WASHINGTON - Pushing ahead despite opposition, Sen. Richard Bryan has asked for a hearing on his plan to designate the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon area a National Conservation Area.
He said the proposal introduced in the Senate last week "would protect not only the majestic beauty of this unique area, but also preserve the Emigrant Trails which are a vital link to the heritage of the west."
He said Nevada's booming population and the increasing number of visitors to the area north of Reno has made it clear a plan protecting Black Rock must be developed.
His plan would put 690,000 acres of federal land administered by the bureau of Land Management under the NCA designation.
Opponents including local officials in Pershing and Washoe counties have referred to it as another federal land grab that would prevent people from enjoying the land.
But Bryan points out that conservation area status would still allow off-road vehicles, grazing and a variety of recreational activities. Even existing mining would be allowed.
But Bryan said the legislation would prohibit new mining claims in the area.
He said he has asked Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski, R-Ark., to hold a hearing on the proposal in the near future to air the issues.
Last week, Sen. Harry Reid said Bryan's bill will probably not come up for a vote this year.
''The legislation is not going to pass this year. There is not time to do it,'' Reid, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, told The Associated Press.
Congress took eight years to pass the California Desert Protection Act, Reid said Friday.
''The Great Basin National Park in Nevada took 45 years to establish,'' he said.
''The wilderness that we already have in Nevada took from 1974 to 1998 or 1999. It just takes a long time,'' he said.
With week-long breaks scheduled in April and July, and all of August off, only about 30 working legislative days remain on this year's calendar, he said.
Reid drafted his own bill six years ago to protect the Black Rock Desert and ''remains supportive of the concept.''