Silent snow sanctuaries preserved in draft winter travel plan

Winter is finally on its way! At the end of a long work week, a few of us make plans to get out our winter gear to go play in the snow on Saturday morning. Snow is in the forecast!

It’s a beautiful morning; big snowflakes are piling up on our hat brims. Winter birds call from the white firs:  Mountain Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Our hearts pound as we gain elevation on the gentle grade, reveling in the cold fresh air and quiet.

We all agree on our love for the Feather River Region. Each of us, in our own way and according to our own values, cherishes the moments we get to spend outdoors sharing our time and traditions with family and friends.

Today, more than ever, we need places where we can go and experience clean air and quiet.

Getting outside and exercising in fresh air is vital to our health. Experiencing the quiet of nature allows us to connect with our environment and clear our minds. In today’s chaotic world people need refuge from the pollution and noise of civilization. Currently, the only refuge for non-motorized winter recreation on the Plumas National Forest that regularly receives snow is the Bucks Lake Wilderness. Of the 152 peaks in Plumas County over 6,000 feet in elevation only a handful do not allow snowmobiles on their summits.

With 97 percent of the Plumas National Forest currently open to over-snow vehicles, there are few places where people can experience winter without the noise and smell of machines.

Fortunately, the Plumas National Forest Draft Winter Travel Plan balances the availability of motorized and non-motorized winter recreation opportunities and minimizes impacts to natural and cultural resources.

We commend the Plumas National Forest for carefully drafting a Winter Travel Management Plan that thoughtfully balances the needs of wildlife with the desires of all winter visitors.

Friends of Plumas Wilderness strongly supports Alternative 2, otherwise known as the Proposed Action or Preferred Alternative, because it prohibits motorized winter use in Wilderness, Inventoried Roadless Areas, Wild Rivers, Research Natural Areas, Special Interest Areas, and in big-game winter habitat.

The Proposed Action curtails snowmobile use below 3,500’, areas which rarely receive adequate snow for the sport. The justification for omitting snowmobile use in low-elevation areas is to protect big-game winter habitat and to decrease damage from snowmobiles operating in areas with little snowpack. Approximately 11 percent of the Plumas National Forest is below 3,500’ in elevation.

About half of the area where restrictions on over-snow vehicles are proposed are below 3,500’ in elevation. The other half are in congressionally and administratively protected areas:  places recognized for unique botanical, geological, scenic, and cultural values.

The Proposed Action allows snowmobile use on 72 percent of the Plumas National Forest. The Preferred Alternative also proposes to improve the quality of winter motorized recreation west of Lake Davis by formalizing established routes.

We believe that the Plumas National Forest has nearly hit the mark in their effort to balance the availability of motorized and non-motorized winter recreation opportunities while minimizing impacts to natural and cultural resources.

You can learn more about the Draft Winter Travel Management Plan by visiting our website, plumaswilderness.org. Our site provides a link to a Forest Service page where you can comment on the Proposed Action. Your comments will help the Forest Service refine their Proposed Action.

We urge all types of winter recreationists to provide comments to the Plumas National Forest so we can create a Winter Travel Management Plan that provides quality recreation opportunities for all types of winter forest visitors.

Friends of Plumas Wilderness is a non-profit, grass-roots conservation group that has been dedicated to studying, exploring, and maintaining the integrity of natural ecosystems where the Sierra and Cascades meet since 1975.

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