Comments Due by Oct 20 on Inyo NF OSV Use Plan

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.

Mammoth Lakes Trail System Photo

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.

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 singletrack 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 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.
  • Other areas under consideration for motorized over-snow vehicle use designation include: Tioga Pass/Saddlebag, Parker Bench, Obsidian Dome/Hartley Springs, Mammoth Scenic Loop, Earthquake Dome, Minaret Vista, Mammoth Lakes Basin, Mill City, Convict Lake, Rock Creek, Onion Valley, Whitney Portal, Horseshoe Meadows.

What Should I Write?

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.

  • Comments should focus on striking a fair balance between all types of recreation on public lands, minimizing conflict between different uses, and minimizing impacts to wildlife, natural resources and neighborhoods.
  • Be as specific as you can in your comments and suggestions. Use this interactive map to see how the proposal might impact you and your favorite areas to recreate. Reference specific geographical areas and landmarks (as in the suggested examples above) to help the Forest Service develop understandable and enforceable routes and boundaries.
  • The Forest Service promises to read and consider every unique comment submitted by the deadline. Read more about writing effective comments here.