Skiers’ ‘reasonable compromise’ response to the Over Snow vehicle draft EIS

After reading last week’s From Where I Stand by Congressman Doug LaMalfa, we too felt prompted to respectfully write in response to the comments presented regarding the Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Just as some of last week’s OSV comments were based on long-time local knowledge, we write this as 45-year local Plumas County skiers who have sought “reasonable compromise” positions to the challenges faced in the Plumas National Forest (PNF) Winter Travel Management Plan. We too support opinions of local people, whether snowmobilers or skiers. We are familiar with many of the areas historically used since the early 1970s by backcountry skiers. We have tried to gain some understanding about the places our snowmobile friends historically and currently ride including particular areas of concern noted in last week’s Where I Stand article.

We have been invited during the past two years to try and work collaboratively, to help find “reasonable compromise” positions on skiing and snowmobiling on “the Plumas.” We were first invited by the Plumas County Planning Department to serve as skier representatives on the “Plumas County (OSV- Skier) Coordinating Committee.” Skiers, OSV enthusiasts, and staff planners were in this group.

Time has passed since those early meetings and many comments have been submitted by local people and varied organizations. A final meeting to review and comment on varied PNF DEIS proposals took place in Graeagle and Oroville recently, where interested people could discuss their concerns with PNF staff. At that local meeting, we had productive talks particularly with two key OSV and access representatives and we seemed to be reaching tentative solutions on difficult OSV-skier issues.

In our final DEIS comments to the PNF, we submitted input we believe supported important skier, non-OSV areas as well as comments supporting equally important OSV areas.

Last week, we were among a small group of seven people consisting of two skiers, two OSV access advocates, and three PNF lead planners who attended a special snowmobiler-requested meeting to discuss, and hopefully help resolve, certain contentious issues, some of which were noted in last week’s article. We described what we hoped to accomplish and why PNF should consider our collective input.

Additionally, we reviewed maps that tried to review specific on-the-ground solutions. Our goal for this meeting was to present what we thought were “reasonable compromise” solutions.

We favor the general “framework idea” that both OSV and skier non-motorized recreation can help stimulate economic development winter tourism in Plumas County.

Our particular areas of interest includes the Bucks Summit OSV and skier/ snowboarder use areas and the skier oriented area around Johnsville and Jamison Canyon adjacent to the Lakes Basin OSV area. These are the areas we had been discussing most directly and which were noted in last week’s Where I Stand article.

Our skier “reasonable compromise” positions were pre-discussed with our OSV partners. The highlights of our skier proposal, including OSV concessions, were presented to the PNF-OSV group as follows.

To begin, we did not discuss the Lake Davis area in our group.

Our skiers’ proposal regarding Jamison, Rock and Wades Lake in the upper basin of Little Jamison Canyon supported keeping the upper basin above Rock and Wades and Jamison Lakes open, not closed to OSV use. This is a change from Preferred ALT 2 in favor of OSV access. However, in recognition of the “Triple Crown” skiers route, we favor no OSV use on the main and secondary summit areas of Mt. Washington and Mt. Elwell, which we were initially told were rarely accessible to most OSVs. We also favor leaving Florentine Canyon as a no-OSV area as proposed in Alternative 2. We believe this is an important part of the proposed historic “Lost Sierra ski Traverse” discussed later.

Regarding the Pacific Crest Trail crossing issue, we favor retaining ample and safe OSV crossings as needed. In particular, we favor maintaining ridge and road corridor access between the important Lakes Basin OSV and La Porte OSV “Centers.” More specifically, from Lakes Basin, this means reasonable access and crossings of the PCT along Luther Ridge to the A Tree Road continuing down to the La Porte Road to the general end of McRae Ridge where the no-OSV designation ends.

Another “reasonable compromise” position of great OSV concern, which we supported regards “CFR” restrictions and OSV access issues. We support clearer definition regarding 36 CFR Part 212, subpart C, sections 261.14 and 261.15. We believe some USFS roads which pass through designated non-OSV zones should be legal for OSV use and or trailering/ staging. One noted example of this was in Meadow Valley at Spanish Ranch and the area adjacent to Deanes Valley via Sneider Creek Road where CFR rules seem to fully restrict OSV access to backwoods open OSV areas.

We believe at least some key access roads should be defined as open for OSV on-road use through proposed no OSV zones protecting many thousands of acres of OSV use along the Highway 70 corridor all the way to Highway 395.

One crucial exception we must note regards Silver Lake Road in Meadow Valley. This is an example where we ask OSV users to access open OSV terrain via alternative approved access roads leaving Silver Lake Road as a no OSV designation beyond the private land holding on the lower road. This proposed no OSV road restriction to Black Gulch and Silver Lake protects a 40 year, existing, highly used skier, “quiet mountain sports” zone. In 40 years of skier use along this road, it has been rare to ever see an OSV. We believe this is a reasonable compromise solution as we advocate for allowing CFR related OSV access to thousands of acres of open OSV areas.

Our skier position also favors the proposed OSV groomed access to the Bucks/Bald Eagle Mtn. area as shown in preferred Alt. 2. The proposed groomed road route allows OSV access to the Bucks/Bald Eagle Mtn. area.

Finally, we strongly advocate that the PNF planning process should consider the internationally recognized, unique ski history of the PNF, generally known as the “Lost Sierra.” Some of America’s very first skis, skiers, and the documented first ski races in America occurred in Plumas County between La Porte to Onion Valley to Johnsville beginning in the 1850s and 1860s.

In addition to the front country accessibility and popularity of skiing on the peaks around Johnsville, we believe the PNF should support the “Lost Sierra Ski Traverse,” a multi-day ski mountaineering route between Johnsville to Onion Valley to Nelson Creek, a concept which recognizes and celebrates the 165 years of well documented ski history in the Plumas National Forest and Plumas Eureka State Park.

In conclusion, we believe that OSV users and skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers can try to work together to solve some of these conflict issues We are not interested in favoring a certain group of users but are about favoring reasonable compromise, bi-partisan, local oriented solutions.

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