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Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity

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avatar Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 19, 2012 02:15PM
Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
Release Date: Feb 17, 2012 Bishop, CA
Contact(s): Nancy Upham


Snowmobilers Recently Cited for Trespass in Wilderness

Inyo 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.

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.

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.
avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 02:11AM
Just wondering, doesn't aerial surveillance defeat the spirit – if not the law – of the wilderness act?

I thought overflights by motorized aircraft above designated wilderness are supposed to be restricted to emergencies, like search & rescue operations. I thought overflights via motorized aircraft above wilderness areas are not supposed to used for routine law enforcement activities.

One workaround, of course, would be to use non-motorized aircraft, i.e. gliders, for the aerial surveillance. Gliders also would have an advantage for surveillance over motorized aircraft (be it airplanes or helicopters) in that they are a lot quieter (hence stealthier) and can travel in the air at slower speeds without stalling.
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avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 06:03AM
Quote
plawrence
Just wondering, doesn't aerial surveillance defeat the spirit – if not the law – of the wilderness act?.

Do you really think nobody is allowed to fly over a wilderness area?
avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 11:43AM
According to wilderness regulations and laws, overflights by motorized aircraft are supposed to be restricted below certain altitudes.

In practical sense, it's fine for aircraft, like commercial jets (or even general aviation) to fly above designated wilderness areas if they maintain the required altitude. But low level overflights are generally prohibited, unless an exception is made by a specific law.

Here's a link to a 2007 report prepared for Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) explaining the restrictions of motorized transport within designated wilderness areas:

CRS Report for Congress: Permitted and Prohibited Uses

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avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 02:50PM
Quote
plawrence
According to wilderness regulations and laws, overflights by motorized aircraft are supposed to be restricted below certain altitudes.

And did anybody say they were flying below that altitude?
avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 06:52PM
For surveillance purposes, the aircraft would probably be flying lower than the required altitude clearance – a lot easier to spot renegade snow mobiliers when flying low versus flying high above the wilderness.
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avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 07:17PM
Quote
plawrence
For surveillance purposes, the aircraft would probably be flying lower than the required altitude clearance – a lot easier to spot renegade snow mobiliers when flying low versus flying high above the wilderness..

Really? Done much flying in small planes?
avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 07:57PM
As a passenger, yes. Especially when I was young.

My father was a general aviation pilot (he also flew sailplanes).
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avatar Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 22, 2012 08:53PM
Quote
plawrence
As a passenger, yes. Especially when I was young.

My father was a general aviation pilot (he also flew sailplanes).
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And for grins let's cite the regulation:

All aircraft are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of lands and waters administered by the NPS, FWS, or USFS Wilderness areas

1. At 2000' AGL a snow mobile would be quite easy to spot.

2. Notice the wording? The minimum altitude is "requested" not required.
Re: Forest Service to Use Aerial and Ground Patrols to Monitor Snowmobile Activity
February 23, 2012 08:28AM
It is expensive but they could always use the U-2. Only kidding.
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