Covid-19 Statement

These are difficult times in which to live. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many deaths, serious illnesses, and financial hardships for many. For those of us who are the least affected, we are still limited in our travel, both self-imposed and by the government. For some, it has caused separation from friends and family. At Snowlands Network we wish you all the best and an end to the misery that Covid-19 has caused.

Snowlands Network has not taken a stand on whether it is right or wrong to venture into the backcountry during these times. Going into the backcountry for hiking, backpacking, or skiing seems like a good idea because they are good physical exercise and naturally create social distancing. But back in April, mountain rescue organizations were urging us not to put them at risk by taking risks in the backcountry. The Forest Service and mountain communities asked people not to visit.

Although Covid-19 is still spreading fast, many people want to travel, and traveling to the mountains has become even more popular of late. Businesses that are open want you to visit. If you do travel, or even if you stay near home, please exercise distancing, wear a mask while in public, wash your hands regularly, and do not touch your face.

Covid-19 has disrupted ongoing environmental initiatives in which Snowlands Network is involved. The largest of these is winter travel planning on six forests: Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Plumas, Lassen, and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU). Decisions have been postponed, resolution meetings have been delayed, and less efficient video conferences have been substituted for in-person meetings. The Forest Service is working to adapt to the current situation while keeping their employees and members of the public safe. Snowlands Network has recommended that the government exercise caution in proceeding, even if it means deadlines will not be met. Nevertheless, we are working with the same enthusiasm as we have always done in the past and are monitoring progress on management plans as best we can.

Four forests -- Lassen, Tahoe, Eldorado, and Stanislaus -- have published draft decisions for Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) management and completed the objection process. We are waiting for their final OSV plans to be published. We expected that Lassen would have completed a final plan by the 2020-2021 season, but anticipate that they may not because of the pandemic. Plumas NF is in the middle of the objection period and has a new Forest Supervisor. They are planning on having video workshops to give objectors a chance to present their issues to the new Supervisor. LTBMU has published a scoping proposal, and we are waiting for a propsed plan and Environmental Assessment.

The administration has proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The changes, if adopted, would streamline the NEPA process for development and extractive industries and reduce the involvement of the public and our ability to influence decisions that will adversly affect the environment. NEPA has been a very powerful tool that has kept exploitation of our natural environment in check. For more information on the proposed changes and how they might affect land management in the future, see the Winter Wildlands Alliance website. WWA and 21 other environmental and recreation organizations are suing to prevent changes to NEPA regulations.