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.
Antiquities Act in the Crosshairs
What do Jackson Hole, Wrangell-St. Elias, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Fort Ord (home of this weeks Sea Otter Classic) all have in common? These amazing places to ski, climb and race mountain bikes were designated National Monuments. Despite how important National Monuments are for conservation and recreation, there are efforts to limit the Antiquities Act that makes it all possible. On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources committee took a look at a string of bills from Utah, Idaho and Nevada lawmakers that proposed various ways to hamstring the President’s ability to designate National Monuments, either by requiring Congressional approval or other restrictions. Some pointed to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, another world-class place to play outside, the mere mention of which could start a bar fight with some Utahns that see it as a prime example of Antiquities Act abuse. Fact is, with so little in the way of land protection passing these days, the Act is a key way for iconic places to get the protection they deserve – and its been successfully used by Presidents of both parties for a hundred years. The House committee hasn’t voted on any of these proposals yet, but they could soon.
Rumblings of a Big Public Lands Bill for Utah
Also this week, Utah Congressman Rob Bishop, who chairs the committee looking at Antiquities Act limitations, spoke about his effort to break through the logjam and cobble together a public lands bill for the state. Given some of Bishop’s prior thinking on public lands, there is cause for concern. He was, after all, the one that last congress proposed a bill that would have thrown out all environmental regulations within 100 miles of the Southern and Northern US borders, in the name of border security. What had him so concerned about the Canadians we can’t be sure, but he is certainly no friend of environmental safeguards. That said, some of those that look out for wilderness in Utah are cautiously optimistic about this new effort. Discussion is always good, and going the route of a stand-alone bill – rather than a tacked-on amendment with minimal consensus – seems positive.
Some Unexpected Ski Areas Resist “Uphilling”
Last week, the state of the ski industry was in the news. This week there were more headlines about another important part of skiing today – uphill access inbounds at ski areas. More and more people looking for a workout or some quiet skiing in the pre-dawn or evening are skinning by the lifts at ski resorts. If anywhere would embrace this trend, you’d think it would be Boulder, CO and the nearby ski area of Eldora. But Eldora is bucking the national tend and firmly resisting uphill traffic. Granted, there are some tricky things about uphill access, like how to make sure skinning skiers are covered by insurance (usually done by way of a pass) and not run over by groomers or snomos (ouch). Also, most Western ski areas are on public land, so it seems like there should be reasonable access to them, within the terms of the resort’s lease. Some resorts, like Crested Butte, have it all figured out. They offer season and day passes for uphill access along designated routes. And they are making money at it – not only on coffee sales in the lodge but also on passes, with 700 uphill season passes sold at $100 a pop. Uphill skiers use snow making and grooming, so most are just fine paying to play. By outlawing uphill access, Eldora is not only shutting off human powered recreation, they are also leaving money on the table. If they actually think the Nordic trails are a substitute, they just don’t get it.