Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. For questions, comments and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
This week’s post delayed because the entire Outdoor Alliance crew was in Washington DC last week, getting the latest from Congress and meeting with officials at the land management agencies. (If you can guess which one is me, we’ll send you a sweet little prize pack from Wenger).
Peace and Powder: Huge Victory for Backcountry Skiers
Backcountry skiers rejoice! Last week on April 1st, word came out that a Federal court had ruled in favor of Winter Wildlands Alliance, requiring the Forest Service to manage snowmachine use. Far from an April Fools, this is a huge deal. A victory this decisive is all to rare when it comes to recreation and public lands. The story starts with something called the 2005 Travel Management Rule. With this rule, the Forest Service was required to manage off-road use in national forests – for everything except snowmachines. During the summer, the Forest Service has reams of management documents for off-road use, but all this disappears as soon as the snow falls. Backcountry skiers have long argued that snowmachines are pretty much like other off-road vehicles and should be similarly managed. Now the loophole is closed and the Forest Serivce has to. The agency has until next ski season to figure out what to do with snowmachines, which means modern management for better, quieter skiing. There still may be appeals, but skiers everywhere should dream of more untracked fields of pow to come.
Two Good Land Protection Bills in the Works
Two amazing parts of the world stand to be protected. The Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River in Colorado and the North Fork of the Flathead in Montana are both slated for permanent protection. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado released his proposal for the Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Area, which would protect about 22,000 acres between Salida and Buena Vista, home to some of the most popular rafting anywhere. This proposal has wide support, including from the Denver Post. Over in Montana, new Congressman Steve Daines announced a bill to protect the North Fork of the Flathead from mining and energy development. This is great news in a state that is a little behind when it comes to river protections. Locals love it and there was even some buzz about this bill in Washington DC. Word in the Beltway is that unlike last year, there is broad interest in actually moving some public land bills like these, so stay tuned.
Idaho Continues to Demand Federal Land
The schoolyard spat continues, with the Idaho legislature taking more steps to take back federal lands within its boarders. The House had previously passed two non-binging resolutions, one demanding the lands and the other demanding a study of the idea (seem backward to anyone?). Now the Idaho Senate has also passed the resolutions. This means Idaho tax dollars will be spent studying the take back, despite the fact that the issue is pretty clear: the Idaho Constitution ceded all right and title to federal lands in 1890.