Kurt Hildebrand

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January 25, 2013
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Pine Nut plan revision concerns off-roaders

Revision of the federal management plan for the Pine Nut Mountains has off-road enthusiasts concerned about their favorite trails in the area.

Blue Ribbon Coalition Public Lands Director Brian Hawthorne said the goal of the plan is to get everyone on designated trails.

"The focus now is on motorized users," he said. "We're looking at more closures and limitations. But we're up first. Mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers are also likely to be limited."

Hawthorne said that the coalition recognizes the need for establishing trails for off-road use.

"We don't think every route needs to stay open," he said. "The idea is to minimize our impact. But we also want a diverse range of trails for a variety of skill levels. There is a range of ability, not all of us want to ride or hike on a road."

The Coalition's concern is whether the Bureau of Land Management will accept help with the trail inventory and whether that inventory will be included in one of the alternatives in the plan.

"At this stage in the game, all we're asking is to be in one of the alternatives. It's a long process. We'd like to see one alternative that doesn't treat motorized recreation as pariahs. The last thing we want is to really damage an area."

Complicating the effort in the Pine Nuts is the checkerboard of ownership across the mountain range.

In addition to public land, there are Washoe Tribal allotment lands and private property throughout the area.

"There's a community of private enthusiasts who are willing to help map trails," Hawthorne said. "The question is whether the BLM will accept or at least consider those maps. Or will they decide it doesn't live up to our highly technical data standards so we're not going to accept those maps."

Hawthorne said he's hopeful that the coalition can work with the BLM in providing information.

"I think it can happen there," he said. "We're cautiously optimistic, but it all depends on how the well-funded environmental groups act."

The planning area encompasses about 5 million acres of public land managed by the BLM in Carson City, Douglas, Washoe, Storey, Lyon, Churchill, Mineral, and Nye counties in Nevada, and Sierra, Alpine, Plumas, and Lassen counties in California.

Work on the route inventory began is part of the revision of the 2001 Resource Management Plan, which began in February 2012. The planning process is expected to take about four years. In addition to the plan, the BLM must complete an environmental impact statement.

Federal officials are developing alternatives through the winter. They released scoping reports on the plan and the impact statement, and on a socio-economic report this month.

According to the socio-economic report, the BLM controls 162,460 acres, or about a third of Douglas County. That report says 17.2 percent of Douglas County residents were born in Nevada, the lowest of any county in the planning area.

A draft of the plan and the impact statement are scheduled to be completed in spring 2014.

Revising the plan is necessary to address a number of new issues, higher levels of interest around existing issues, and new public land uses and concerns that aren't included or adequately addressed in the 2001 Carson City Field Office Consolidated plan. The BLM has identified the need to address travel management/recreation for off-highway vehicle designations and special recreation management areas in the revised plan.

In October, the BLM held three public workshops on travel management planning. BLM officials made a presentation to Douglas County commissioners in August.

Douglas County is pursuing a lands bill through Congress that would set aside 12,000 acres on the east slope of the Pine Nuts as a wilderness area.

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The Record Courier Updated Jan 27, 2013 11:49AM Published Jan 25, 2013 09:42PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.