Defend Your Ground in the Stanislaus National Forest

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of my grandfather, who had passed away after a heroic struggle with cancer. In one of the eulogies at the funeral, my aunt recounted a story where as a young girl she had gone out snowmobiling with a younger version of my Grandpa. Their adventure turned into an emergency when the machine broke down, and they were stuck and alone. My grandpa told his daughter to wait at the sled, and he would be back with help. He hiked out and called in one of his helicopters (yeah, he owned a helicopter company) to go back in and rescue my aunt and recover the machine. Afterwards, he always said, “If you’re going to get a snowmobile, make sure you also have a helicopter.”

Fortunately, disaster was averted. Today, safe snowmobiling has also evolved to where GPS devices and insurance products can make helicopter rescue available for an affordable price if it becomes absolutely necessary. 

Since those heady days in the early days of the sport in the 70s and 80s, improvements and innovations have occurred to make the sport of snowmobiling more safe and fun. Unfortunately, the sport itself is facing an ominous threat in the form of growing movements to restrict winter motorized recreation – especially in the mountainous public land in the West.

With snow falling across many parts of the West, we hope those of you who snowmobile find some time in the coming days to escape into the mountains to lay down fresh tracks from a sled. While we fight for all forms of recreation access, BRC has deep roots in the fights for snowmobile access. Where sometimes the thing you need most in the backcountry is a helicopter, when it comes to fighting for access what we currently need are engaged users, activists, influencers and lawyers.

BRC recently agreed to be part of a legal challenge to the Stanislaus National Forest Winter Travel Plan in California. BRC and the American Council of Snowmobile Associations have joined the Sierra Snowmobile Foundation and several local stakeholders as plaintiffs.

The stakes in this challenge are high. The Stanislaus Winter Travel Plan unnecessarily closes vast areas of the forest to snowmobiling that have long been popular. The plan creates arbitrary minimum snow depth requirements for travel and restrictions based on elevation. Wildearth Guardians and the California Wilderness Coalition have intervened on behalf of the Forest Service and filed their own claim arguing for even more closures, focused heavily on amphibians that are well understood to hibernate during winter months. 

We’re now in court to argue that closing massive areas of a national forest to snowmobiling through the entire winter needs better documentation of real impacts. As part of our commitment to join this case we agreed to help raise the necessary funding to support our participation in this litigation. We’re not alone either. CORVA, ACSA, and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association have made commitments to support the legal challenge. We’ve created a dedicated donation page to support the legal fund for this case, and we need everyone to respond to this fundraiser to support this legal action. Also please forward it to any of your club members our riding groups. If you know any snowmobilers who are influencers with large followings, we need them to spread the word.