(Inyo National Forest press release)

snomobileInyo National Forest law enforcement personnel have once again started their snowmobile patrols for the 2012 season. In a continuing effort to protect congressionally designated wilderness within the Inyo National Forest from illegal snowmobile use, law enforcement patrols will be routinely patrolling problem areas both on skis and snowmobiles and through aerial reconnaissance.  The patrols will be looking for people whose snowmobiles have strayed into “off-limit” areas of the Forest, such as designated wilderness and other areas specifically closed to snowmobiles.  Areas that will be regularly patrolled include: designated wilderness and Research Natural Areas, the Mammoth Lakes Basin, Obsidian Dome cross-country ski trails, Shady Rest cross-country ski trails and the area west of the G-trail from June Lake Junction south to the Glass Creek Hill.  Free Winter Recreation Trail maps that display where the motorized restricted areas are located can be picked up at the Mammoth Welcome Center.

 During the week of February 13, six local residents were cited for trespassing in the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness, in the area known as the Slash Pit.  Unfortunately reduced snowpack this year has led to a concentration of use in this area.   Law enforcement officials would like to thank the public for information that they have provided regarding snowmobile trespass, and they encourage anyone witnessing violations to call the Interagency Dispatch Center at 760-873-2405.  For more information, please contact Lisa Walker, Recreation Specialist, at 760-647-3031.

The nation’s federally designated wilderness areas have prohibited motorized use since the passing of the 1964 Wilderness Act, making them off limits to all motorized vehicles.  Despite these prohibitions snowmobile tracks and public reports indicate that numerous riders venture into these closed areas every winter season.  Riding in a congressionally designated wilderness or other closed area is a Federal and state offense carrying fines of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail, in addition to possible seizure of the snowmobiles used in the commission of the crime.

 It is the rider’s responsibility to know where these closed or restricted areas are located and their boundaries.  Major winter trailheads and launching points have kiosks with maps showing the restricted areas; maps are also posted online at http://www.mammothweb.com/scripts/usfs/snowcat.cfm.

If in doubt, you should check with a local Ranger Station or visitor center.

The Forest Service recognizes that in this low snowpack year that roads, trails and areas to ride snowmobiles are less available than in normal snow years. This does not, however, change the boundaries of the closed areas.   It is important that riders know where the open snowmobiling areas are located, and that they stick to these areas for their snowmobile riding.

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