1. Comments may be submitted in any of the following ways:

  1. Click here to submit comments online;
  2. FAX comments to (907) 743-9476;
  3. Mail or deliver written comments to:

Chugach National Forest Supervisor’s Office
Attn: Draft Land Management Plan
161 East 1st Street, Door 8
Anchorage, AK  99501

Please be as specific as possible in your comments, identifying locations and activities of specific interest or concern to you.

Comments received regarding this Draft Land Management Plan, including commenter’s names and contact information, will become part of the public record.

Submitting comments will automatically add you to our email list.

To view comments in the reading room click here.

For more resources, visit our Chugach National Forest page.

Pacific Valley Near Natural Area, Stanislaus National Forest. Photo by Steve Evans, CalWild

 

Comment Deadline: October 9, 2018

Two important and sensitive roadless areas are currently at high risk of being designated open to motorized over-snow vehicle (OSV) use on the Stanislaus National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada.

  1. The Pacific Valley, a beautiful 10,500 acre roadless area south of Highway 4 and surrounded by the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The area includes a portion of the headwaters of the Mokelumne River and the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail. Pacific Creek is home to a population of threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and has been found eligible for Wild and Scenic River Status. Pacific Valley provides important old growth forest habitat for the Pacific fisher and pine marten, and is home to a tiny — recently rediscovered — band of endangered Sierra Nevada red fox.
  2. The Eagle roadless area south of Highway 108 and north of the Emigrant Wilderness, which ranges from 6,300-9,700 feet in elevation and is a beautiful potential addition to the popular and often crowded Emigrant Wilderness just to the south. The area supports old growth forests and is also rich in Native American cultural values.

Both of these areas were designated Near Natural Areas in the 1991 Stanislaus National Forest Management Plan and confirmed by Forest Plan Direction in 2017 to be managed as wild, non-motorized areas:

Emphasis is placed on providing a natural appearing landscape in a non-motorized setting. Public motorized use is not normally allowed and no timber harvest is scheduled. Wildlife habitat management, watershed protection, dispersed non-motorized recreation, livestock grazing and minerals uses are allowed. The area is characterized by a high quality visual setting where changes are rarely evident… It meets the Forest Service criteria for the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum class of Semi-primitive Non-motorized.

Sierra Nevada Red Fox, NPS Photo

For years, the forest service has failed to implement non-motorized management in winter, and snowmobilers have taken advantage of the lack of enforcement. Now, in the final stages of winter recreation planning, the Stanislaus is proposing to ignore the Forest Plan and officially designate these areas for over-snow vehicle use.

If these areas are officially opened to snowmobile use, they will likely never be considered for wilderness protection again. Snowmobile use will continue to degrade the quiet winter recreation experience sought by cross country skiers and snowshoers. Most importantly, continued snowmobile traffic could be the death knell for the tiny remaining population of endangered Sierra Nevada red fox, which barely survives along the Sierra’s snow-covered highlands.

 

Tongass National Forest, USFS Image

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the nights in the Northern Hemisphere are now officially longer than the days. The aspens are turning to gold and and our excitement is on the rise for deep powder turns, quiet ski tours in the wild, and frozen waterfalls to climb. Meanwhile, policy never sleeps!

There have been 3 big policy items front and center this month: pushing Congress to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, defending the Roadless Rule, and reviewing the Stanislaus National Forest winter travel plan draft EIS.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

LWCF expires this weekend, September 30. Assuming Congress doesn’t get a bill through today, LWCF will expire, meaning that the nation’s most popular and most successful conservation program will die. The fact that this is a historically impactful fund (funding public lands and recreation since 1964) with broad bipartisan support makes it even more ridiculous for it to be teetering on the brink. LWCF dollars pay for trail maintenance, recreation site improvements, and public land access, to list a few benefits.

There are bills that would have gotten the reauthorization job done in both the House and the Senate. The only roadblock was Republican party leadership not bringing the bills up for vote. There was some positive movement this month, with the two leaders in the House Natural Resources Committee (Bishop, R, UT and Grijalva, D, AZ) striking a deal, but the clock is ticking toward midnight and the chances are now slim for action. We brought this up in last month’s policy update and we’re highlighting it again because Congress needs to hear from all of us—today! If you haven’t yet, PLEASE contact your Senators and Representative, and ask your friends to do the same.

Roadless Rule

The Roadless Rule was put in place in 2001 to protect unroaded National Forest lands. It’s critical for keeping many of our most valued winter backcountry areas across the country undeveloped and wild. Roadless lands are also an important source of clean air and water and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Pretty awesome, right? Unfortunately, the Roadless Rule is under attack by the timber industry and its allies in D.C. who’d like to open up roadless lands to intensive logging.

The most significant threat to the Roadless Rule right now is an effort to remove Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Not only does this threaten to fragment the coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska, it sets a dangerous precedent for roadless lands elsewhere in the country. Basically, Roadless Rule opponents are taking a 2-tiered approach: 1) try and take down the Rule nationally, through Congress; and 2) dismantle it piece by piece, by exempting one state at a time. The Forest Service is accepting comments on the Alaskan rulemaking process through October 15. Comment today and let the Forest Service know that the federal Roadless Rule should remain in place in Alaska, and all current roadless areas in the state should remain protected.

Stanislaus National Forest winter travel planning

A Winter Wildlands policy update wouldn’t be complete without a nod to winter travel planning. This is the 4thnational forest in California to publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for winter travel management. The EIS analyzes and compares 5 Alternatives (including the status-quo) for over-snow vehicle use designation on the Stanislaus National Forest. We were hopeful about the Stanislaus, after hearing that the “preferred alternative” (Alternative 5) was a blend of our proposals and the snowmobile community’s proposals. Unfortunately, we can’t support Alternative 5 as written, as it would designate portions of two “near natural areas” for over-snow vehicle use despite the fact that the Forest Plan specifically calls out how important here areas are for ecological reasons and stresses that they should remain non-motorized to protect habitat for species such as the extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox.

Furthermore, in our previous comments to the Forest Service we have highlighted 7 distinct areas on the Stanislaus, totaling just 2% of the forest, that are highly valued for non-motorized winter recreation. Alternative 5 would designate 5 of these 7 areas for snowmobile use. We strongly support Alternative 3, which is based on our proposals. It is the only alternative in the DEIS that would keep important ski and snowshoe zones non-motorized to provide quiet winter recreation opportunities and it’s the only alternative that fully protects sensitive ecological areas from motorized recreation. Want to learn more and get involved? Check out the information page on our website and submit a comment!

That’s all for now. Enjoy the waning days of dirt season and start dusting off your ski gear!