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http://www.rgj.com/news/printstory.php?id=82409

Judge scraps Hope Valley snowmobile ban

<mailto:[email protected]> Jeff DeLong

RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

10/8/2004

There is not enough evidence of conflicts between cross-country skiers

and snowmobile riders to justify closing part of a popular valley south

of Lake Tahoe to snowmobiles as demanded by environmentalists, a federal

judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge David Levi found that neither the Forest Service nor

the Friends of Hope Valley have documented a problem serious enough to

warrant a snowmobile ban in the Forestdale Creek Road area of Alpine

County, Calif.

"The court declines to deny access to public lands to any group of

citizens based on surveys that do little more than ask skiers if they

like snowmobilers," Levi wrote in his Sept. 30 decision in Sacramento.

In the latest move of a 12-year-old conflict, Levi sided with

environmentalists. He found that the Forest Service had failed to

adequately address environmental impacts of snowmobiles in a management

plan update for the area and that there is insufficient evidence to

justify the snowmobile crackdown sought by environmentalists.

The judge also ruled that Forestdale Creek Road is under the

jurisdiction of Alpine County - not the federal government - a

conclusion environmentalists described as a setback in efforts to

segregate snowmobiles from quieter types of winter recreation.

"I think it is really disappointing," said Debbi Waldear, president of

Friends of Hope Valley. "Now that it's considered a county road it

probably will not be closed (to snowmobiles). At this point it's going

to be really difficult to keep it for skiers only."

Pliny Olivier, president of the Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Association,

welcomed the ruling for those enjoying a sport he said is under

increasing attack by the government.

"It is what we hoped for," Olivier said. "We never did see a real

problem."

The conflict dates back to 1992, when the Forest Service initiated

efforts to update management strategies for the Forestdale area,

including the road used to access terrain used by both skiers and

snowmobile riders. Critics at the time cited a growing conflict between

snowmobiles and backcountry skiers and insisted the area be closed to

the machines.

When the Forest Service declined, environmentalists sued, first in 1997

and after that suit was settled, again in 2000. The Forest Service

attempted to reach a compromise several times, last year proposing a

partial closure in a plan rejected by the Alpine County Board of

Supervisors.

In finding that the Forest Service failed to comply with the National

Environmental Policy Act with regards to studying the impact of

snowmobiles, the issue has come full-circle, District Ranger Gary Schiff

said. The judge remanded the issue back to the Forest Service for

"further proceedings."

"We're going to have to go back to the drawing board for a third time,"

Schiff said. "Our interest is providing quality experiences for both

snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. Obviously, we have yet to achieve

this goal."

This time around, the Forest Service likely will try to focus on an area

larger than Forestdale, Schiff said. By examining all of Hope Valley or

an even larger area of Alpine County, spots that could be set aside for

motorized and non-motorized winter sports might be successfully

identified to everyone's satisfaction, Schiff said.

"The only way to resolve this without continued administrative appeals

and litigation is for reasonable people to come together in a reasonable

way," Schiff said.

Both Waldear and Olivier said they would participate in talks addressing

winter sports across a wider area of Alpine County.

But snowmobile riders are not interested in losing more ground in Hope

Valley for their sport, Olivier said.

"We understand that for some people, having a snowmobile in the area is

not acceptable for their outdoor experience," Olivier said. "But some

people want motorized vehicles completely eliminated, and we consider

that unacceptable."

Waldear said she hopes some compromise is possible.

"There is room for both activities, but there's a conflict when they're

together," she said.

Copyright C 2004 The Reno Gazette-Journal

 

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Damn Tree Huggin Hippies, tell me something, do these enviomentalists ever go out and actually do the clean-ups on the trails, or do they just drive their jettas eat tofu, and think of ways to fuck with people that could easily use them as hood ornaments? I know the people here in texas fighting land access are not the Hippies, but instead are the greedy land owners, that do not want to give up an inch of their property, but would like to do nothing but gain more property, who cares if the land was given to the State, for use as Public land, but they try to look over that fact.
 
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