The Stevens Peak Backcountry comprises the subalpine area in the vicinity of Stevens Peak, located on the Lolo and Idaho Panhandle National Forests, in the vicinity of the Idaho-Montana state line. The Stevens Peak Backountry:
- Offers prime terrain and snow conditions for backcountry snowboarding and skiing.
- Has historically been used primarily for quiet human-powered winter recreation.
- Is accessible during the winter from trailheads that can be reached by passenger vehicle, something uncommon for the public lands in our region.
- Is experiencing increasing patterns of snowmobile use primarily for high-marking.
- Is being threatened by the proposed expansion of the Lookout Pass Ski Area.
Proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Winter Non-Motorized Area
The Proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Winter Non-Motorized area (shown below) is an area of approximately 6,500 acres in the vicinity of Stevens Peak. It includes portions of the Copper, Saint Regis, East Willow (Stevens Lakes), West Willow, Boulder and Gold Creek drainages. The concept was originally proposed to the Forest Service in 2000 by members of the Spokane Mountaineers.
The Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance
The Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance (formerly Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition) is a grassroots organization of backcountry skiers and snowboarders, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and climbers who value quiet human-powered winter recreation in the Inland Northwest. Our goals:
- Work toward the creation of a comprehensive and workable Winter Recreation Plan for the Stevens Peak Backcountry and other areas in our region.
- Educate others about the value of and opportunities for quiet human-powered winter recreation.
We seek to strengthen the traditional winter recreation community by identifying and connecting the growing number of non-motorized winter recreation enthusiast users in our region — eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana, an area that includes the cities of Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Missoula, Moscow and Pullman.
The Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests are currently seeking comments on a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for proposed expansion of Lookout Pass Ski Area. Normally, we don’t oppose new lift-served skiing as a matter of course (often we support it), but this DEIS, as we see it, has serious problems — it dismissed all the concerns that have been brought up by the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance, Montana Backcountry Alliance and Winter Wildlands Alliance saying winter muscle-powered backcountry access in Saint Regis basin and winter recreation conflicts caused by the expansion are outside the scope of the DEIS.
From our point of view, we believe that the following concerns must be addressed:
• Loss of accessible winter backcountry areas in St. Regis Basin within the proposed expansion area
• Further displacement of OSVs to the south side of St. Regis River
• Increased OSV use in the proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Area due to displacement by off-piste skiers and riders
• Avalanche safety concerns for increased numbers of sidecountry skiers
• Failure to address Lookout’s future expansion plans in the St. Regis Basin and the proposed Stevens Peak Backcountry Area
You can read the DEIS here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=43757
The lead agency, Idaho Panhandle National Forest has proposed three alternatives for the expansion — two basically identical options which would allow all the expansion Lookout is seeking, and a no-action alternative. Because of the incomplete EIS, we are arguing for the no-action alternative, saying that the DEIS needs to be re-done to address the future expansion, the increased presence of sidecountry resort skiers in St. Regis basin, and the complications the expansion and sidecountry skiers will present for winter backcountry users. We want the Forest Service to prioritize a comprehensive winter management plan for the St. Regis basin and Stevens Peak Backcountry Area.
The comment period for the proposed expansion ends April 25, 2016. The Forest Service requests that you include your name, address, phone number, the title of the DEIS (Lookout Pass Ski Area Expansion), and specific facts or comments regarding the proposed activity, along with supporting reasons. Please be as specific as possible. Comments can be submitted through the project website listed above or emailed to (Word .doc preferred): firstname.lastname@example.org