A decision on whether and where snowmobiles can cross the Pacific Crest Trail near Sonora Pass might not be made this year, according to Mike Crawley, Bridgeport District Ranger for the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest.
The decision, part of a winter recreation plan that aims to increase the economic diversity for northern Mono County, was due out by Crawley early this year.
But on Thursday, Crawley said he just recently found out that the decision requires another level of planning, a forest plan amendment. This, in turn, requires posting, a 30-day comment period, and an appeals period, before the decision can be implemented.
That will likely push the decision, which Crawley has repeatedly said would likely be an affirmative one, off until the snow melts this year.
The recently discovered presence of a very rare species, the Sierra Nevada red fox, near the proposed snowmobile crossing areas has also slowed the release of a decision.
The good news for snowmobilers is that the Bridgeport Winter Recreation Area near Sonora Pass and abutting the Hoover Wilderness Area, snowmobile crossing or not, is being “very heavily used” he said.
“It’s been incredibly popular,” he said.
The heavy winter snow has allowed snowmobilers access to country that is rarely available, let alone available this early in the year.
Problems with snowmobilers driving illegally into the wilderness have been relatively minimal this year.
“The area is really well signed, we have our people out there every day, and people are sticking to the law.”