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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 21 - 27, 2001


Conservation group originated here

Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks solitude

Express Staff Writer

A new, nationally oriented skiing and snowshoeing advocacy group grew from local efforts to preserve the winter sports.

The one-year-old Winter Wildlands Alliance based in Boise budded from The Nordic and Backcountry Skiers Alliance organized in by Blaine County residents.

"Nobody else is doing this, and it all started right here," said The Nordic and Backcountry Skiers Alliance director Sarah Michael of Ketchum.

Michael, who spearheaded the effort to form the new group, said that when she formed the local group, she also located similar organizations in other states and regions. They agreed that national representation and organization were needed.

With contributions from the Wilderness Society, a private foundation, fundraising efforts and a consortium of outdoor-related businesses, the Winter Wildlands Alliance was born on Nov. 1 last year. The group says it is the first and only national organization working to promote and preserve winter wildlands and quality human-powered snow sport experiences on public lands.

"We are promoting human-powered sports," said wildlands alliance Executive Director Sally Grimes. "You donít need a machine to get out there. The human-powered user seeks solitude, an experience that is peaceful and quiet. Obviously a two-stroke, 800 cc engine in the vicinity makes that experience impossible."

Grimes said the groupís primary focus is to provide assistance to human-powered winter sport advocacy groups elsewhere. It will also use the negotiated Wood River Valleyís winter snow zoning for skiers and snowmobilers as a model for other areas.

Last year, the Sawtooth National Forest adopted zoning regulations divvying up areas used by its conflicting winter users. The regulations divided the Wood River Valley into areas where skiers could escape the noise and tracks of snowmobiles and areas where snowmobiles have free rein. The groundbreaking part of the decision was that the plan was crafted by five local skiers and five local snowmobilers.

"This model is being used all over the country now," Grimes said. "(But) each grassroots groupís solution is unique, yet all possess similar attributes, including an open-minded leadership, a willingness to sit down and talk with land managers and other user groups, some understanding of compromise and a definitive goal of separate, yet equal, use areas for non-motorized recreationists to enjoy the solitude of winter wildlands."

The issue of motorized impacts on non-motorized recreation were covered by mainstream media last year, when the National Park Service declared snowmobiles incompatible with Yellowstone National Parkís management mandates. However, the Yellowstone debateóstill raging under scrutiny from a new administrationóis just the front line in a string of user conflicts stretching across the nationís snow belt.

"Yellowstone brought national attention to the issue of snowmobiles on public lands," Grimes said. "But in working with grassroots groups across the country, we know this is a problem everywhere, not just in Yellowstone. Clearly itís time for the voice of human-powered winter recreationists to be heard."

Just last week, the Winter Wildlands Alliance released a report that highlights the national loss of quiet, safe areas for skiers and snowshoers, because of the recent surge in the popularity of snowmobiles. The report chronicles the stories of eight areas, from Vermont to California, where public lands historically enjoyed by skiers are now inundated with snowmobiles.

The report, "Losing Ground Ö The Fight to Preserve Winter Solitude," highlights struggles and success stories from snow country. It can be viewed at www.winterwildlands.org.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.