Winter Travel Management

Stanislaus National Forest

FINAL PLAN PUBLISHED

Stanislaus National Forest has published a draft Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement for their Over Snow Vehicle Use Designation plan. The plan greatly reduces the amount of land on the Forest where snowmobiling is allowed, from the current 59% to a projected 14%. However, those numbers are deceptive, as much of the loss in areas open to snowmobiles will be in low elevation land and in areas that are inaccessible because of the lack of plowed roads. In actuality, opportunities for snowmobiles will be similar to what they are now.

The plan does very little to improve the opportunity for quiet, non-motorized recreation. The Selected Alternative (Alternative 5 – Modified) maintains the current closures at Round Valley off Highway 4 and the marked trails in the Dodge Ridge area, plus closing much of the Big Meadow Campground area in Bear Valley, the western and eastern shores of Lake Alpine south of Highway 4, and a small area just north of Herring Creek Road off of Highway 108. However, Herring Creek Road itself is still open to snowmobiles, Osborne Hill just south of the Lake Alpine Sno-Park is open, and the entire area north of Highway 4 west of Bear Valley Villange, an area which include the popular backcountry touring areas around Cabbage Patch Road and Mattley Ridge remain entirely open to snowmobiles.

Even worse, the proposed plan would now officially open snowmobile use in some of the areas that were designated as Near Natural in the 1991 Forest Plan. Under that designation, these areas were to be managed as "semi-primitive, non-motorized," and no snowmobiling should have been allowed there. However, the forest never issued the Forest Orders that are required to legally enforce the closures. As a result, snowmobiles have been using these Near Natural areas for thirty years in violation of the designations in the Forest Plan. Now, Stanislaus wants to allow snowmobiles in these areas legally by modifying the language of the Forest Plan.

OBJECTIONS

Snowlands will be submitting a formal objection to the draft decision. Anyone who has commented upon the details of the plan during public comment periods may file an objection. The objection may only be on issues on which the objector has already commented. The comment period for the Stanislaus OSV plan will end May 6. A separate objection period for the proposed amendment to the Forest Plan ends May 21.

You can learn about the Stanislaus plan on their project page.