Backcountry News – Forest Plan, Flattened WESSC, Tailgate Talk and Pot

The Chugach National Forest has released it’s Revised Land Use Management Plan based on the public hearings held in 2014. It had not been revised for three decades. It’s a large document, so you will need an hour or so to find the areas of your interest. Valdez meetings were very well attended mostly with concerns about winter recreation use. The quote below is from the document which has been revised to include the affects of climate change on the Chugach and more specifically the snowpack around Valdez. It is profound to think of Valdez as not having any snow in the near future. I submitted comments about global warming and the need to reduce the carbon footprint of motorized recreation on our forest and expand backcountry ski opportunities.

There are great snow graphs and prediction numbers, enough to turn this skier more geeky with snow science, so it’s worth the read under the Climate Assessment Chapter.  Under the revised plan, the USFS is required to address global warming and they certainly have with this quote….


Sept 2016 – Hogback Glacier above Valdez reveals dramatic loss of ice. Over the past decade, the glacier has lost all it’s snow cover each summer.

“A rapid change in snowline is expected over time. This change is illustrated in figure 2 through the change in geographic location where an estimated 90% of winter precipitation will fall as snow (fig. 2).While inter-year variability in snow line is expected to be high in the next ten to twenty years, the modeled snowline shifts well inland from Valdez. By 2040, many areas are predicted to receive less than 30% of winter precipitation as snow, and by the 2060s snow line (as defined by the 90% contour) is predicted to shift to the highest peaks.

In order to assess the snow line during the coldest season, as opposed to the winter as a whole, we also examined the projected snowline for the month of January alone. Results show that for many areas that typically experience almost all January precipitation as snow, this pattern may shift in coming decades.

By the 2060s, Anchorage, Kenai, Soldotna, Wasilla, and Palmer may have only intermittent snow cover, even in the coldest month of the year.”

—-Perhaps WESSC and the VCVB acted to fast and outside the normal procedures required by other non-profits in Valdez, but they pushed there way to $125,000 grant and $125,000 in City services to resurrect WESC last spring in little over a month. While their excitement is notable, putting the cart before the horse cost the city administration time($) to skip hurtles and hurry the check to appease their request for money “right now”.

WESSC announced last week that the event is cancelled for 2017 and they will try again with a more organized effort for 2018 and another request for $250,000, hopefully through the normal budget process in the fall. Sponsors weren’t willing to jump on the band wagon so quick having dealt with events around the world. The City Council should have also been more cautious. The President of WESSC is on the City Council and that conflict of interest was surely part of driving the funding request.

——Meanwhile Tailgate representatives gave the Council a glowing report on their event and local support. This is in conflict with the overwhelming amount of public comment gathered by the State of Alaska(DNR) last spring that were highly critical of the event and the lack of oversight by DNR.

Legally bought pot could become a reality in Valdez within the next week or so. This is welcome news  as society drags itself out of the dark ages on this low impact drug.  As someone who does not consume alcohol due to its many dangers, obvious on a near daily basis by perusing the weekly police report, the irony of what constitutes a threat to the general public has been largely exaggerated if one compares alcohol and cannabis. Who knows, we may see the Wine Walk followed by a Weed Walk someday on Main Street.

This will definitely impact winter tourism in a positive way with Europeans and other international skiers taking advantage of the legalization of pot at a major ski destination…after a day of skiing.

And finally some ermine pics from todays bike ride near Robe Lake.IMG_0483 IMG_0485 IMG_0486