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Winter Travel Management

Stanislaus National Forest

OSV PLAN IN EFFECT

A Stanislaus National Forest Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) management plan has been put into effect with the publishing of an Over-Snow Vehicle Use Map (OSVUM) as shown below. This is the beginning of the end of a long, multi-year process that started in 2011 with a lawsuit by Snowlands Network, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and the Center for Biological Diversity against the Forest Service for grooming snowmobile trails without analyzing the effect on the environment. A later lawsuit won by WWA now requires that any National Forest with adequate snow for OSV use must designate where OSVs are allowed. Use outside designated areas is illegal and subject to fine or imprisonment.

In settling the lawsuits, the Forest Service agreed to begin the process of designating OSV use areas for five California forests: Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, and Stanislaus. The Stanislaus is the first and so far only forest to implement a plan. The others should have their plans in place by next season.

The Stanislaus OSV plan goes into effect immediately with the publishing of the OSVUM. The plan opens 13.2% of the forest land to OSV use and excludes wilderness areas, all land under 5000 feet elevation, and selected areas set aside for non-motorized use or resorts. A minimum of 12 inches of snow is required for OSV travel, with 24 inches required in two sensitive meadow areas.

The new plan conforms more closely than the current status to the forest's 1991 land management plan, which designated Near Natural areas that are supposed to be non-motorized but were never closed with a Forest Order. OSVs have been using these areas contrary to the management plan for 30 years. Most, but not all, of these areas will now be closed under the new plan, and the land management plan will be amended accordingly.

Snowlands supports the new plan, even though it does not represent a major win for non-motorized recreation. The Near Natural areas that will be closed to OSV use under the new plan are located a long way from the nearest trailhead and cannot be used by the vast majority of casual non-motorized recreationists. However, the closure represents a real win for sensitive wildlife in these areas and increases the chance that some of these areas will be designated as wilderness in the future.

More information about the new OSV plan may be found on the Stanislaus NF website. You can download a PDF version of the OSVUM here. You can get additional information including a video introduction to the plan by Forest Supervisor Jason Kuiken from the Stanislaus NF Facebook page. Detailed information about the OSV plan process is available on the FS project page.

Stanislaus OSVUM

Stanislaus over snow vehicle use map map legend