Winter Travel Planning

What’s Happening

The Inyo National Forest must implement the 2019 Inyo National Forest Land Management Plan. Friends of the Inyo is working with the agency to help achieve the goals and objectives set forth in the Plan. One aspect of Plan implementation is completion of Subpart C of Travel Management, also known as Over-snow Vehicle or Winter Travel Planning.  

 

Travel Management Planning is the process by which the Forest Service designates specific trails and areas for motorized use, or non-motorized/human-powered use. The general requirement for this planning has been in place since the early 1970’s, but it was not until 2015 that the Forest Service was required to plan for and manage backcountry winter recreation. The Forest Service’s 2015 Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Rule, (which effectively became subpart C of the Travel Management Rule), created the winter over-snow planning requirement, and established guidance for how it should be accomplished. 

The planning process will allow everyone to provide input regarding locations where over-snow motorized and non-motorized use is appropriate. The planning process is designed to surface opportunities to reduce user conflicts and create the highest quality possible winter recreation opportunities for all users. In addition to public input regarding recreation, protection of the Forest’s biological resources will also be considered, including the health of  wildlife, soils, and plants. As such, the process will provide an opportunity to gather the best available science on natural resources with respect to winter recreation use. This will allow the Forest Service to make sound decisions about areas to be open for different uses based on that science. Impacts from climate change and increased winter use by visitors on the Inyo National Forest require community based, science-driven winter management planning. This is essential to ensure the health of the Inyo National Forest.

Why It Matters

The Inyo National Forest is home to the iconic Mt. Whitney, Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas, headwaters of the Owens River, and it includes the second largest roadless land acreage in California. It offers unparalleled opportunities for recreation of many kinds. Travel Management for summer use was completed over ten years ago, while planning for winter use is long overdue. Other Forests in California have already begun their planning efforts and we are learning valuable lessons from these efforts. Because the Inyo National Forest is primarily a recreational national forest, it is vital we get winter travel planning right and make a sustainable plan for the long-term winter recreation activities the Forest will see into the future. Our hope is that winter travel planning will be much more than just determining what areas should be open to snowmobiles, but examine other activities such as fat biking, ice climbing, the many forms of backcountry riding, and other snowplay activities.

What We’re Doing About It

We began engaging in winter travel planning in early 2016 when the Inyo national Forest began a pre-scoping process to gather public input about snowmobile travel on the Forest. We prepared comments at this time and attended public meetings. The process was put on hold as other Forest Planning efforts took precedent. Now, the Inyo National Forest is re-initiating winter planning and will likely begin scoping in 2021. In anticipation of the scoping period, we are working with the Forest and non-governmental organization partners to collect user and snowpack data at popular snow park areas on the Forest. This data and early conversations with community members will help create a citizens’ alternative for the Forest to consider in their upcoming environmental analysis.

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