The fabulous and wild skiing terrain around Sonora Pass, Leavitt Bowl, the Emigrant Wilderness and the proposed Hoover Wilderness Additions is facing a huge threat by large numbers of snowmobilers from all over California and the west.
Toiyabe National Forest recommended the Leavitt Bowl-Tower Peak-Piute Meadows area, which lies just east of Sonora Pass and abuts the Emigrant Wilderness, for wilderness designation back in 1986. A large portion of the Forest Service-proposed Hoover Wilderness Additions is contained in Senator Boxer's California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, S. 1555.
The Forest Service is supposed to manage the area to retain its wilderness values, which include not allowing snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles in the proposed wilderness. Unfortunately, the Forest Service has not been doing its job! As a result, illegal snowmobile use has been escalating over the past 18 years; the use has dramatically increased in the past five years. The illegal use has been occurring not only in the proposed Hoover Wilderness Additions, but also in the adjacent Emigrant Wilderness and Yosemite National Park.
The Forest Service, due to its inaction over many years, has unwittingly created a huge constituency larger than any of us imagined against the wilderness additions. The Blue Ribbon Coalition, a national off-roaders' group, says, "Anyone who has ever snowmobiled in this area knows that this is the most spectacular snowmobiling in California. This area is incomparable and irreplaceable and will be a huge loss to the snowmobile community if the closure is enacted."
Not only are the snowmobiles illegal, but witnesses have documented them spilling odorous, petrol-contaminated snow in the Leavitt Creek watershed, smashing exposed vegetation in springtime, and high-marking recklessly in avalanche-prone bowls.
Good and Bad News
Due to increasing complaints by citizens, concerns about safety expressed by the U.S. Marine Corps (which trains troops in the winter in the Leavitt Bowl portion of the proposed wilderness addition) and aerial patrols by the neighboring Inyo National Forest which have documented many violations in recent years, the Forest Service said they would begin enforcing snowmobile violations, but not until 2005.
The really bad news is that the Blue Ribbon Coalition is blitzing the Forest Service with letters and there are signs that it may back down and not enforce the regulations.
What You Can Do
The Blue Ribbon Coalition is fighting the Forest Service's proposal to enforce the law. Your letters are urgently needed to show the Forest Service that there is support for enforcement of the regulations! Please send a letter today to the Forest Service and tell them to protect wilderness values, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing opportunities, and enforce the law.
What to Say
• Tell the Forest Service you strongly support its decision
to enforce the existing snowmobile closure in the Leavitt Bowl/Sonora Pass
area. Illegal users should be cited.
• Ask the Forest Service to sign the area immediately and start enforcing the closure now, not beginning next year. Illegal snowmobile trespass in existing and proposed wilderness has got to stop!
• Tell the Forest Service you support Wilderness designation for the proposed Hoover Wilderness Additions. Remind them they need to manage the area as Wilderness until Congress acts or the Forest Plan is revised accordingly.
Send your letters and e-mails to:
Kathy Lucich, District Ranger
Bridgeport Ranger District
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
HCR 1, Box 100
Bridgeport, CA 93517
Please CC your letter to:
Bob Vaught, Forest Supervisor
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
1200 Franklin Way
Sparks, NV 89431