BLM approves travel management plans for the Steese National Conservation Area and the White Mountains National Recreation Area

The plans increase and improve access and help conserve natural and cultural resources.

A person straddles a red snowmachine and rides across snowpack. Mountains and blue sky in background.

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – The Bureau of Land Management approved the travel management plans for White Mountains National Recreation Area  and Steese National Conservation Area. The plans, now in effect for the 2022-23 winter season, provide public access for transportation routes within BLM-managed public lands north of Fairbanks, Alaska, for motorized and non-motorized recreational activities.  

By improving trail and off-highway vehicle management, the BLM is working to balance resource use for today, while building a stewardship legacy for the future.  

“The plans provide a wide range of recreation opportunities just a few hours’ drive north of the Fairbanks area where there is increasing demand for outdoor recreation,” said Tim Hammond, Eastern Interior Field Office manager. “These plans provide for public safety and will allow the BLM to improve public land access, while conserving the outdoor environment that we all enjoy.”  

Combined, the two plans establish travel limitations and route networks for approximately 2.3 million acres of BLM-managed public lands, including the 1-million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area; the 1.2-million-acre Steese National Conservation Area; two Wild and Scenic Rivers corridors totaling 138,000 acres; and smaller parcels outside of Congressionally designated areas. Proper management of these special-designation areas helps keep our public lands beautiful, healthy and resilient for current and future generations of Americans, ensuring everyone has opportunities to hunt, camp, fish, hike and play on our public lands. 

Improving trail and off-highway vehicle management minimizes impacts to wildlife habitat, including crucial caribou habitat and their migration corridors; reduces the introduction and spread of invasive weeds; lessens conflicts among recreation users; and prevents damage to cultural resources, such as damage caused by the expansion of roads and trails on public lands. Trail improvements, reroutes, restoration of damaged trails, or elimination of redundant trails will increase landscape resiliency and improve resource conditions. Restrictions on the use of domestic sheep, goats and camelids (e.g., llamas and alpacas) in Dall’s sheep habitat are used to protect wild sheep populations from transmissible diseases.  

During the winter season, considerable snow cover provides protection of sensitive resources from snowmobiles. As a result, public land users will see minimal changes or limitations resulting from the new travel management plans. All the BLM-managed lands in both planning areas will be open to cross-country snowmobile travel during the winter season, except for a few non-motorized routes. The travel management plans provide greater protection for the Research Natural Areas (RNAs) by prohibiting snow mobile travel over exposed soil or vegetation within RNAs.  

Below are a few highlighted changes included in the travel management plans: 

  • Summer off-highway vehicle travel is only allowed on designated routes in portions of the White Mountains National Recreation Area and in much of the Steese National Conservation Area 

  • New designations allow for e-bike recreationalists to ride on select non-motorized trails within the White Mountains National Recreation Area 

  • 12 miles of motorized route connections added to create more loop systems within the White Mountains National Recreation Area 

  • Designations for larger motor vehicle sizes and limited off-route game retrieval for trails in important caribou harvest areas, allowing the use of some side-by-sides provides greater access to caribou hunters within the Steese National Conservation Area. 

  • Nearly 200 miles of motorized routes are designated in the Steese National Conservation area to create a new BLM-managed summer route network 

 

Additional changes for the summer season will go into effect around May 1, 2023. The public is encouraged to review all changes in both the White Mountains National Recreation Area  and Steese National Conservation Area travel management plans. 

The travel management plans were developed thanks to collaborative efforts from the public, local governments and state agencies. Implementing the travel management plans is expected to take several years and involves marking and improving trails, distributing public information and education materials, as well as route monitoring and adaptive management for continued improvements.   

The public may review the decision record, the finding of no significant impact document, and the final environmental assessment (which includes responses to public comments on the analyses), by visiting the BLM’s National NEPA Register website.

For more information contact Levi Lewellyn, lewellyn@blm.gov, (907) 474-2344 or the BLM Public Room in Fairbanks at (907) 474-2200, 1(800) 437-7021, or blm_ak_fdo_eifo_generaldelivery@blm.gov.  


The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Release Date

Organization

Bureau of Land Management

Office

Fairbanks District Office

Contacts

Name:
Levi Lewelleyn
Phone:
Name:
Tim Hammond