Stanislaus 2021 Update

The Stanislaus National Forest signed their Final Environmental Impact Statement and signed Record of Decision on July 13, 2021. In what would seem to be a direct acquiescence to one single, local environmental group, the Forest has removed from their designation (IE closed to snowmobiles) essentially all lands between Highland Lakes Rd, and Pacific Valley, as well as the entire southern edge of the Eagle Meadows area and lands south of the Herring Creek Loop road. Lookout Peak, Marshall Canyon, Willow Flat, and the entire ridge between Long Valley Rd and Waterhouse Lake (everything from Three Chimneys, to Castle Rock to McCormick Pocket) are now closed in this plan. Reasons range from habitat for a frog that hibernates all winter, to potential habitat for a small fur bearer that is not in listed as endangered or threatened. The Forest is simply letting itself be run by someone who has sued them in the past, and they are now trying to appease. These areas were addressed in a meeting with local snowmobilers who informed the supervisor that these areas are essentially all the high elevation, alpine snowmobiling on the Forest, and that closing them was not an acceptable outcome. They were ignored. In addition, the tiny area at Sonora Pass proper that’s not part of the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area (BWRA) will now follow the closure dates that the BWRA uses, to protect the Sierra Nevada Red Fox, which was only discovered in the area in the late 2000’s, when the area was seeing it’s highest snowmobile traffic in history. As recent as 2017 and 2019 when the pass wasn’t opened until midsummer with 10’s of feet of snow on the ground when the BWRA area closes, following this example is a mistake. These closures are unwarranted. In fact, many of the wildlife populations identified have already shown that snowmobiling does not have a detrimental affect on their habitat. The Forest is simply scared of getting sued again. What’s left to legally ride on the Stanislaus is so minuscule, that they designated a virtually useless area off North Fork rd out of Long Barn, south of Bourland Meadow that sits behind a closed gate at 4,500ft elevation for access, making it inaccessible for much of a ‘normal’ snow year, and irrelevant in low snow years. In signing this plan, the Forest has now squandered years worth of potential goodwill with the snowmobile community.