Winter Travel Management

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) has begun an environmental planning process for Over Snow Vehicle Use Designation to comply with new Travel Management, Subpart C (36 CFR Part 212) regulations. This process will determine where snowmobiles will be permitted and prohibited in the Lake Tahoe basin on National Forest land.

LTBMU hosted three public open-house meetings to afford the public an opportunity to view maps of the Basin, learn about the process, and submit comments in a period known as "pre-scoping". As part of that process, members of the public may submit pre-scoping comments by postal mail to:

Jeff Marsolais
c/o Winter Travel Management
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
35 College Dr
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150

Comments may also be submitted by email to:

comments-pacificsouthwest-ltbmu@fs.fed.us

with the subject "OSVUM". All pre-scoping comments should be received by May 2.

The LTBMU has set up a project page for this project.

Snowlands has submitted a proposal for a comprehensive management plan that includes an additional 9.5% of the LTBMU closed to snowmobiles and the requirement of best-available technology motor vehicles in the Basin. Our proposal may be found here and a map of the LTBMU showing the existing and proposed closures here.

Background

In 2013, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) of the Forest Service revised its land management plan. Snowlands commented extensively during the plan revision process, requesting that the LTBMU undertake a review of winter travel management.

In response to Snowlands’ comments, the LTBMU convened an initial public meeting in August 2011 to discuss the conflicts in winter recreation along the Mt Rose highway. This collaborative process included professional mediators contracted by the Forest Service and was later expanded to include consideration of conflicts throughout the Lake Tahoe basin. Representatives from the Sierra Club and other organizations also participated in this process.

We continue our advocacy to cause the Forest Service to more proactively address winter travel management in the LTBMU. The Forest Service must recognize that changes are necessary and are not going to be easily achieved through a collaborative process. Due to the one-sided nature of conflicts between the motorized community and the nonmotorized community, this is a one-sided issue. Where uses conflict, nonmotorized users are simply displaced. Although one may ask the OSV community to voluntarily limit the terrain they use, resolution of this type of conflict generally requires proactive leadership by the government.

During the plan revision process, Snowlands advocated for the protection for nonmotorized recreation of an area we referred to as “The Quiet Quadrant”. (It is not very quiet today.) The Quiet Quadrant is the northeast corner of the basin, including the lands between Brockway Summit on Highway 267 and Spooner Summit on Highway 50. There is a high demand for winter recreation in this area, and the area could serve larger numbers of the public with less environmental damage if it were restricted to nonmotorized use. It also contains riparian habitat draining directly into Lake Tahoe.

During the plan revision process, we also asked for the phase-out of older two-stroke snowmobile engines from the basin, similar to the prohibition of older two-stroke personal watercraft (jet skis) from Lake Tahoe. Due to their greater noise and greater emissions, the carbureted two-stroke engines have a substantially greater impact on other recreation users and on the environment.

We asked for other winter motorized closures, including at Fallen Leaf Lake and Blackwood Canyon, that would allow snowmobile travel to continue on designated routes.

Comprehensive Compromise Proposal

During the collaborative process, we have offered to reduce these demands. We proposed to snowmobile representatives of a comprehensive compromise proposal that modifies the demands we made in the plan revision process in an attempt to reach a collaborative resolution. We continue to discuss this proposal.

Perhaps most significantly, we offered to accept a limited version of our Quiet Quadrant proposal that allows snowmobile recreation to continue in some portions of this area (including off-road travel) at all times, and for a temporal restriction on snowmobile use in other popular areas. Under this proposal, the shared lands would be closed to snowmobile use at certain times and open to snowmobile use at other times.

Our comprehensive compromise proposal only increases the amount of lands in the Basin that are closed to snowmobiles from 48% to approximately 58%. (This 58% figure includes lands such as lower Blackwood Canyon that have designated snowmobile routes running through them, but does not include lands that are subject to time-shared use.) We believe this is fair, among other reasons, based on relative numbers of users. Excluding users at developed ski resorts and users taking guided snowmobile tours, we believe the number of backcountry nonmotorized users in the Lake Tahoe Basin exceeds by many multiples the number of backcountry motorized users.