NEVADA CITY, Calif. July 1, 2012 - On June 1, the Forest Service released its draft revised management plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin. The plan defers consideration of changes to winter motorized recreation management, essentially treating winter as a less important time of year. Snowlands Network urges the Forest Service to revise the draft plan to address this issue. The winter season is important to the Lake Tahoe Basin and deserves Forest Service attention now.
"The Lake Tahoe national forest lands must be managed to maintain their unique qualities, including air and water quality and recreation opportunities," said Gail Ferrell, President of Snowlands Network. "Though winter motorized recreation may be a difficult issue due to the vigor with which the motorized community protects its interest, such difficulty does not excuse management deferral of this issue. This is particularly true now, when the entire management plan is being revised. Now is the time to address the snowmobile issue."
Unlike summer off-road vehicle use, which is confined to designated trails and areas, winter motorized recreation is largely unrestricted. Over-the-snow vehicles (OSVs) may travel cross-country and on all lands outside of Wilderness except where the Forest Service has mandated areas for non-motorized winter use. Although the Forest Service has implemented some OSV closures in the Tahoe Basin, the increase in demand for winter recreation makes it imperative that the Forest Service take additional action.
"Motorized recreation is incompatible with non-motorized recreation," said Marcus Libkind, Snowlands' Chairman. "Motorized recreation pollutes the air one breathes, ruts the snowscape and creates loud noise in an environment where one seeks quiet and serenity. A small number of snowmobile riders can thereby render a large area unsuitable for much larger numbers of skiers and snowshoers. This has happened in the Tahoe Basin, including at the Brockway and Spooner summits, where skiing and snowshoeing have essentially been eliminated as an enjoyable activity. Snowmobiles will continue to impact further areas unless the Forest Service takes action."
Snowmobiles are very high-impact vehicles, capable of "high-marking" steep alpine slopes, and emit approximately 100 times as much pollution as cars (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). The relative impact of OSVs grows more significant each year due to continued efforts to reduce automobile emissions and the lack of comparable attention to OSV emissions. Much of this pollution is deposited on the snow and enters the watershed through snowmelt. In addition to pollutants such as carbon monoxide that are immediately harmful to one's health, snowmobile exhaust contains nitrogen compounds that contribute to Lake Tahoe's turbidity by stimulating algae growth.
"Although a strong environmental claim can be made for the total elimination of snowmobiles from the Tahoe Basin, Snowlands' objectives are only to have the Forest Service manage for a balance in winter recreation opportunity and to eliminate the noisiest and most polluting OSVs," said Bob Rowen, Snowlands' Vice President of Advocacy. "There is no acceptable reason that the Jewel of the Sky should suffer from highly polluting forms of recreation. Unfortunately, the Forest Service continues to defer close consideration of the snowmobile problem. In its review, the Forest Service failed to address the impact of snowmobiles on air quality and water quality, even though snowmobiles are the most highly polluting recreational vehicle for consumer use and Lake Tahoe is cherished for its pristine waters."
Snowlands Network is a 501(c)(3) organization, based in California, that advocates for clean and quiet winter recreation and has approximately 500 members.
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