Forest Service seeks public input on Draft Forest Plan

At the beginning of June, the US Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit released its Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). As part of its Forest Plan revision process, the Forest Service is asking for public review and comment on four alternatives for managing National Forest land in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The 90 day public comment period ends on August 30, 2012.
Read TAMBA’s Comment Letter Submitted to the Forest Service, and write your comment letter today!

CLICK HERE To view the Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan and relevant maps.

The following is a summary compiled by TAMBA to provide information to fellow mountain bikers on how this Forest Plan might impact mountain biking in Tahoe.

Why is this Forest Plan important to mountain bikers?
The Forest Plan is the framework that guides on-the-ground projects and program activities on Forest Service land in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Two of the four alternatives of the Draft Forest Plan propose new management areas which could impact existing mountain bike trails and future connections.

How many mountain bike trails are managed by the Forest Service in Tahoe?
Over 75% of the land in the Lake Tahoe Basin is public land managed by the Forest Service. Therefore, the majority of trails open to mountain bikes are managed under the Forest Plan. In basic terms, National Forest Land is managed under 3 different designations: (1) General Conservation, (2) Backcountry, and (3) Wilderness. For the most part mountain bikes are allowed on multi-use trails in the General Conservation and Backcountry areas. Many Wilderness areas already exist within the Lake Tahoe Basin and, as we all know, bikes are not allowed in these areas. Because of this, many areas are not as well connected as they could be with multi-use non-motorized trails.

What are the basic points of the Draft Forest Plan as they relate to mountain biking?
The plan has four alternatives, which have been developed over several years through a lengthy and rigorous public input process. Of the four alternatives, the Forest Service has a preferred alternative which serves as the Draft Forest Plan. Under the Forest Service’s preferred Plan, there would be no negative impact to mountain biking or mountain biking trails in the Lake Tahoe Basin. This preferred alternative will not close any mountain bike trails and will allow for proper management of those trails for years to come, such as rebuilding and reroutes. However, two of the four alternatives which are currently up for public review and comment could significantly impact existing and future mountain bike trails.

What are the four Alternatives in the Draft Forest Plan and the differences between them?
Alt. A: No Action – Current management under existing plan as amended and implemented.
Alt. B: Draft Plan/Preferred – Management similar to current standards, and responds to present management direction and science such as climate change.
Alt. C: More aggressive approach to fuels management, allows slight increase in recreation facilities, and recommends Dardanelles IRA for Wilderness designation. This would close mountain bike trails such as the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) from Big Meadow/Highway 89 to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at Meiss Meadows, along with Christmas (Lake) Valley Trail, Round Lake, Scotts Lake, and Dardanelles Lake.
Alt. D: Passive management emphasis relying on n
atural processes, allows slight decrease in recreation facilities, recommends Dardanelles and Freel IRAs for Wilderness designation. This would close all the same mountain bike trails as in Alt C. In addition, it would close the TRT from Star Lake to Highway 89, Mr. Toads Wild Ride (Saxon Creek), Armstrong Trail and the newly built Star Lake Connector Trail.

Why do two alternatives propose new Wilderness areas in Tahoe?
Alternatives C and D were developed through the public scoping process. These two alternatives were brought to the table by the conservation community and are analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), currently out for public comment. These two alternatives are not being recommended by the Forest Service as their preferred management approach however.

Has TAMBA talked to any of the conservation groups that want more Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe Basin?

Yes. Four TAMBA board members and a representative from IMBA recently sat down with the chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club and a director of the California Wilderness Coalition. They showed us maps that proposed new Wilderness in areas that were slightly different than what is shown in Alternatives C and D of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The proposed Wilderness areas shown on their maps would generally keep existing mountain bike trails open in Alternatives C and D, but would surround them by Wilderness, thus limiting the potential for reroutes and future connections. These Wilderness proposals are not part of the Draft Forest Plan on any formal level and are not endorsed by TAMBA. As stewards of the land, TAMBA agrees on many levels with fellow conservation groups, however we differ on the need for more designated Wilderness in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

As a mountain biker, should I be worried about immediately losing access to existing multi-use trails?
No. However, you should be aware that two of the four alternatives do propose new Wilderness areas. We also need to realize that there will always be conservation groups advocating expansion of Wilderness Areas in Tahoe, which could potentially close existing trails to mountain bikes and would make it almost impossible to create future connections of multi-use trails. That said, it takes an act of Congress to designate new land as Wilderness, so even if one of those alternatives is selected, there is still a lengthy public process before a Wilderness designation could be made.

What should I do as a mountain biker?
Continue to enjoy the great riding opportunities we have here in Tahoe, help out on trial days, join TAMBA if you are not already a member, and please ride responsibly on open trails. The Forest Service is soliciting comments from individuals, so if you support the Draft Forest Plan, please review the maps and the document, and submit your comments to the address listed on the Forest Service website no later than August 30, 2012. At this time we are not calling for a mass letter writing campaign from our membership, just meaningful comments. The TAMBA Board will be submitting its own comment letter, which will be posted on the TAMBA website soon. In addition, consider attending a public meeting (see schedule below).

Important Dates:

Draft EIS Comment Period – ends August 30th
Final EIS – late 2012
Objection Period – 60 days

Decision: Revised Forest Plan effective late 2013