Inyo NF OSV Use Plan: Draft EIS and Alternatives set for Fall 2024
The Inyo National Forest has released its Proposed Action for Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Use Designation, kicking off a 3-year process to determine where snowmobiles, timbersleds, snowbikes and other motorized OSVs will be allowed on the forest—and which areas should be protected for wildlife, natural soundscapes and nonmotorized use. Unfortunately, this first effort proposes to designate motorized use pretty much everywhere on the forest outside of designated Wilderness, providing extremely limited frontcountry access to nonmotorized experiences from trailheads and communities in the Eastern Sierra. The forest has indicated release of a Draft Environmental Assessment with multiple alternatives sometime this coming fall 2024.
The USFS has proposed to formally give snowmobiles, timbersleds, and other tracked vehicles free range across most of the northern half of the Inyo National Forest, with only our most crowded winter trailhead—at the Lake Mary winter road closure—set aside (until April 17) for skiing, snowshoeing and nonmotorized snowplay, despite the fact that these nonmotorized activities comprise the vast majority of winter recreation in the Eastern Sierra.
Winter Wildlands Alliance recognizes that snowmobiling is a legitimate use of designated national forest lands, and that certain informal agreements have been reached over the last three or four decades regarding separation of conflicting winter recreation activities. We believe there are balanced solutions to minimize conflict between uses, and specific ways to allow access to high-quality snowmobile experiences on the Inyo National Forest without so severely diminishing access to high-quality nonmotorized experiences for the 98% of people who recreate without motorized vehicles.
Tioga Road, Inyo National Forest. Photo courtesy Caltrans.
“It will be up to us as a community to come together and propose a more reasonable alternative for the Inyo National Forest to consider for the future management of all forms of public access winter recreation for decades to come.”
-David Page, WWA Executive Director
Advocating for a Balanced, Common-Sense Alternative
The forest has promised to develop other alternatives based on public comment. In other words, we now have an opportunity to suggest more reasonable alternatives for the forest to consider for the future management of all forms of public-access winter recreation for decades to come. For example:
- Shady Rest: We support the alternative being developed by the Inyo NF and the Town of Mammoth Lakes to separate motorized and nonmotorized winter recreation in the Shady Rest area. This new proposed scenario would allow for motorized staging at the New Shady Rest Campground dumpstation at the corner of CA203 and Sawmill Cutoff Road, with a designated OSV trail around the west side of Shady Rest Park for direct groomed access to nearly 100 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. The town’s groomed Nordic loops, accessible from the Welcome Center parking lot, as well as Shady Rest Park itself, would not be designated open to motorized over-snow use. This would minimize conflict between incompatible uses at one of the town’s most popular winter recreation access points, and would be a huge improvement for all users over the current situation.
- Sherwins: The Sherwins Front, from Mill City and Mammoth Rock to Bardini and the Tele Bowls, is a renowned, world-class, frontcountry human-powered ski and snowboard area right at the edge of Mammoth Lakes. The Sherwins Meadow is a popular and easily-accessible area for walking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and family snowplay. These areas are generally nonmotorized in summer—with trails open to equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers but not e-bikes or dirt bikes—and were recommended to be nonmotorized in winter in the community-developed Sherwins Area Recreation Plan (SHARP), as adopted by the Town of Mammoth Lakes in 2009. As with the Shady Rest proposal above, we highly support the development of an alternative that would not designate the Sherwins area for motorized OSV use. This would protect the meadow and the popular backcountry ski and snowboard zones and uphill tracks for quiet, nonmotorized recreation and natural soundscapes. There is plenty of room at the current propane tanks and borrow pit parking areas to create a simple, strategic separation between nonmotorized and motorized staging. This would allow for direct OSV access to thousands of acres of cross-country snowmobiling by way of a designated OSV trail that follows Sherwin Creek Road to the motocross area and beyond (rather than straight through the walking and sledding area and over the south-facing slopes and manzanita across from the Tele Bowls), effectively minimizing conflict between incompatible uses and allowing for a range of different recreation experiences for all people.
- To see WWA’s thoughts on all Inyo NF areas involved, see the Common Sense Alternative text HERE.
How Can I Support the Common Sense Alternative?
We encourage skiers, snowshoers, conservationists, local homeowners, conscientious snowmobilers, business owners, visitors, and people who just like to be able to walk in the woods at the edge of town with their kids and dogs to help us advocate for a common-sense, equitable winter travel plan that can work for everybody, not just the 1-2% of people who have snowmobiles.
- WWA will keep members and those subscribed updated alternative planning with the Inyo. Join WWA to help support our work or subscribe to our emails.
- Use this interactive map to see how the proposal might impact you and your favorite areas to recreate.
- Check out the comment reading room to see what what submitted during the comment period.
Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national nonprofit organization working to
inspire and empower people to protect America’s wild snowscapes.