Carson River’s East Fork Hot Springs: A Quandary
By Debbi Waldear
The hot springs area along the East Fork of the Carson River is
being “loved to death.” For years it’s been
overused and abused by several user groups. Rafters, hikers, and
- most of all - people in off road vehicles (OHV) use this popular
area. Floating the river, a seldom-used trail, and challenging
rough roads access the area. The hot springs’ small beaches
are scared with trash, the remains of trees cut for firewood,
spent shells of gun target practice, and new user-created roads.
These new roads lead to several river crossings, as well as straight
up the river’s canyon walls.
Carson River Strategy was completed in 2007. The objective of
this effort was to identify a plan of action for enhancing the
management of lands in the East Carson River watershed. It stated
concern was an increase in user-created camping sites and roads,
fire rings, and trash along the East Carson River corridor. To
date, the Alpine Watershed Group has completed projects up-stream
along Highway 89. The problems at the hot springs area were discussed
during mutli-agency and volunteer group river runs the last two
summers. Many ideas were proposed to clean up the area but, so
far, none of them have been acted upon. It’s up to the Forest
Service to determine what the next steps will be taken.This devastated
area needs attention. At times an OHV user group will clean up
the area – only to be ‘loved’ with trash again.
roads leading across the river should be barricaded, user- created
roads closed, and the hot springs’ natural environment restored.
There are no signs in the area; friendly educational signs would
be a good place to start. Friends of Hope Valley has volunteered
to help pay for signs. The Forest Service (FS) has been reluctant
to put signs in the area, for fear they will just be shot up.
Presently the FS is looking into bulletproof signs. We are hopeful
that signage will be put in place by next spring to educate the
public as to the rules for using the area and the reasons for
continue to pressure the Forest Service to address this ever-increasing
Since the beginning of the 20th Century, aggressive fire suppression
and timber harvest activities have substantially altered forested
landscapes, including the reduction of quaking aspens. There has
been a 50 to 96 percent loss of aspen in the west. Although no
wildlife species is totally dependent on habitats dominated by
aspen, this cover type adds significantly to the richness of the
wildlife in areas where it occurs.
Prior to European settlement, the natural fire regimes helped
balance the abundance and distribution of tree species that occupied
a specific area. Aspen stands are indicators of moist soil conditions.
In northern California, a significant portion of aspen stands
have been heavily encroached upon by lodgepole pine and other
conifers, thus reducing the amount of water available and the
ability for aspens to exist.The U.S. Forest Service implemented
an “aspen enhancement” project this past summer in
Hope Valley. The project was off of Scott’s Lake Road. The
goal is to enhance and expand some existing aspen stands that
are declining in size and vigor due to encroaching conifer trees
that shade out and replace shade-intolerant aspen. The project
will restore an ecosystem component that has diminished in size
and vigor. Aspen enhancement includes removal of conifers up to
30” diameter at breast height from within aspen stands and
for a distance around the aspen stand. This treatment occurred
on approximately 46 acres.
The U.S. Forest Service plans to continue this treatment on several
areas in the Monitor Pass area. Friends of Hope Valley has been
a long time advocate of the re-establishment of aspen in Alpine
County. We look forward to viewing the results.
the Ranch Lands
One of the visual charms of eastern Alpine County are the rolling
pastures of its large cattle ranches, many of which have been
in operation since the late 1800s. With only a handful of owners
controlling most of these thousands of acres, the question that
sometimes arises is: What would happen if one of these ranchers
decided to develop his land?
In the current economic climate, development pressures are almost
non- existent. But times change. Markleeville, for example, is
nearly surrounded by pasture owned and operated by one person—Ted
Bacon, whose home base is the lovely Jubilee Ranch just south
of Genoa, Nevada. Mr. Bacon has been a wonderful steward of his
Alpine County lands over the decades but will the next generation
do the same? What will the future bring?
Is there value in trying to preserve ranch lands? For many, aesthetics
alone make a strong case for preservation. But the value of ranch
lands goes far beyond the beauty they provide. Jacques Etchegoyhen
of Terra Firma Associates in Minden, Nevada puts it this way:
Ranch lands provide “numerous and critically important ‘ecosystem
services.’ These range from habitat enhancement and groundwater
recharge to floodwater attenuation and basic food provision.”
Habitat enhancement has many elements, including food, water,
nesting sites, year- round cover, protection from predators, and
corridors for easy movement for a multitude of local and migratory
Apart from the outright purchase of ranch land, one less expensive
and thoroughly viable way to protect it is through a conservation
easement, which can be either donated or sold by the landowner
and which restricts most future development, leaves the ownership
of the ranch otherwise unchanged, permits the ranch to continue
operating normally in perpetuity, and often provides tax benefits.
Terra Firma Associates, for example, has to date helped acquire
more than 13,500 acres of conservation easements in nearby Carson
Valley, Nevada—most recently the Scossa home ranch on Foothill
Road. The preservation of Alpine County ranch lands, however,
remains a topic for the future. Is a win-win solution possible?
All we can say so far is that the conversation has begun.
Valley Restortation Project
As a result of various historical uses and ongoing recreational
impacts, the stream channel in large portions of the West Fork
of the Carson River is incised and continues to be downcut. This
processes result in areas of unstable banks and an in-stream habitat
that lacks complexity and provides much more limited cover for
The overall goal of the Hope Valley Restoration Project is to
restore the full range of ecosystem services this highly visible,
well-known meadow has the potential to provide. These “services”
include natural water storage, flood attenuation, cooling and
filtering of water, healthy aquatic and riparian habitat, as well
as recreational values.
At the last stakeholder meeting in Spring 2013, we expected to
complete National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process
and other permitting for the project in 2014. This process was
delayed approximately one year due to Forest Service budget and
work-plan constraints. We now anticipate completion of the NEPA
process and other permits by Spring 2015, and aim to implement
the project in Fall 2015. American Rivers, the national conservation
group involved in this project, has secured funding to cover approximately
half the cost of implementation and has been invited to apply
to another funding source to cover the other half.
Bottom line: things are moving! Not only that--the above timeline
seems a realistic one.
AUGUST 2015 UPDATE
All environmental compliance permits have been submitted and are
in the process of being reviewed. NEPA is nearly complete and
we are expecting an exemption from CEQA from the Regional Water
Quality Control Board, concurrent with issuance of the 401 permit.
We have been awarded funding from the CA Wildlife Conservation
Board, Wildlife Conservation Society and National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation for implementation and are aiming to begin construction
in mid-August, pending permit approval and a successful bid process.
Construction is planned to last from mid-August until mid-October,
pending weather. We are now in the process of developing final
designs and specifications, and the bid for construction.
For more information go to:
is key to acceptability
Friends of Hope Valley believes that if all facets of the Proposed
Project were implemented that it would have a net benefit to the
non-motorized community. The following pairs of quiet use and
snowmobile opportunities are presented to show the balancing.
Quiet-use opportunity. The Forestdale Creek area
up to Forestdale Divide will be closed to snowmobiles when there
is sufficient snow at the Blue Lakes SnoPark for snowmobile use.
This typically is from early or mid-December through early or
early or mid-April. Therefore most of the winter season it will
be closed. Prior and after the closure period snowmobiles will
still be restricted to the road through the Forestdale Creek area.
Snowmobile opportunity. Improve accessibility
of the Monitor Pass area to snowmobiles and open portions of the
area that are currently closed to snowmobiles. This will include
creating a staging area at Loope Canyon, which is above the current
road closure point. This will also afford better access for non-motorized
users wanting to access the Heenan Lake area that will remain
closed to snowmobiles. The south side of Monitor Pass area will
remain closed to snowmobiles when deer are present.
Quiet-use opportunity. The north side (actually
it is west) of Highway 88 from Carson Pass to Picketts Junction
will be closed to snowmobile use with one exception. That means
Crater Lake, Scotts Lake,Red Lkae Peak and Stevens Peak will be
off-limits to snowmobiles. The exception is that there will be
a route on a road through the area that connects the Armstorng
Pass area with the lands in Hope Valley south of Highway 88. This
is to allow snowmobilers to ride from South Lake Tahoe to Blue
Lakes. The route through the area will get minimum grooming. The
purpose of the grooming is to define the route but not create
Snowmobile opportunity. Improved snowmobile staging
at Centerville. Centerville is located at the eastern winter closure
of Highway 4. Snowmobiles currently park here but use is low because
there is a section of Highway 4 (called the Flintstones) that
is avalanche prone much of the winter. An old road that bypasses
the Flintstones would be repaired where it was washed out. Highway
4 from Centerville to Ebbetts Pass may be groomed for snowmobile
Quiet-use opportunity. Create a parking area
at Red Corral on Highway 88 to increase access to quiet-use terrain
north and south of Highway 88. Improved parking at Picketts Junction
(Burnside Road). These two parking areas may become SnoParks.
Shoulder-parking on Highway 88 will be prohibited over a 4-mile
stretch except for several turnouts that allow additional access
to the north and south sides of Highway 88.
Snowmobile opportunity. Additional parking, including
overnight parking, at the Blue Lakes SnoPark.
Snowmobile opportunity. The pruning of trees
and installation of markers along the primitive road from Blue
Lakes to Highway 4. This divides the Mokelumne Wilderness into
two pieces. Snowmobilers occasionally use this route. These improvements
are intended to help motorists stay within the non-wilderness
corridor. This snowmobile route will not be groomed.
Action needs details
Friends of Hope Valley 's review of the NOPA revealed that the document
needs more details. Therefore it is extremely important that you
take the time to write the Forest Service to express the need for
improvements to the description of the Proposed Project.
The Notice of Proposed Action is available online at
and maps are available online at
Your comments must be mailed (postal or email) by COB (close
of business) on June30, 2007.
Please don’t put it off. Write NOW!
Carson Ranger District
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Attn: District Ranger Gary Schiff
1536 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89703
or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What to write
We do not give you a sample letter because we want you to put your
comments in your own words. We have provided points that are critical
and additional points that are also important. Pick and choose depending
on your feelings.
- State that you
are commenting on the NOPA for the Alpine County Winter Recreation
- State that you are
a skier (or snowshoer or hiker) and why you enjoy the sport.
For example, you may backcountry ski because you enjoy the solitude
of the mountains in winter and to get away from the noise and
pollution of the city.
- State that you
find snowmobile use incompatible with your enjoyment of you
winter backcountry. For example, the noise of snowmobiles destroys
the solitude, the smell of snowmobile exhaust pollutes the pristine
environment that you come to enjoy, and that snowmobiles tear-up
the snowscape quickly leaving behind frozen ruts that are dangerous
for skiers and snowshoers. Maybe you feel unsafe when you have
to be in close proximity with snowmobiles (explain why).
- The lack of details
such as to the location of the snowmobile boundary in the Monitor
Pass area, the lack of details regarding how the various components
of the Project will be implemented, and no indication as to
what alternatives may be considered in the Environmental Analysis
make it impossible to effectively comment on some aspects of
the NOPA. Therefore a comment period after the EA and before
a decision must be provided.
- The closure of
the Forestdale Creek area to snowmobile use is the most important
part of the Proposed Project.
- The resource protection
measures in the Proposed Project are inadequate to deter snowmobile
trespass into areas closed to their use. The Project must include
new, innovative techniques, such as remote sensing and a fast
response team, in order to provide enhanced enforcement.
- The Proposed Project
must provide for an annual review of snowmobile compliance and
there must be penalties for non-compliance.
- How the components
of the Proposed Project are implemented is critical. Implementation
must be done in balanced pairs of motorized and non-motorized
benefits.-- Thank the Forest Service for working with all recreation
user groups to come up with an equitable plan.
The Winter Recreation Plan for Eastern Alpine County now is in
the hands of the Forest Service and is presently going through
NEPA funding procedures while input and coordination with other
agencies is being developed. This project would improve winter
recreation experience for both motorized and non-motorized users
in eastern Alpine County.
Friends of Hope Valley, in conjunction with other user groups,
individuals and agencies, participated in the formulation of this
plan, and indeed, our Board President, Debbi Waldear, was instrumental
in the genesis of this plan. Essentially, this plan would delineate
areas of use, address parking and camping issues as it seeks to
enhance the experience for all winter users by presenting a good
balance of opportunities.
During the recent comment period, Friends urged the Forest Service
to act with all possible speed on the implementation of this plan
as well as the need for enforcement once the plan is in place.
This winter’s light snowpack and motorized growth has resulted
in chaotic use of Hope Valley by snowmobiles. Wilderness incursions
in the Forestdale Creek headwaters have been frequent, and the
concentration of use by machines is resulting in environmental
degradation as well as unacceptable noise levels. Snowmobiles
are now being seen in areas where they’ve never been seen
Although the initial scoping comment period is over you can still
let the Forest Service know how you feel. Ask them to act quickly
and stress the need for designated areas for motorized and non
motorized users. Express outrage that motorized users are violating
What you can do: view
Send comments to: email@example.com
or write to Marnie Bonesteel, Carson Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe
National Forest, 1536 So. Carson St., Carson City, Nev., 89701.
Work Party Day
of Hope Valley Newsletter Fall06/Winter07 (PDF)
Of Friends: Updates
- Federal agencies
have proposed corridors for electricity transmission and gas
lines across the Sierra. One of these corridors may impact the
Mokelumne Wilderness; another may follow Hwy 88, a designated
scenic highway. The Friends participated in the public scoping
process for the environmental impact statement addressing the
Energy Policy Act of 2005 and will continue to monitor this
- FOHV submitted
comments and questions in response to the DEIR for Mahalee Village,
a proposed project consisting of approximately 200,000 square
feet of commercial space, fractional ownership cabins, and a
lodge to be built on 36 acres in Markleeville. The issues addressed
were of water, wastewater, aesthetics, and the sheer size of
- The Sierra Nevada
called together its conservation allies in the Eastern Sierra
subregion to discuss the role of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy
and the services it could provide. The FOHV, with other conservation
groups, land trusts and watershed groups, including the Alpine
County Watershed Group, created a document discussing the unique
context of the Eastern Sierra subregion and the services they
would like the Conservancy to bring to bear on priority issues:
water resources, recreation and tourism, community development,
and land use.
- The Friends and
Snowlands Network have collaborated on a proposal designating
areas for motorized and non-motorized winter use in eastern
Alpine County. This document was recently submitted to the Forest
Service. The process has involved many meetings with all parties,
in an attempt to reach an amiable agreement.
- FOHV donated $2,300
to the Alpine County Watershed Group. The money is to be used
for clerical support, enabling its director Laura Leuders to
proceed more efficiently with the watershed group╣s projects.
Valley needs your Help! |
of public officials threaten the scenic beauty of Alpine County.
The winter repose of the Sierra, free from the gas driven
mechanized vehicle, is vanishing.
an Activist of the Friends of Hope Valley. We need a battalion
of interested individuals to attend critical meetings and
write letters. Be willing to attend meetings held during the
week in Alpine County. Give us your email
address. We will alert you to important meetings and provide
background information for issues of interest to you that
will be discussed. Alpine County's policy makers must hear
We must be proactive, rather than