11 Tips for Having Fun With Your Dog in the Snow

by Kristie Perry
Adapted with permission from www.allgoodsk9adventures.com (February 15, 2015)

1. Protect their paws
“Protecting your dog’s paw pads is crucial to having a good day in the snow,” says Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, who has logged more than 7,000 miles in the backcountry with numerous four-legged companions. Cracked or otherwise injured pads will end your outing early.
Long-haired dogs or those with webbed paws are especially prone to collecting snow between their toes. Body heat transforms that snow into little ice balls that grow larger over time and stretch the dog’s toes apart. This leads to cracking, bleeding, and hair-pulling. Dogs will respond to the pain by licking, which will cause even more ice build up. To prevent this, try Vaseline, Bag Balm, or Musher’s Secret.

Sometimes dogs need more protection than a topical application can provide, however, as Mazama member Pam Monheimer learned on an outing last year with her Vizsla, Tüz. Historically, Musher’s Secret and a fleece jacket were all Tüz needed to stay comfortable when romping through the snow. But last year, while snowshoeing around Trillium Lake on a day when the mercury barely made it into double-digits, “Tüz just tried to lay down on my feet,” she recounts. “He refused to get up. Trying to carry a 60-pound dog up a hill while in snowshoes wasn’t fun. That’s when I realized I needed to be more careful about winter conditions.” So Monheimer invested in a pair of Vibram-soled Ruffwear booties.

Dog bootie technology and availability has come a long way over the past 20 years. Dog booties come in a variety of materials, including latex, fleece, cordura nylon, neoprene, and rubber. They also come in various lengths, so if you want built-in gaiters (also known as high tops) for your dog, you’ll find them. Old dress or liner socks, worn under the booties, can also work as gaiters.

If possible, take your dog with you when buying his booties so he can try them on in the store. Just like a Salomon Women’s 8 isn’t a Lowa Women’s 8 isn’t an Asolo Women’s 8, makers of dog booties show quite a bit of variation (or perhaps imprecision) in their sizing charts.

Various dogs will tolerate booties to varying degrees. Practice putting the booties on your dog at home first. (And if you haven’t already seen the videos of dogs in booties high-stepping, prepare to laugh yourself silly.) You’ll want to make sure you can get the boots on and off easily and that your dog can’t.

One drawback of using booties on your dog in the snow: you’re taking away his built-in crampons by covering his toenails. If you’re going to be traveling in steep, hard snow try to make one of the topical applications work so your dog will have traction.

2. Keep them warm
Just like humans, dogs will remain warm in winter conditions while they’re on the move. But also like humans, dogs will feel chilled during breaks. If you have a short-haired dog or one that is cold weather-sensitive, get it a coat.

“The old line of ‘why does a dog need a coat, they have fur?’ might be true if you have a husky that lives in Alaska,” LaRuffa points out. “But I have a lab mix who spends most of his days in a nice warm house sleeping on the couch. So, yes, he gets cold in the winter.” While he is on the move, LaRuffa’s lab mix, Karluk, wears a winter jacket made specifically for dogs. During breaks and at night, LaRuffa wraps him in a human’s puffy.

While Monheimer happily dresses Tüz in a waterproof fleece jacket, Mazama member Matt Carter takes a different approach with his Golden Retriever, Lily: “My rule for Lily is that if it is so cold that her double coat is not adequate, it is too cold for me to be out hiking around.”

Even long-haired dogs are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. The ears, pads, and tail tips are the body parts most prone to frostbite, according to the veterinarians at VCA Animal Hospitals. If your dog starts shivering, it’s time to go home. Shivering is a signal that hypothermia may be close behind.

3. Drink plenty of fluids
Nothing dehydrates you more than a long day in cold air. “With each breath, you expel precious moisture,” notes LaRuffa. “Pair that with elevation and high levels of activity and you are setting you and your pup up for dehydration.” LaRuffa recommends bringing at least one quart of water for each of you for every five miles traveled.

Although many dogs can drink with impunity right out of most bodies of water encountered on the trail, many streams ice over or are under snow in the winter. “I think of winter like late summer when considering how much water to take for Lily,” Carter says.

In the winter, carry water for you and your dog inside your pack to prevent freezing. If you must carry bottles on the outside of your pack, make sure you use wide-mouth bottles and turn them upside down so that any ice that forms will float up instead of freezing the cap shut. If you prefer water bladders over bottles, use an insulation sleeve on the hose.

4. Eat!
Like you, your dog will burn more calories in cold weather. If you plan on snacking in the middle of your snowshoe, bring dog-friendly snacks for your pup, too. High-fat foods like peanut butter and cheese burn slowly for sustained heat and energy. Your dog’s regular dry kibble works well, too, and won’t make a mess in your pack.

“Because Lily won’t eat her breakfast if I am preparing to take her out, I end up packing it,” Carter says. He also brings treats for Lily, an endeavor that over the years morphed into an escalating competition with a hiking buddy. “One cold February day he pulled out an insulated bag with sliced pork roast kept warm with a gel pack. I conceded defeat.”

Multi-day trips call for a bit more thought. Kristin Hostetter, an editor at Backpacker Magazine, recommends a mix of 75 percent regular kibble with 25 percent puppy food. “Puppy food has added calories and protein, which will help boost your dog’s nutritional intake during big mile days,” she says.

LaRuffa swears by TurboPUP bars when he needs to watch the weight in his pack. TurboPUP is the brainchild of Kristina Guerrero, a backcountry skier who wanted to make sure the four-legged companion who accompanied her on her adventures had the nutrition he needed to keep his energy up.

Locally, TurboPUP can be found at Next Adventure, U.S. Outdoor Store, and various Petsmarts.

5. Keep your dog under control
What’s true in town is true in the backcountry, also: a well-trained dog that obeys commands is more enjoyable to be around—for everyone.

“Some dogs are simply aggressive by nature,” says retired veterinarian and Mazama member Don McCoy. “If your dog can’t be a good citizen, then it needs to stay home.”

Canine obedience training becomes even more important when freezing temperatures and snow are part of the adventure. More dogs are lost in winter than in any other season, according to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Be mindful of your terrain. You don’t want your dog running into a partially frozen body of water. Nor do you want them to engage wildlife.

Carter and Lily once encountered a coyote while hiking in the Deschutes National Forest between Christmas and New Year’s. “The coyote kept trying to engage Lily,” he recalls. “’Come play with me,’ was the message she was getting. Just out of sight was the pack of coyote friends who had dinner plans for her, instead.”

If your dog is the type who would engage with a coyote, it should be on a leash, veterinarian McCoy says.

Another reason to keep your dog close is traps. Trapping is allowed all year in Oregon and Washington. “The further away from you your dog is, the more likely it is to get caught,” Carter says. “The ‘improved’ leg hold and Conibear traps being marketed as ‘humane’ are more destructive than the old ones,” he opines. “More importantly, I think the new traps are much harder to release by hand. I carry Vise Grips to help.”

Finally, make sure your dog shows the same respect for steep snow that you do. “When you are traversing a trail that is benched out on a steep slope, you are entering a danger zone,” LaRuffa warns. “Allowing your dog to run loose above you or below heightens the risk of triggering an avalanche.”

6. Watch out for sharps
Ski edges, crampons, ice axes, and snowshoes are all potential hazards for your dog. So how do you prevent a bad accident?

Skiing: LaRuffa keeps his dog, Karluk, either directly ahead or behind him when ascending. “When we switch to downhill mode, I ski as fast as possible, keeping well in front of Karluk the whole time. I stop every few hundred yards so he can catch up, therefore preventing the risk of a cut from my ski edge.”

Snowshoeing: Train your dog to walk directly behind you when snowshoeing. That way, your dog can use your tracks (and not, say, the Nordic skiers’ tracks), and she avoids being stepped on or caught in a crampon. Don’t be surprised if you feel some extra weight in your shoes at the end of the day. Smart, tired dogs have been known to hitch a ride on the back of snowshoes to avoid having to slog through deep snow.

Mountaineering: This activity poses many risks, but the biggest one is impaling your dog with your crampon, “so being aware at all times where your foot placement is in relation to you dog is paramount,” LaRuffa says.

7. Bring a pad
A lightweight foam pad can be deployed on the snow during the day for you and your dog to rest on during a break, and then used at night in camp. Bonus: it’s warmer than an air mattress in the snow, and safer, “since it can’t pop and leave you shivering on the snow,” LaRuffa says.

8. Line your dog’s pack
Even in the snow, the gear in your dog’s pack can get wet. LaRuffa swears by turkey oven roasting bags because they are light, cheap, and strong.

9. Bring a rubber toy
Bring a toy to play with in camp. LaRuffa’s dog, Karluk, recommends orange rubber balls. They are bright and, therefore, easier to find in the snow. Plus, their rubber surface doesn’t soak up slobber and snowmelt.

10. Pay attention
“What seems to work best for Tüz, who has unlimited energy, is to go with his flow,” Monheimer says. “We go as long as he seems fine, and at the first sign of discomfort we turn back. This has put a damper on my ability to summit or reach a particular destination. But Tüz is my best buddy. My number one goal is for him to have a good and safe time.”

11. Have fun!
No explanation needed.


Getting Out of the Gorge

Winter Workout Hikes for the Intrepid

by Darrin Gunkel

Give Angel’s Rest a rest. Leave Eagle Creek to the tourists. Here are half a dozen training hikes that reliably offer a decent winter work out, with the added advantage of being close, lonely, or just a nice change of pace. They’re arranged by proximity to Portland (sorry everybody else!): Marquam and Powell in city, Salmon River and Dry Ridge an hour’s drive away, and Cape Lookout and Deschutes both clocking in at two hours. If those last drives seem far for a day hike, don’t worry. The campgrounds at each trailhead are lovely. Why not make an overnight of it and really savor the rainy season ambiance?

Hiking options in the West Hills are nearly limitless, and the biggest problem may be choosing one. If you’re after a quick, brisk workout, this is a good choice. . . it’s one of the fastest ways up to Council Crest. Starting at the Marquam Shelter on Sam Jackson Park Road, you can follow the Sunnyside or Shelter Loop Trails up to their junctions with the Marquam Trail, and then on to the summit. A thousand feet may not seem like much, but doing it in 2.5 miles is enough to get many a hiker’s pulse up. And besides, with all the time you’ve saved not driving out to Eagle Creek, there’s no reason not to do the trip twice! The prize, on the one clear day out of ten you do this in winter, is one of the most fabulous views from any city park, anywhere: the fair city of Portland, with its backdrop of four stratovolcanoes—not to mention the dozens of smaller volcanoes that make up the Boring Volcanic Field. One of them happens to be our next option.

Portland is the only major city in the U.S. with a volcano in its city limits—several, actually. One of them in particular, Powell Butte, is a great training ground. Most trail guides recommend the 5 mile perimeter loop around the park, but download the trail map and take a look. You can string together 10 miles of trail—more if you don’t mind covering some sections twice. To max out the elevation gain, start at the low points of the park. The north entrance (at S.E. 148th Ave. and Center) and the south entrance (off the Springwater trail just east of S.E. 145th Ave.) are both at about 250 feet elevation. The high point at Mountain Finder is 600 feet. Do a traverse over this summit from north to south and back and you’ve racked up 700 feet. Adding the Hawthorne—Cedar Grove—Douglas Fir Loop brings your total to a respectable 1,000 feet. With ups and downs around the perimeter, you can easily get 1,200 feet and nearly 9 miles. Walking here is the best of both worlds: mature second growth forest on the volcano’s flanks, and some of the widest skies west of the cascades in the summit meadow. Shifting views of volcanoes from Mt. St. Helens to Mt. Jefferson keep you entertained on clear days.

Tired of the crowds at Eagle Creek? Bored to death of I-84? Then follow the ski bums and snow borders out Route 26. Taking their leave at Salmon River Road in Welches, just 2.5 miles from the highway, you’ll find the first of several trailheads for the Old Salmon River Trail. The elevation is low enough here to support some truly giant old growth and stay snow-free pretty much the whole winter. Start at the first trailhead to max out mileage and get warmed up. After 2.5 miles of riverside pleasantness, the trail passes the Green Canyon Campground. This is where the workout begins. You can continue on up the Salmon River, gaining elevation slowly and steadily until you hit the snow line. If you’re lucky, and it’s melted out below 2,500 feet, you’ll reach the Salmon River Canyon, six miles from that first trailhead. Alternately, for a quicker day and to get the blood really moving, from the campground take off up Green Canyon Way, a steep route up to Hunchback Mountain and Devil’s Peak. You’re not likely to get anywhere near either of these in a normal snow year, but this route’s steep enough you may not care.

The Roaring River Wilderness is easy to overlook. It doesn’t have close up views of soaring peaks, and while the forest there is nice, it’s easily overshadowed by dozens of nearby stands. Most visitors to the Clackamas Canyon come for the river, anyway. A viewless trail that launches straight up from the trailhead? Not on many radars, even though it’s just over an hour from Portland. You can count on peace and quiet on Dry Ridge—and a good workout. The Roaring River Campground, where you’ll find parking for the trail, is at about 1,000 feet elevation. The first two miles gain 2,000 feet. If it’s a dry year, or later in the season, you’ll find on the upper section a steady grind that feels steeper than it actually is. The turnaround is a non-descript junction with the Grouse Point Trail. If you’ve made it this far, and still haven’t had enough, follow that one all the way down to the Roaring River, 2,500 feet and 2.5 miles below. Just remember, you’ll have to come back up.

Begin this hike at the trailhead most people use and it’s more like stretching your legs. Start down at the beach, though, and you add a solid workout to this rightfully famed coast hike. This alternate start lies at sea level, by the day use zone in Cape Lookout State Park, and not far from the car camp. The high point of the trail is actually at the main Cape Lookout Trail parking lot, 850 feet and just shy of 2.5 miles up from the beach. From here, you lose 400 feet on the way out to the end to the Cape Lookout: a basalt cliff jutting 2.5 miles into the north Pacific Ocean. This is the one stretch that might give you pause in the winter. While not exposed in a mountaineering sense, the way comes close enough to high, sheer cliffs, that on the rare icy day it’s probably not worth the risk. If that’s the case, from the upper parking lot, drop down in 2 miles to the south beach. You lose a mile in distance, but make up for it with an extra 400 feet elevation gain for the day.


So you’ve whetted your appetite for wide open skies on top of Powell Butte, but the constant clouds have left you feeling a bit starved. Head east! Provided the Gorge isn’t a tunnel of ice, Deschutes River State Recreation Area and a 50 percent chance of sunshine (beats the west side odds!) isn’t too far away. The trail here’s more about distance than elevation, but off-trail hiking on the canyon walls is straightforward. So, if you feel the need to feel the burn, find a route that speaks to you and head up. Just beware of private property signs—or more likely, unsigned barbed wire marking the limits of public land. The lower 2 miles of the trail is state land. Beyond, you’re in the realm of the BLM. In theory, you can walk all the way to Mack’s Canyon, 23 miles away at the end of the riverside road heading south from Oregon Route 216 near Tygh Valley. Setting up a car shuttle would make for a neat, but long, day.


Ski Mountaineering Traverse of Canadian Rockies’ Wapta Icefield

by Keith Daellenbach

In the February 2016, I found myself drawing short straw as the company I had worked at for nearly eight years continued on a path of downsizing and contraction and I was let go. Leaving an employer not on one’s own terms is not ideal but, as it was, it was a relief to move on and pursue new paths in my engineering career. While balancing my obligation to look for employment, my wife, Amy, encouraged me to not miss this opportunity to “get out there” and find ways to reconnect with friends in the outdoors where I’ve always found peace and a connection to a Creation much bigger than myself. My first foray was to the southern Oregon coast exploring the Coquille River and floating the wild and beautiful Sixes River. The winter steelhead run was at its peak and I met up with local Jim Clausen who over decades, and this is no put down – rather the opposite, has developed the brain of a steelhead. With Jim’s “happy meal” creation, I hooked, fought, and released a native buck steelhead in the pre-dawn light on a quiet stretch of solitude on the Coquille. I put other steelhead on the bank and if anything could clear my head and make me happy to be alive, that was it. Ski mountaineering would fit the bill too.

During this interregnum, my other main foray afield was with Chris Haagen, of Oakland, one of my favorite climbing and backcountry friends. Chris, a fellow engineer, is always a cheerful guy ready for an adventure, remarkably available on short notice. Without much discussion, we quickly settled upon a ski mountaineering traverse of the Wapta Icefield in the Canadian Rockies north of Lake Louise. Through a division of labor – Chris took on establishing GPS way-points for the route and I reserved hostel lodging in Lake Louise, Alpine Club of Canada (AAC) huts along the route, and van shuttle – we made quick work of the logistics. Two weeks later, Chris flew into PDX and we were underway driving north with nighttime departure. In a one 13-hour, 710-mile shot, we drove up through eastern Washington, crossing the border at Eastport, and made our way to our night’s lodging at Lake Louise. The hostel there is inexpensive and comfortable with skiers from all over North America. We sorted gear and settled in for the night.

After a hearty breakfast at the hostel the next morning, we made our last avalanche check (www.avalanche.ca), which indicated “High” danger so we carefully examined our route for likely steep, avalanche-prone slopes that would receive direct sun. There was no fresh snow to contend with. After this analysis, we convinced ourselves we could make the tour in relative safety with bail options from the Peyto and Bow huts.

We drove 10 miles to the Great Divide Lodge just east of Kicking Horse Pass on the Trans Canada Highway 1 where we met Jean, our shuttle van driver with Mountain Park Transportation. I left my Honda Civic there and she drove us up Highway 93, 45-minutes away to just north of Bow Summit. We departed in the blazing sunshine, saying “thank you” to Jean, and skied (well I hiked and skied) down a steep, switchback trail about 350 feet through the trees to the edge of Peyto Lake. When Amy and I explored the Canadian Rockies las summer with our son, Micah, we stopped at Bow Summit and gazed at this aquamarine lake from above; now we were skiing across its frozen surface in the frigid air. Having brought many layers suitable for ski mountaineering in the Cascades, I was somewhat concerned that my 32-pound pack would not contain the heavy duty warm weather clothing needed for the cold continental climate in the Rockies. In spite of this, the gear I brought was plenty adequate.

Chris and I skied across the frozen lake towards the far side, where the wall of the Canadian Rockies rose up. We worked up Peyto Creek, at one time jumping rock-to-rock across its low flow, and avoiding a steep-walled, skier’s-left gully, gained an old medial moraine on the right. Eventually, we topped over the moraine and skied above a small glaciology/meteorology field station and gained the northern lobe of the Peyto Glacier. We gave wide berth to the steep east flank of Peyto Peak upon which were small avalanches being triggered in the mid-day sun. We gained 2,200 feet from the Lake. Skiing up the Peyto Glacier was a dream of great snow and towering peaks all around. We reached the blue Peyto Hut (a.k.a., Peter and Catharine Whyte Hut) perched on a lower satellite ridge. We were greeted at the hut by a contingent of guided skiers including many from Portland. The hut sleeps 16 in winter, and like the other three huts on our traverse, are fully stocked with propane, stoves, pots, pans, cooking utensils, sleeping pads, and an outhouse. I knew some of the skiers and Chris and I talked to the guide long into the night by lantern light about other more remote ski mountaineering adventures in the Rockies we could pursue after this introductory traverse.

Day two of our ski traverse was a short 3.7-mile section that gains 770 feet and loses 1,100 feet. As the weather was perfect and the ski leg short, we added to that distance by climbing two Mt. Olive—North, roping up for a short section low on the ridge in an abundance of caution. And then Mt. Gordon across the south lobe of the Bow Glacier. From that summit, we had a 3,300 foot descent over a few miles to the Bow Hut. As we schussed the last section to the hut, the weather took a turn for the worse, as the leading edge of a storm overtook us. We entered the hut with snow trailing in behind us. This hut, ca. 1989, is the largest on the icefield (30 person capacity) with a hallway separating the dining area from the sleeping area complete with wood stoves in both. There we met an all-ladies crew guided by two women AAC guides. They had ascended to the hut via the Bow Lake start (Num-Ti-Jah Lodge) and we enjoyed their enthusiasm and sense of adventure.

We awoke to the third ski day with the storm in full throttle. We departed the hut and pushed up the Bow Glacier using our GPS track and compass, slowly working waypoint-to-waypoint in a near whiteout. Eventually we gained the col (9,520 feet) between Saint Nicholas Peak and Mt. Olive—North in the teeth of a full howling whiteout. From there we launched down the Vulture Glacier, being careful not to approach the crevassed and wind-scoured margins on either side. I led, snowplowing down the glacier, carefully consulting the GPS and compass as Chris kept an eye out for crevasses. At one point, concentrating so hard on progress with no visible landmark in the snow storm, I looked past my GPS and compass at my skis and noted I was not even moving even though it felt like I was! The whiteout was disorienting. Eventually, we made it down glacier and popped out below the cloud deck at about 8,500 feet recovering some visibility of the snow-covered landscape. We kept an eye out for crevasses and large wind scour traps as we headed made our way to the Balfour Hut (a.k.a. Rob J. Ritchie Hut).

We knew the next day would be the crux of the traverse, with a long ascending route up the Balfour Glacier to the Balfour High Col at 9,788 feet. From the hut, the route crosses some moraines near a large pass over the Rockies and then up what becomes essentially a ramp perched below steep slopes prone to avalanche with hanging glaciers on the east side of Mt. Balfour (10,735 feet) and a crevassed icefall below. In one section, the safe route snakes through a section maybe 40 yards wide. As we had studied the route carefully on Google Earth and examined the pictures in the Balfour Hut, we knew that having visibility in this crux would be imperative rather than relying solely on our GPS waypoints. Amazingly on the fourth day, in spite of poor predicted weather, the storm broke to a cold and clear blue bird day. We were up early and off like a shot heading for the col. We made steady progress and I led up through the crux to where the slope eases off above. The views were amazing with a sea of peaks, ridges, arêtes, glaciers, alpine faces surrounding us in the brilliant sunshine. Before arriving to the col, we broke off the route and climbed the east flank of the lower southeast ridge of Mt. Balfour. It got steep near the crest but I gained it and looked down the equally steep western flank. Above, the ridge was seemingly blocked by impenetrable rime ice-covered towers. We bailed on our feeble exploratory attempt at a climb of this citadel, returned to our skis, and made it to the col.

From the col is a long, sweeping ski out onto to the Daly Glacier, a section named the Waputik Icefield. We took care to make an arc down glacier staying near the spine of the Continental Divide rather than making a straight line to the Scott Duncan Hut. A straight-line ski to the hut from the col puts one at peril crossing through crevasse fields, whereas, the arc is essentially safe save for one small crevassed section that is easily negotiated.

The small hut itself is situated on a rock outcrop promontory below Mt. Daly and is perched above the glacier with fine views of the southern section of the traverse and we had it all to ourselves. With the relief of having the crux behind us, Chris lent me his DeLorme inReach SE satellite tracking device to send a short note back to Amy and Micah to let them know the coast was (well, essentially) clear. We arose again in twilight, packed gear, and headed out into falling snow with limited visibility expecting a long day. We skied off the southern lobe of the Daly Glacier, snuck across the east face of Mt. Niles and stayed above Niles Creek until we could drop down into Sherbrooke Creek. There were steep sections back-and-forth down the gully of the creek like a bobsled run but it eventually dropped out onto the frozen surface of Sherbrooke Lake. We skied the final stretch through the woods, following a trail that leads to Highway 1 and the Great Divide Lodge. The traverse was now complete.

We drove out and made a stop to see the beautiful Chateau Lake Louise and snowy winter scene with people enjoying themselves out ice skating on the frozen lake below stunning Mt. Victoria. I picked up a silver and aquamarine pendant for Amy in the village below and then we busted out of the Canadian Rockies and made the long drive home back to the States.

Postlog: A month and a half later, I was sitting at my desk starting a new job managing a group of talented engineers enjoying new engineering challenges and opportunity. I reveled in the traverse and the ski mountaineering adventure with friend Chris and with Amy who said “Go.” The tour is straightforward, accessible, and relatively inexpensive. It does require a combination of basic mountaineering and skiing skills, glacier navigation and crevasse rescue, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. It crosses the spectacular spine of the continent and should not be missed!


The Scheme to Sell Our Public Lands

by Adam Baylor, Mazamas Stewardship & Advocacy Manager

The scheme to sell off our public lands to the highest bidder is nothing new and the 115th Congress is about to push this devious plot to the next level. To help shed some light on this conspiracy, the following steps reveal how far along we are in a public lands heist.

Ever since the 1980s, elected officials have gradually destroyed our land management agencies’ budgets under the guise of wanting government to “do more with less.” As a result, nearly each unit of the U.S. Forest Service is underfunded and understaffed. Mt. Hood National Forest (NF) requires about 800 employees to properly manage the forest. Currently, Mt. Hood NF is operating on approximately 200 employees making it difficult to consistently manage all the demands on our natural resources.

In addition to dwindling agency budgets is the problem of wildfire funding. As fires in the West increase in size and duration, USFS and BLM budgets suffer the burden of wildfire fighting. That means federally managed recreation programs are slashed to cover costs and citizen complaints skyrocket.

This systematic decline in agency budgets coupled with wildfire funding problems leaves public lands in a precarious position. Multiuse demands do not go away just because Congress has failed to properly fund our land management agencies. At the end of the day, Congress created this problem so that one solution works: a public lands heist.

Wasting no time, the new House of Representatives voted to change the rules on how costs are calculated during federal land transfers to a state. The new rule says that there is no cost associated with the land transfer. By setting the value of our public lands to zero, Congress will have no obstacle in handing over control of millions of acres to state governments. Once this happens states would be responsible to manage the land or sell it.

During the next few years, Congress may decide to make broad cuts in all federal programs which will create a burden on state budgets. For example, healthcare or housing programs that receive federal funding may vanish. In doing so, states will need to pick up the slack in order to continue to provide services to citizens. Suddenly, the prospect of selling off newly transferred federal lands becomes a very appealing cash cow for states to balance their budgets

The reality is that the new Congress is pretty much like the old Congress. Last year, Republicans in the House and Senate voted unanimously in committee to begin the transfer of federal lands to states. We have also seen an increase in state legislatures or general assemblies attempting to pass legislation to accept federal land transfers. As they say in real estate, you must have a willing seller and a buyer. The good news is that the House of Representatives may pass a land transfer law but it most likely will be blocked in the Senate by a filibuster.

Some people think this step will not happen or that it’s at least 50 years down the road. Whatever the time frame, this is a very real possibility now. It’s important to remember that privatization is not necessarily the worry. Our government delivers goods and services to the people through private companies all the time. Contracting is part of privatization and while there is fraud, waste and abuse associated with this process, it’s been happening since the founding of the United States. Rather, the true worry is that federal lands could be sold into private ownership. Once that occurs, private landowners will have the right to put up No Trespassing signs as they see fit. That means we could lose a great deal of public access to our favorite places.

These are but a few of the consequences to selling off public lands. We know that the scheme is real and no longer in the dark. It’s out in the open and Mazamas can help stop it.

 The key to our success will be through recreation and political action. In addition to telling your Member of Congress or State Legislator to oppose the Public Lands Heist, make a commitment to get outside more and share that experience with everyone you know. 
We have joined the Outdoor Alliance to collectively fight this battle with other human-powered recreation groups. It will be up to us to rally the support of the mountaineering, rock climbing, ice climbing, backpacking and hiking communities throughout Oregon and parts of Washington to stop the public lands heist.