Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. He summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines on Fridays. For questions, comments and hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.
Above is a cool pic of Tom staring off into the sun. If you can guess where this is correctly, we’ll send you a nice little gift.
Sally Jewell Gets the Job
On Wednesday evening, Sally Jewell was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next Secretary of the Interior. After all the speculation and the grueling confirmation hearing, it ended with more of a whimper than a bang. Wedged in between continuous speeches about gun control, Senators Wyden and Murkowski endorsed Ms. Jewell for the job, followed by Washington Senators Murray and Cantwell. All the statements were supportive, but not new – one Senator even trotted out the old joke about Ms. Jewell having to fill the large cowboy boots of out-going Secretary Ken Salazar. The final vote was 87 to 11. Now that she is confirmed, Secretary Jewell can get to work managing all the divergent aspects of our public lands. With her personal and professional commitment to outdoor recreation, this is good news for all of us.
Forest Service Changing Appeals Process
The Forest Service appeals process might be a yawn-inducing subject, but wake up, cause it’s changing. A clearly written piece in the Ravalli Republic details how the Forest Service is switching from a 215 to a 218. Basically this means that the public has to object before a decision is made, rather than after. Without oversimplifying too much, take this hypothetical: Say the Forest Service decides to close a river to kayaking. It used to be that you could appeal the decision after kayaking was barred, and hopefully have it changed. Now, you would have to object before the decision was even made. On the positive side, this change will force people to work with the Forest Service earlier on in the process. On negative side, this could unreasonably require us to use a crystal ball and imagine what the agency will do. As per usual, the devil is in the details, and this change’s affect on outdoor policy remains to be seen.
Wyoming Ski Hill Trying to Re-open – As a Non-profit
In Wyoming, a ski area previously called Fun Valley has been boarded up since 2003. Now, there is a local effort underway to get the lifts spinning again. Through the non-profit Antelope Butte Foundation, residents in the surrounding area are trying to raise the $3 million needed to get operational. In a way, Fun Valley’s fate and potential resurrection reflects on the entire ski industry. Like many mom and pop ski hills, it was closed for lack of snow and lack of profits. At the other end of the spectrum, mega-resorts keep raising lift ticket prices and trying to expand onto more and more public lands. All the while, lift ticket sales are actually declining – while backcountry equipment sales explode. It might be easy to conclude that in-bounds skiing is in a downward spiral, but that’s not the whole story. The non-profit model that Fun Valley has mapped out works great in some places, like Bogus Basin in Boise, ID. Local hills like these are too important a pipeline – to the backcountry, to bigger resorts, and to a lifelong love of skiing – to go away. Here’s hoping that more mom and pop hills can stay open or re-open as non-profits.