Winter Travel Management

Stanislaus National Forest

Stanislaus National Forest issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Over Snow Vehicle Use Designation on August 23, 1918. The comment period will end October 9.

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

OPEN HOUSE SCHEDULED

Tuesday, October 2
6 pm to 8 pm
Stanislaus National Forest Supervisor's Office
19777 Greenley Road, Sonora CA 95370

A public open house meeting has been scheduled to allow members of the public to review project maps and discuss the DEIS with with forest staff. If you want to tell the Forest Service how you appreciate areas where you can go and not be subjected to the sounds, smells, and tracks of snowmobiles, please attend this meeting or submit written comments (see below for how).

DETAILS

The DEIS describes five alternatives. Alternative 3 was developed by Snowlands Network and Winter Wildlands Alliance. Alternative 4 was submitted by snowmobile groups. Alternative 5 was developed by the Forest Service, and is currently their Preferred Alternative.

All of the action alternatives (1, 3, 4, and 5) close lands below 5000' to snowmobiles. Due to the closures of wilderness areas and some inaccessible or low-interest areas, none of the alternatives leave a majority of the forest open to snowmobiles. In fact, the Preferred Alternative opens the least amount of the alternatives, only 11%, while our Skiers Alternative (#3) opens 13%. Even the Snowmobilers Alternative (#4) only opens 21% of the forest to motor vehicles.

However, these figures are deceptive, as most of the desirable land for both motorized and non-motorized recreation remains open to snowmobiles under Alternative 5, the Preferred Alternative.

Alternative 3 would close some popular non-motorized areas to snowmobiles. These areas include the following:

  • Mattley Ridge
  • Cabbage Patch to Black Springs
  • Osborn Hill and Lake Alpine
  • Big Meadow
  • Herring Creek Road

All of these areas would be open to snowmobiles in Alternative 5.

CONFLICTS

The Forest Service defines conflicts in Table S-1 on page x of the Introduction of Volume I of the DEIS. The definition includes such reasonable effects as noise, emissions, and the compaction of snow. However, when they start analyzing when and where conflicts will occur, they limit the discussion to unsafe operation of a snowmobile, such as speeding, and illegal incursions into wilderness or other closed areas. They do not consider that conflicts will occur whenever snowmobilers and skiers must share the same area.

NEAR NATURAL AREAS

The 1991 Stanislaus Forest Plan identifies a number of Near Natural Areas (NNAs), which are the equivalent of Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized areas in other forests. According to the Forest Plan, motor vehicles are not allowed in the NNAs, summer or winter. However, Stanislaus NF has declined to issue forest orders to close these areas to snowmobiles, meaning the Forest does not have the legal authority to enforce the closures. This is allegedly due to pressure from local motorized interests. As a result, snowmobilers have been using the NNAs for recreation purposes for 27 years.

In a meeting in November, 2014, to present the scoping phase of the Stanislaus NF OSV plan to the public, a representative of the Forest Service told representatives of Snowlands Network that the OSV Motor Vehicle Use Map would designate the Near Natural Areas as closed to motor vehicles, and that designation would supercede forest orders.

Alternative 5 specifies that 6,000 acres of land currently within the Pacific Valley and Eagle/Night Near Natural Areas would be open to snowmobiles. This redesignation will require a Forest Plan Amendment. The justification for this change is that these areas were "... historically used by OSV enthusiasts." [DEIS, Vol I, page 26]

Snowlands feels strongly that the Near Natural Areas should not be modified or reduced for the benefit of motorized recreation. The NNAs are candidates for eventual wilderness designation, and they should be managed as wilderness until Congress can designate them as such officially. Snowmobilers should not be rewarded for violating the restrictions in the 1991 Forest Plan by having their dubious practices made permanently legal.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Stanislaus NF has scheduled a public open house on October 2, 1918, to inform the public about their OSV Designation plan.

Snowlands recommends you tell the Forest Service in your own words that

  • You support Alternative 3 as the only alternative that minimizes conflict between motorized and other uses of the forest
  • You would like the Forest Service to set aside the following areas for non-motorized recreation:
    • Mattley Ridge
    • Cabbage Patch to Black Springs
    • Osborn Hill and Lake Alpine
    • Big Meadow
    • Herring Creek Road
  • Do not allow any motorized use of the current Near Natural Areas, and do not modify the boundaries of the current NNAs just to permit snowmobiles to use them.
  • Analyze conflicts as described on page x of Vol I of the DEIS uniformly throughout the forest wherever motorized and non-motorized users share an area.

You may submit comments four ways:

  • Submit comments on the Forest Service project page. (Note that comments submitted this way will be accessible via the Public Comment/Objection Reading Room.)
  • Email comments to comments-pacificsouthwest-Stanislaus@fs.fed.us with the subject line "Comments on Stanislaus OSV Designation".
  • Mail comments to Stanislaus National Forest, Attn: OSV, 
    19777 Greenley Road, Sonora, CA 95370 (or drop off in person).
  • Fax comments to (209)533-1890.

THANK YOU

This is the time for you to let the Stanislaus NF know what changes you want to see in order to improve backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Thank you for participating in this community effort.