WWA grassroots group Friends of Plumas Wilderness (FoPW) is currently deep in the trenches on a forest planning project, and this kind of local grassroots advocacy rarely sees the limelight it deserves.
With WWA’s relentless focus on winter landscapes, sometimes forest planning doesn’t get the sexy status it could, whether on a local or national scale.
What does forest planning mean?
The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires every national forest to develop and follow a Land Management Plan, also known as a forest plan. The process for the development and revision of plans, along with required content, is outlined in a federal regulation known as the 2012 Planning Rule. The Forest Service is currently revising many forest plans across the country.
A forest plan is similar to a comprehensive plan that helps guide land use and development city- or county-wide. Such a plan lays out where particular uses may occur; forest plans describe how different areas of the forest will be managed and what uses are suitable in different parts of the forest.
A forest plan has many layers. At the top is forest-wide direction — things that apply across the entire forest. Below that, the forest is first divided into management areas or geographic areas, with specific management direction for each of these areas based on its unique geographic, topographic, cultural, and recreational attributes. Then there are other layers, like special designations to protect sensitive plant species, potential Wilderness areas, and wildlife habitat. For people who recreate on the forest, a layer of particular interest is the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum, which guides what types of recreation uses and infrastructure are suitable across the forest.
A Local Advocate’s Impact in Forest Planning
FoPW is a grassroots conservation group that since 1974 has been studying, exploring, and maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems where the Sierra and Cascades meet. WWA works with grassroots groups across the country to protect winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands. By joining and pooling interests with WWA, grassroots network members not only become part of a national movement for sustainable recreation, but also gain access to a variety of resources for increasing awareness and effectiveness of their organizations.
Since 1970, Friends of Plumas Wilderness has been dedicated to studying, exploring and maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems in the Northern Sierra and Southern Cascades of California, instrumental in gaining Congressional designation of the Bucks Lake Wilderness in 1984. Thirty-three years before, Wilbur Vaughan, the “Father of the Bucks Lake Wilderness,” and David Brower, a fellow 10th Mountain Division infantryman and then-president of the Sierra Club, had the idea of permanently protecting the area.
FoPW has worked closely with WWA and other allied conservation groups to protect snow sanctuaries on the Lassen and Plumas National Forests by developing alternatives for Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) use designation (also referred to as winter travel planning / management).
Darrel Jury, FoPW President, says that by engaging local human-powered winter recreation enthusiasts in winter travel planning, his group can actualize what he calls place-based conservation.
“Grassroots groups like ours share knowledge of our local wildlands and have connections with conservation and winter recreation communities. Where the Sierra and Cascades meet significant investments have been made in winter motorized recreation and snowmobilers are well organized,” Jury explains. “Few people know that skiing in America originated here when Norwegian gold miners brought the knowledge of skiing to the Lost Sierra during the California Gold Rush. Other than the Plumas Ski Club, which focuses on the deep ski history of the region, human-powered winter recreationists were unorganized until our group stepped up.”
“WWA helped us a great deal with policy, advocacy, and outreach and education. With their support we were able to sponsor events to raise awareness and rally human-powered winter recreation advocates. Event highlights include collaborating to host the showing of the Jeremy Jones film “Ode to Muir” and members of our board hosting the Backcountry Film Fest at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Big Room,” he said.
Friends of Plumas Wilderness is working to protect more wild places, building on the foundation original members built 40 years ago, and is developing Conservationist Alternatives for local Forest Plan revisions. They aim to designate the Middle Fork of the Feather River, Mill Creek and Forest Service lands adjoining Lassen Volcanic National Park as Wilderness. In partnership with WWA and Snowlands Network to enhance quiet winter recreation opportunities on the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe National Forests.
“By developing conservationist alternatives for winter travel plans on the Lassen and Plumas National Forests we were able to move the needle and keep the majority of Inventoried Roadless Areas, Research Natural Areas, and Special Interest Areas non-motorized year-round,” Jury says. “These gains will help us as we move forward to create a 30×30 vision for our region.”
“Being an advocate at the local level is often voluntary and driven by the passion to protect your home,” explains Jury. “I‘m fortunate to live in a community surrounded by public lands. Although these lands have been abused by past mining and logging practices and are in poor health as a result, and are critically threatened with biodiversity loss and climate change, there is the promise of creating a network of linked wildlands that can weather these combined crises.”
“The fact that national and state leaders recognize the need to conserve 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030 gives me hope.”