LAKE TAHOE BASIN

We knew it was coming. It’s here. The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) has released their scoping proposal for what’s equal parts a winter recreation plan as it is a snowmobile management plan. This is part one of what will be a three part process, scoping with an opportunity to comment, draft plan with another opportunity to comment, and draft final plan with a chance to object. The project page is located here:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47342

Links to maps of proposals

http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/102063_FSPLT3_4842628.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/102063_FSPLT3_4842627.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/102063_FSPLT3_4842630.pdf

http://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/102063_FSPLT3_4842629.pdf

COMMENTS ARE DUE BEFORE NOVEMBER 19

The Good

There is language in the proposal to provide for increased parking around the lake for everyone, motorized or not. This is huge. Non-motorized parking takes some of the stress off the areas we can ride by giving skiers somewhere else to go without just closing more areas to us. More motorized parking at least in theory spreads everyone out. This one has potential. The Tahoe Backcountry Alliance got everyone’s attention years ago by saying they were going to improve parking for skiers, yet mostly what they’ve done is try to close snowmobiling areas to their neighbors on the Tahoe National Forest to the north. This their chance to follow through on the trust they gained 5 years ago from the skiing community but have yet to fulfill.  The majority of their board members are affiliated with Winter Wildlands, let’s see if they’re more than just one-trick ponies that can do something besides just shut down snowmobiling. Tell the LTBMU that they’re on the right track with this one. More parking for EVERYONE.

The Bad

The LTBMU thinks adequate snow cover for OSV use only occurs between November 1 and April 15. They’re proposing an OSV season with these dates. How someone in the Forest Service could experience a winter like 2019, or 2017 and think April is the end of winter here is a mystery. We’ve all driven up Mt Rose hwy and seen 12ft walls of snow well after April 15. Let them know this is crazy. We know 4 months ago was a really long time but they should have better memories. Snowpack in Tahoe just doesn’t work like that.

Just plain wierd

The LTBMU is proposing to close the small area south of Mt Rose Hwy west of Chickadee Ridge on alternate days. For you Incline locals we know this about the only safe place to ride on heavy storm days, without getting underneath the bowls of Relay Ridge with high avalanche danger and poor visibility. It doesn’t work too well on the Rim Trail for mountainbikers and hikers here, so we’re not sure what they think this will accomplish. For skiers that don’t want to be around snowmobile tracks, the tracks will still be there, from the previous day. As with the rim trail for mountainbikers, prepare to be yelled at by hikers who are confused about the date. On high avalanche danger days, this essentially closes off all riding on Mt Rose. This is unacceptable.

Proposed Closures (since no OSV plan is ever without them)

Hellhole

The LTBMU has apparently detected at least one Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog in the area. Although this is an endangered species, the frog hibernates all winter long, living in rodent burrows well under the surface of the ground, and certainly well under the surface of feet of snow. The Forest Service has no guidance telling them they have to close an area to OSV use once a Yellow-Legged Frog is detected. This doesn’t reflect the reality of over snow vehicle use which occurs on….you guessed it…..SNOW. If there’s enough snow at the staging areas for Hellhole, there is certainly far more snow up in the drainage. Remind the LTBMU that snowmobiling doesn’t happen when frogs are susceptible to interference. They can protect the frog without removing us during a season when the frog is nowhere to be found.

Area around the Pacific Crest Trail, north of Barker Pass

This is a bad one for the sled-skiers out there. Ever topped out on Barker Pass out of Blackwood Canyon and gone north, either for the views or for ski laps? The LTBMU thinks hikers on the PCT here need protection. We think there should be hikers present if they want to make this argument. As far as how a theoretical skier got there, coming from the north would put this mythical creature already passing through three ski areas at Sugarbowl, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. An approach from the South from the only accessible parking area at the pct is a THIRTY FOUR MILE hike. Why in the world someone would pass up time in Desolation Wilderness to go straight to the only publicly accessible snowmobile area on the west shore for a non-motorized experience makes zero sense.

Between Upper Incline Village and the boundary with Mt Rose Wilderness

We’re not quite sure what they’re trying to solve here. Of particular interest is that this closure extends just over the state line onto the lookout ridge between Crystal Bay and Kings Beach. We know some of you Kings Beach locals ride up here on heavy storm days. Conflict? Hardly. It’s neighbors saying hi to one another, and enjoying the snow, regardless of how they got there. We hope the LTBMU can visit this area in the winter sometime before closing it so they can see how ridiculous closing it would be. It’s a solution in search of a problem.  

Proposed Openings

Well at least we can say it’s a first. Snowmobilers never get areas opened. However upon closer inspection, it’s more of a map exercise than adding much. There’s not much meaningful gain that we can see.

Area Between Spooner Summit and Glenbrook

How this became a proposed opening is again, leaving us scratching our heads. There’s no parking, the area starts at 7100ft, only goes down in elevation, faces predominantly southwest, and again, we’d love to hear where we’re supposed to park. We’re wondering if Glenbrook is full of motorhead snowmobilers that need a place to ride (not really, we know it’s not). This is not a gain, in any way shape or form comparable to what’s being removed. The LTBMU has added this area simply to claim they added acreage, only so that they can take away acreage that actually means something. If you have any strong feelings about this area, now is the time to let us know.

Area around Incline Lake

While we’re happy it’s at least being considered, we also know this is area managed like this will produce far more conflict than has ever existed here. Either open this side of the road or don’t, and drop the alternating days across the street. This is not a suitable exchange for losing the area between the highway and Diamond peak every other day of the week. Tell the LTBMU to just open Incline Lake and Incline Peak, without the confusion of alternating days across the street. On low snow years, there’s just not enough acreage up here to cram everyone into, especially losing what’s quite a bit of acreage on the south side of the highway. Skiers have plenty of other high elevation zones to access, we do not.