Tahoe Basin snowmobile access eyed

Katherine E. Hill

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is working on the Winter Recreation and Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Management Project. OSVs include snowmobiles, snowbikes and other motorized winter equipment. Read Tahoe Weekly’s coverage on all of the OSV plans in the region at TheTahoeWeekly.com/access.

The U.S. Forest Service is analyzing the more than 1,000 comments it received in 2019 and developing alternatives to the proposed action. The alternatives will be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Assessment, which is expected to be released in late 2023 for public comment, according to a press release from the Forest District.

The existing OSV Use Map is still in effect during this time and no changes to the OSV map have occurred.

Major issues that are driving the development of alternatives include: Snow depth requirements and season of use for OSVs; high-use conflict areas; impact to sensitive areas and species of concern; impact of OSV use on neighborhoods; access points for OSV use; separation of uses; and suggestions for additional areas for grooming.

Parking lots
Many of the existing winter snow parking areas along the highways and roads that were commented on are not on Forest Service land and are not within the District’s jurisdiction and The Winter Rec project will not address these parking areas, according to the release.

There is, however, a comprehensive winter parking planning project in development with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency recreation working group to address winter parking in Lake Tahoe. The Winter Rec project does propose new parking areas on Forest Service lands, however, and some of the alternatives to be released in 2023 will include additional winter parking areas that the public has helped to identify.

Map errors
An error on the original proposed action maps around the Glenbrook area on the East Shore led to some confusion about the proposal for OSV use in that area. Although the proposal was correct on the map, the wrong background color was used, which incorrectly implied that OSV use would extend up to the neighborhood.

The corrected map was added to the website. In addition, this area received substantive comments during scoping that warrant the analysis of an alternative to the proposed action in that area.

Current OSV operations
There was some confusion about whether there has been a change to where OSVs can operate currently. No changes to the existing OSV use map have occurred yet. The areas open to OSV use will not change until after a decision has been signed by the Forest Supervisor for the Winter Rec Project.

Next steps
Since the last opportunity for public comment occurred before the pandemic, the Forest Service plans to provide additional information to the public this winter about the comments that were received, as well as the general suite of alternatives that are being considered. Information on the format and time/date of this information will be distributed through its email list.

To receive updates on the project and when the next round of public comments will be accepted, sign up for email updates online. All the project documents and maps are also available online. | bit.ly/LTBMU_OSV