New snowmobile rules divide Lake Tahoe outdoor enthusiasts
RENO — Winter recreationists at Lake Tahoe are lining up on opposite sides of Forest Service plans that would close some areas to snowmobiles while opening others currently off limits to motorized use.
“We have different users here that have different ideas about what their optimal recreation activity is or should be,” said Ashley Sibr, recreation planner for the agency’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune and Reno Gazette Journal report that overall, the new plan would close more national forest acreage to snowmobiling than it opens. But the result, if enacted without additional changes, would be a mix similar to the status quo.
About 51% of Forest Service jurisdiction in the basin is open to snowmobiles in the mountains above the Sierra lake on the California-Nevada line southwest of Reno. That doesn’t include state parks or other non-federal land where snowmobiles are prohibited. Under the proposed action, about 49% would be open to snowmobiles.
The service has extended its public comment period on the snow travel management plan through Dec. 9. It planned open houses on the proposal Wednesday in Incline Village and Thursday at the forest supervisor’s office in South Lake Tahoe, California.
In the works for eight years, the Forest Service created a blueprint in 2016 to address public concerns, including parking shortages and increased demand for non-motorized recreation. It also wants to address inconsistencies on maps where it’s unclear what’s open or closed.
The Snowlands Network, an advocate for human-powered recreation such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, is among those backing more restrictions.
“The impacts are profound for both user groups but for the non-motorized user groups, the proposal will push us out of every single place that we love to go,” Gail Ferrell, the group’s vice president, said recently. She said areas near the summit of the Mount Rose Highway connecting Tahoe to Reno attract 40,000 winter visitors annually.
“Where snowmobiles are used, other users that are human-powered avoid them, generally speaking,” she said, “because that’s not why we’re there. We’re there for the peace and quiet.”
Areas that could be opened to motorized use on Tahoe’s north shore include Incline Village between Third Creek and the Mount Rose Highway, on the south shore east of Fallen Leaf Lake and the east shore near Spooner Summit at the junction of Nevada State Route 28 and U.S. Highway 50.
Other places previously open to snowmobiles that could be closed include “Hell Hole” between Incline Village and the Mount Rose Wilderness and near the Granite Chief Wilderness above the west shore within 500 feet (152 meters) of the Pacific Crest Trail. Hell Hole was closed recently after an endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog was discovered there.
Another contentious area near Incline Village north of Diamond Peak Ski Area, known as Chickadee Ridge, has been open to snowmobiles but could be restricted to odd-numbered dates. Non-motorized use would be allowed daily.
Dennis Troy, head of the Sierra Snowmobile Foundation, said opening areas on odd-numbered days doesn’t work.
“People get their days mixed up and then they start arguing with each other about who should be there, who shouldn’t be there,” Troy said. “It needs to be either open or it needs to be closed.”