Winter Travel Planning: Finding Balance in the Backcountry
Human-powered in the Lake Tahoe Basin
Travel Management Planning is the process through which the Forest Service designates specific trails and areas for motorized use. It can be thought of as a type of comprehensive “zoning” where some areas are designated for motorized use, and other trails and areas are set aside for human-powered recreation, or to protect wildlife and their habitat. While this is not a new concept – agencies have been required to do this type of planning since the early 1970’s – 2015 marked a huge shift in how the Forest Service manages backcountry winter recreation. Up to this point, Forests have focused on developing comprehensive plans for summer use. The Forest Service’s 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Rule makes this sort of planning mandatory for over-snow use as well, and establishes guidelines for how it will be accomplished.
Winter Wildlands Alliance advocates on behalf of skiers, splitboarders and snowshoers who recreate on the public lands. We have long advocated for comprehensive winter recreation planning, and we are glad to see the Forest Service moving forward with implementing the OSV Rule. Under this Rule, individual forests and Ranger Districts that do not already have winter travel plans will start developing them, and we will be there to ensure that backcountry and Nordic skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers have a voice in the process. This is an exciting time for anyone who loves winter, as we have a real opportunity to bring balance to the backcountry.
By stepping back and re-assessing where over-snow motorized use is appropriate, the Forest Service and those who participate in the winter travel planning process will be able to take steps to reduce user conflicts and ensure that high quality winter recreation opportunities exist for all users. Given the complex pressures of population growth, climate change and new technologies, with ever more users getting out on public lands in different ways and in ever less predictable winters, we believe that good, balanced, forward-thinking winter management planning is essential.
This is an opportunity for all those who value the winter backcountry to find common ground. We all want room to roam – and the backcountry is big enough for all of us – but we cannot afford a free-for-all.
Planning for winter recreation on the Shoshone National Forest
Several National Forests have begun winter travel planning and we are working with local partners across the country to get the human-powered backcountry community involved in these planning processes.
California’s central and northern Sierra mountains are ground-zero for winter travel planning. With six “early adopter” forests – the Lassen, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, and Plumas National Forests, and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit – this region is the first to go all-in on the OSV Rule. You can find out more on our California Travel Planning page.
See below to find out which forests are working on winter travel plans right now and more information on each of these planning processes.
Stanislaus National Forest: The Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) were published on March 22, 2019. The Forest Service held an objection meeting in August 2019 and is currently working on finalizing the plan.
Plumas National Forest: The Record of Decision (ROD) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) were published on August 19, 2019. Objections were due October 4, and we are waiting for the Forest Service to schedule an objection resolution meeting.
Eldorado National Forest: The Eldorado released its Draft Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on October 31, 2018. The Forest Service held an objection meeting in March 2019 and is currently working on finalizing the plan.
Tahoe National Forest: The Tahoe published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) on February 6, 2019. The Forest Service held an objection meeting in May 2019 and is currently working on finalizing the plan.
Lassen National Forest: The Lassen published a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and draft Record of Decision (ROD) published on March 29, 2018. The Forest hosted an objection resolution meeting in July 2018 and should be publishing its final plan soon.
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is also working on a winter travel plan. Although the LTBMU is in the same neighborhood as the 5 forests listed above, its winter travel planning process is not part of the same coordinated effort outlined above. However, we are also actively engaged in travel planning on this forest. The LTBMU published a Proposed Action on September 2019, comments are due November 19.
Shoshone National Forest: Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be published in 2020, followed by a public comment period.
The Natural Resources Management Act (Public Lands Package) passes Congress, things are looking promising on the Tahoe National Forest, and we're hiring a new Executive Director!
https://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IMG_3791-1.jpg5651289Hilary Eisenhttps://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Winter_Wildlands_Alliance_Logo.pngHilary Eisen2019-02-25 18:03:432019-03-07 17:43:29February Policy Update - Exciting Times for Public Lands
Report from DC: what will midterm election results and a new Congress in 2019 mean for backcountry skiers and other winter explorers who love public lands?
https://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Version-2.jpg3501000Hilary Eisenhttps://winterwildlands.org/wwa/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Winter_Wildlands_Alliance_Logo.pngHilary Eisen2018-12-01 10:49:372018-12-01 10:59:22December Policy Update: What the New Congress Will Mean for Backcountry Skiers