Winter Travel Planning in California

Winter travel planning is currently underway on 6 national forests in California. This process, under the legal mandate of the 2015 OSV Rule (see “Background” below), represents a significant opportunity to bring balance to the winter backcountry by providing a framework for local stakeholders, communities, and the Forest Service to work together to find balanced solutions for motorized and non-motorized winter use. For the first time ever, our national forests are required to implement winter travel management plans. Helping your local forest draft these plans will be YOUR opportunity to influence how YOUR backcountry is managed. Please join us, follow us on Facebook, or stay tuned to this page to find out what comes next on which forest and how you can help us advocate for balanced solutions in those areas you care most about.

Background for California

In 2015, as a result of a federal court order in a lawsuit brought by Winter Wildlands Alliance, the United States Forest Service amended Subpart C of its 2005 Travel Management Rule to require that all national forests that receive enough snowfall for Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) use designate routes and areas where OSV use is allowed. (For more detailed information on national winter travel planning, check out our Winter Travel Management Planning page.)

Also, as part of a separate legal agreement with Winter Wildlands Alliance, Snowlands Network, and the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Forest Service agreed to fully assess under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) the impacts of snowmobiles on wildlife, plants and quiet recreation as a result the State’s snowmobile trail grooming program on five specific national forests in California — Stanislaus, Eldorado, Tahoe, Plumas and Lassen. Such review is being undertaken concurrently with full winter travel management planning as coordinated by the Region 5 (California) office of the Forest Service.

When completed, these plans will outline where snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles are and are not allowed on each forest. Winter Wildlands Alliance is advocating for management plans that zone the backcountry in a balanced manner so that everybody has a place to play.  This means that some areas should be designated for non-motorized use while other parts of the forest are open to and managed for snowmobiles.

As part of the agreement each of these 5 forests must consider an alternative management scenario developed by Winter Wildlands Alliance and Snowlands Network. Groups represented the snowmobile community have been given this opportunity as well. As such we worked with Snowlands to develop and submit a “Skiers Alternative” for each forest. These alternatives strive to balance motorized and non-motorized winter recreation by proposing areas for OSV use that do not conflict with places that are important for backcountry skiers and other quiet recreation activities.

For more detail about winter travel planning on a particular forest please click below.

Click here to return to the Winter Travel Management page.