Winter Wildlands Alliance and Desert Research Institute seek backcountry and cross-country skiers to help collect data for winter recreation planning in the Sierra Nevada.

December 10 is the deadline to provide comments on the Shoshone National Forest’s latest winter travel plan. When finalized, this plan will have major repercussions for skiing and snowboarding on the Shoshone.

The Lassen, which straddles California’s northern Sierra and southern Cascades and surrounds Lassen Volcanic National Park, is the first forest in the country to write a comprehensive winter travel plan under the 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Rule, so what happens here is very likely to impact winter travel planning across the country.

Tahoe National Forest

Final Tahoe National Forest OSV Plan Currently Anticipated Summer 2021

The Tahoe National Forest released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Draft Record of Decision on February 6, 2019, as a result of a long, legally-mandated process, including public input, to determine where Over-Snow Vehicles (OSVs) will be allowed on public lands and which areas will be protected for non-motorized activity. As part of the first cohort of five Northern California forests to undergo winter travel planning under the 2015 OSV Rule, the Tahoe expects to release its final plan and Record of Decision in summer 2021. We are anxious to see specific solutions to some or all of our objections below (eg. Castle Peak) in the final plan.

For draft maps, GIS files and documents click links below:

Background: Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The agency published its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on April 13, 2018 (see details below), initiating a public comment period that closed on May 29, 2018.

See below for full joint comment letter (and map attachments) from Snowlands/Winter Wildlands Alliance.

OUR QUICK TAKE ON THE APRIL DRAFT PLAN: In general, we’re pleased with the depth of analysis the forest service has undertaken to arrive at these alternatives. The agency’s “preferred” alternative (Alternative 2) is a significant improvement over existing management and generally takes into consideration legal requirements to minimize user conflict and impacts to wildlife and resources, while still allowing for quality motorized experiences in discrete zones across the forest.

HOWEVER, as backcountry skiers and riders, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, climbers and winter mountaineers, we do have three major areas of concern and one recommendation:

  1. Castle Peak/Coon Canyon: The preferred alternative leaves the popular and iconic backcountry ski and snowboard zones on the northeast face of Castle Peak open to snowmobiles. To minimize user conflict, we would like to see this high-value area protected for non-motorized use as described in Alternative 3 (or by a specific compromise between Alternatives 2 and 3).
  2. Sardine Lakes/Sierra Buttes: The preferred alternative leaves backcountry ski and snowboard zones on the north side of Sierra Buttes open to snowmobiles, and fails to protect the popular Nordic touring area in the Sardine Lakes basin off of the Gold Lake Highway. To minimize conflict, we believe this high-value area should be protected for non-motorized use by modifying the preferred alternative so that it does not designate the Sardine Lakes basin (including Sierra Buttes) and the Saxonia Lake basin for OSV use.
  3. Loch Leven Lakes: The preferred alternative protects most of this popular ski touring zone, but we would like to see the non-motorized boundary moved approximately ¼ mile further south to include Fisher Lake.
  4. Pacific Crest Trail: The preferred alternative allows for OSV use right up to the tread of the Pacific Crest Trail, which fails to protect the Congressionally-mandated non-motorized character of the Pacific Crest Trail, does not comply with the PCT’s comprehensive plan, and fails to minimize conflict between snowmobilers and the growing number of non-motorized winter trail users. We suggest that the forest service incorporate a buffered PCT management scenario (with designated crossings) as described in Alternative 5 (“OSV use would not be designated in areas within the USFS Scenery Management System definition of Foreground for the Pacific Crest Trail”).
  5. Collaborative Working Group: We recommend that a collaborative working group of stakeholders be convened during the final review period before publication of a Final Environmental Impact Statement to assist the forest service in finding workable compromises in these specific areas while still complying with all relevant federal rules, court orders and forest plan documents. To be successful, this working group must have professional, independent facilitation with clear sideboards, adequate representation from all relevant local and national stakeholder organizations, motorized and non-motorized, as well as forest service participation.

See below for Snowlands/Winter Wildlands Alliance joint comment letter, summaries of alternatives and links to the full DEIS and pdf maps. You can also explore the various alternatives and zones online using our interactive Outdoor Alliance Sierra Nevada Webmaps.

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Winter Wildlands Alliance/Snowlands Joint Letter to the Tahoe N.F.

Submitted May 25, 2018

Attachment 1

Attachment 1

Jeremy Jones kicking steps on the Tahoe National Forest. Photo by Ming Poon.

Draft Documents

  • Tahoe OSV DEIS, Volume I (PDF 4854kb)

  • Tahoe OSV DEIS, Volume II (PDF 2103kb)

  • Map Package 1 of 2 (PDF 21246kb)

    • Alternative 1: Existing Condition (No Action)
      • 636,002 acres open to OSV use
      • 265 miles of OSV trails
      • No designated crossings on PCT
      • No minimum snow depth for cross-country OSV travel
    • Alternative 2: Modified Proposed Action
      • 406,895 acres open to OSV use
      • 325 miles of OSV trails
      • 12″ minimum snow depth for cross-country OSV travel
      • 22 designated crossings on PCT
    • Alternative 3: “Non-motorized” Alternative
      • 275,972 acres open to OSV use
      • 280 miles of OSV trails
      • 3 designated crossings on PCT
      • 18″ minimum snow depth for cross-country OSV travel
  • Map Package 2 of 2 (PDF 15476kb)

    • Alternative 4: “Motorized” Alternative
      • 641,105 acres open to OSV use
      • 287 miles of OSV trails
      • 21 designated crossings on PCT
      • 12″ minimum snow depth for cross-country OSV travel
    • Alternative 5: “Wildlife, Natural Resources and Non-Motorized” Alternative
      • 300,146 acres open to OSV use
      • 257 miles of OSV trails
      • OSV use limited to designated trails within 1 mile of trailheads
      • 10 designated crossings on PCT
      • 24″ minimum snow depth for cross-country OSV travel








Photo by Ming Poon.


Background

Winter travel planning is the legal process by which each national forest in the country is required, with public input, to designate specific areas where snowmobiles and other motorized over-snow vehicles (OSVs) are and are not allowed to travel. This process is currently underway on six national forests in California — the first forests in the nation to undergo this kind of planning.

Based on a public scoping process that ended in April 2015, the Tahoe National Forest has been working on developing and analyzing its winter travel management alternatives. During the scoping period, Winter Wildlands Alliance and Snowlands Network submitted a “Skiers Alternative” that the Tahoe will analyze alongside other Alternatives. Click here for our proposed map as submitted.










Reclaiming Lost Ground

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A longtime backcountry skier looks forward to winter travel planning in hopes that some balance might be restored to the backcountry.

2018 Human-Powered Snowsports Trends & Impact Report

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Human-powered snowsports are an important part of the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy and the fastest growing segment of the winter outdoor recreation industry, creating jobs, bringing income into rural economies and contributing to community development, quality of life and public land conservation.

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Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national nonprofit organization promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands. [/av_textblock][/av_cell_one_full][/av_layout_row]