ALERT: World Class Snowmobile Riding Area, Sonora Pass, Needs Your Help!

SAWS Action Alert

 World Class Snowmobile Riding Area, Sonora Pass, Needs Your Help! ( West Hoover Travel Management Plan)

Comments must be recieved at the address below by December 30, 2004 

The Forest Service is soliciting your comments on the Travel Management Plan.  Following are the ways that you can submit comments:

1.)   Email (preferred):

2.)  Postal Mail: Kathleen Lucich, Bridgeport District Ranger, HCR1 Box 1000, Bridgeport CA  93517

3.)  Fax:  (775) 355-5394

 For more information contact the Forest Service at: (775) 331-6444 or on the web at:

 The Bridgeport Ranger, Kathleen Lucich, can be contacted directly at: (760) 932-7070

 This is your chance to undo a great travesty!

The West Hoover Proposed Wilderness Addition, commonly known as the ÔÇ£Sonora Pass areaÔÇØ, is currently closed to snowmobiles.┬á However, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest has initiated a planning process that could make it LEGAL to ride here once again.


The FS needs to be flooded with comments from the snowmobile community.  Anyone that has ridden this area on a snowmobile will never forget it.  It is truly one of the finest places in our nation to enjoy our great sport. 

The FS is soliciting your comments on a Travel Management Plan for the area.  There are 3 alternatives, two of which would allow snowmobile use.  SAWS representatives have analyzed the alternatives and believe Alternative C is the best choice for the snowmobile community and are asking everyone to mobilize in support of this incredibly spectacular area.

There are 2 separate, but related, issues in the scoping notice:

The future management of both the Proposed Addition to the Hoover Wilderness (West), and the Leavitt Lake Road corridor, are being considered.

The FS West Hoover scoping notice and map detail the alternatives being submitted for public comment.

View the notice and map here:

In relation to the matter of managing the entire proposed Wilderness addition, the FS has proposed 3 Alternatives:

Alternative A would re-open some of the currently closed area. ┬áSAWS believes this may, on the surface, appear to be a reasonable compromise, but it would continue to deny access to what are arguably this areaÔÇÖs best snowmobiling opportunities.┬á The area that would be re-opened with this alternative is a relatively small percentage of the entire area in question.┬á We do not believe this represents the best alternative for the snowmobile community.

Alternative B would continue to keep the entire area (except the Leavitt Lake road corridor) closed to all forms of motorized travel.  This is obviously the least desirable of the alternatives.

Alternative C, the alternative SAWS supports, would provide access to the entire area for over-snow motorized travel.  This is the alternative that SAWS is asking all snowmobilers to support.

Below are Key Points to use in your comments on supporting Alternative C in relation to management of the Proposed Addition to the Hoover Wilderness:

We advise a brief paragraph telling the FS about yourself, and about how much your family enjoys snowmobiling.

Tell the FS you support Alternative C. Alternative C is manageable, enforceable and represents the best choice for snowmobiling in this area.

Tell the FS you oppose Alternative B.  Alternative B would close one of the most valued snowmobiling areas in the nation.  Alternative B is an unfair and arbitrary closure because snowmobiling in the West Hoover area is totally appropriate and can be effectively managed under either Alternative A or C.

Additional Comment Points:

Snowmobiles have a minimal, if not imperceptible, impact on this areaÔÇÖs character, and on the actual land itself.┬á The Bridgeport Ranger and many others in the FS already acknowledge this.┬á Over-snow motorized travel will in no way harm the area.┬á The Marine Corps special use permit authorizes use in the area for training, including the use of large tracked vehicles, as well as helicopters, in their exercises.┬á If this type of use is permissible, snowmobile use certainly should be permissible as well.┬á Impacts from both are temporary and do not change the character of the area.┬á This is why Alternative C is appropriate.

This particular area provides access to miles and miles of above the tree line riding that simply does not exist in any other area of California currently open to snowmobiles.  Traveling to the southern parts of the area, which would only be possible with alternative C, provides spectacular views of the northern reaches of Yosemite National Park.

Already MORE than enough Wilderness exists in California as a whole, and this area in particular.  The existing Emigrant Wilderness to the west, the Hoover Wilderness to the east, and Yosemite NP to the south, all border the area in question.  The Carson-Iceberg Wilderness lies just up the ridgeline to the north of Highway 108.  The proposed Hoover Wilderness addition is the only area south of Sonora Pass that has not already been locked up permanently by being declared a Wilderness.  Enough is enough!

The US Marine Corps operates a mountain warfare-training center and conducts field operations in this area, both within and outside the area in question.┬á With the exception of the Leavitt Lake corridor, and the slopes around Leavitt Lake itself, where the Marines conduct avalanche and winter survival training, most of their field operations take place north of Highway 108 and east of Sonora Pass.┬á Concerns have been cited over possible conflict between snowmobilers and the Marines as a reason to close this area to snowmobiles.┬á The fault in this argument is that conflicts have historically been minimal.┬á Should the closure continue, snowmobilers would be forced into areas north of Highway 108, and east of Sonora Pass, where most of the MarinesÔÇÖ activities take place.┬á Conflict would in fact be more likely with the closure in effect than without it.

The local economies of Bridgeport and Lee Vining to the south, Walker and Coleville to the north, and other small businesses in the area are already in a position of dealing with considerably less out of town traffic in the winter months.  Further restricting snowmobiling opportunities will only serve to drive away more people that would otherwise be spending money with local merchants and service providers.  Most local community leaders and chamber of commerce members support snowmobiling.

Background Info:

The actual disposition of the appropriate management strategy of this area has been a matter of debate, and has become hotly contested within the last year.┬á It has been the position of Kathleen Lucich, the Bridgeport Ranger, that the area in question is an ÔÇ£existing closureÔÇØ that simply had not previously been enforced.┬á Many others have maintained that the area should revert to ÔÇ£traditional useÔÇØ, which includes over-snow motorized travel, because of CongressÔÇÖ inaction, for over 20 years, as to ultimately deciding whether the area is to be officially designated as a Wilderness.

Motorized vehicle users, particularly over-snow vehicle users, rightfully consider de facto Wilderness of this sort unacceptable.  It is an underhanded process, employed by those who oppose motorized recreation, to put too much public land under lock and key.  The decision to enforce the existing closure is what has brought this issue to a head.

Until the ÔÇÿ03/ÔÇÖ04 season, snowmobilers enjoyed responsible use of this area.┬á During that season, the ranger took the approach of using enforcement personnel to engage in a period of ÔÇ£educationÔÇØ to inform snowmobilers that the area was actually a closure and that enforcement would begin with the ÔÇÿ04/ÔÇÖ05 season.┬á That strategy has been met with fierce opposition.┬á The most public display of that opposition to date was at the Bridgeport chamber of commerce meeting in March of this year.

The original decision to manage the area as Wilderness was based upon an interpretation of the language in the 1984 California Wilderness Act that ordered the Forest to:┬á ÔÇ£Subject to valid existing rights, the planning areas designated by this section shall for a period of four years from the date of the enactment of this title, be administered by the Secretary of Agriculture so as to maintain their presently existing Wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.ÔÇØ

First, the mandate was to protect the ÔÇ£presently existing Wilderness characterÔÇØ that existed in 1984.┬á Snowmobiles had been using this area for over 20 years by 1984, and local users report that snowmobile use was very heavy in the late sixties and early seventies.┬á At that time, the local Bridgeport snowmobile club had over 75 members, and use levels have recently increased to historic peak use levels in the last couple of years.┬á The area had ÔÇ£Wilderness characterÔÇØ in 1984 just as it does today, even with ongoing snowmobile use.┬á This ongoing over-snow use does not do anything that would preclude Congress from designating the area in the future.┬á There are no ground disturbing activities or permanent development or facilities that alter the natural state of the area. ┬áAdditionally, the congressional mandate was for only 4 years, which expired some 16 years ago.┬á

In relation to the 2nd item, the management of the Leavitt Lake road corridor, we are presented with 2 alternatives.  Neither would have a significant impact on over-snow vehicle travel.

Alternative 2 is the less restrictive of the 2 options we are presented with.  Please bear that in mind if you choose to address this issue.

The following information is for our members as a sign that SAWS is not alone in fighting this closure.

The Blue Ribbon Coalition and the California/Nevada Snowmobile Association are working on this issue.  The BRC has been of great assistance to SAWS by providing facts about this issue to help us in preparing this Action Alert for our members.  With the combined voices of SAWS members, the BRC, and CNSA, representing the interests of snowmobilers against this closure, we are very excited about achieving an ultimate resolution of this issue that will re-open this area to snowmobiling.  None of this can happen without involvement though.  Send your comments and make your voice heard.

 Johny Welch
CA/NV SAWS representative
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

Copyright ┬® 2004 Snowmobile Alliance of Western States. All Rights Reserved.┬á

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