Hearing set on clash between skiers and snowmobilers
Cross country skiers and snowmobile riders will square off Saturday over a proposal by the U.S. Forest Service to restrict the use of snowmobiles in a popular recreation area of Alpine County.
As part of a court-mediated resolution of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, the Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District is proposing to ban snowmobiles from about four square miles of the Toiyabe National Forest surrounding Forestdale Creek. The area of the proposed ban of motorized vehicles includes the Lost Lakes basin.
For each side in the dispute, the stakes are high.
“We are up in arms over this,” said Beverly Morris, a snowmobile enthusiast who operates Performance Sleds in South Lake Tahoe. “They’ve already shut down three-fourths of that area over the last few years. This would completely shut us down.”
To the skiers of Nordic Voice, a Sierra Club interest group, finding backcountry areas without the noisy presence of snowmobiles has become increasingly difficult.
“Solitude and unspoiled settings are the principal pleasures of backcountry skiing,” said Marcus Lipkind of the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter. “The increasing number of snowmobilers are making these qualities hard to find. If you wanted to be around automobiles, you could stay in San Francisco.”
Jocelyn Biro, recreation planner for the Carson Ranger District, said the Forest Service is reviewing its evaluation of roads in the area, as well as examining the closure of Forestdale Creek Road to mechanized travel in the winter.
“The Forest Service does not have a position at this time,” Biro said. “Social conflicts between different groups of users are hard to manage. These two groups represent two very opposite ends of the spectrum. We hope to bring together a common understanding of each other’s needs.”
But Morris said snowmobilers have already lost large areas of terrain through federal wilderness designations, and said she opposes giving up any more.
“We’ve been laying down while they’ve taken away our areas,” she said. “We’re not going to lay down any more.”
But skiers see federal forest regulations as favoring a decision that would preserve some areas for them, Lipkind said.
“With few exceptions, most wilderness areas are not accessible to even intermediate skiers,” he said. “We would like to work with the snowmobilers to solve the problems. But what we have found in California is that snowmobilers don’t believe backcountry skiers have any rights to areas of their own.”
At a glance:
What: Hearing on proposed restrictions on snowmobiles in Alpine County
Who: U.S. Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District
Where: Turtle Rock Park, Markleeville
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, March 21
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