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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.

The East 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.

Access 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 these regulations

We will continue to pressure the Forest Service to address this ever-increasing problem.


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.

Preserving the Ranch Lands
Greg Hayes
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 wildlife species.
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.

Hope 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 native wildlife.
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.
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:


Balance 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 a raceway.

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 use.

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.

Proposed 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.

More information
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

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.

Critical points

  • State that you are commenting on the NOPA for the Alpine County Winter Recreation Project.
  • 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.


Winter Recreation 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 before.
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 wilderness boundaries.
What you can do: view the plan
Send comments to: or write to Marnie Bonesteel, Carson Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, 1536 So. Carson St., Carson City, Nev., 89701.

Annual Work Party Day

Friends of Hope Valley Newsletter Fall06/Winter07 (PDF)

Work 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 situation.
  • 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 project.
  • The Sierra Nevada Alliance 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.

Hope Valley needs your Help!

Decisions 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.

Become 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 our voice.

We must be proactive, rather than just reactive!