Access group asks Douglas to delay lands bill | RecordCourier.com

Access group asks Douglas to delay lands bill

At least one off-highway vehicle group is formally opposing the creation of a Burbank Canyon Wilderness Area as part of the Douglas County Public Lands Bill.

In a letter sent to Douglas County commissioners on Tuesday, Harold Ritter, president of the Coalition for Public Access, said there was no need to include a wilderness area in the bill.

“It is true that many lands bills designate wilderness area as an offset to the lands that are removed from the public lands system,” Ritter wrote. “Neither senators Reid or Heller, nor Rep. Amodei say that they are telling you that wilderness is required.”

Ritter said since most of the land suggested to be transferred either to private or other public hands was already identified for disposal.

“A strong argument can be made that the projects that result from this conservation bill, such as flood attenuation and enhanced recreational trails, trailheads and staging areas are all about conservation and the protection of the environment,” Ritter said. “All these arguments can be packaged such that the need for a wilderness area is unnecessary.”

Ritter asked that Douglas County commissioners delay their decision to reassess the need for a wilderness area.

The wilderness area would be open to nonmotorized traffic.

The coalition, which is based out of Smith Valley, pointed out that the Bureau of Land Management has reviewed the wilderness study area four times and concluded it wasn’t suitable for wilderness designation.

“The creation of a wilderness area to meet your special interests is an action we will continue to oppose because we believe it will clearly result in immediate additional restrictions and set the stage for additional future restrictions around the Burbank Canyons,” he said.

Jacques and Dominique Etchegoyhen of Legacy Land and Water have met with the coalition and other organizations over the last two years.

Both men agreed that no one in Nevada’s congressional delegation required them to include the wilderness designation in the proposal, which Douglas County commissioners are scheduled to review on Thursday.

“This is nothing we’ve been required to do,” Jacques Etchegoyhen said. “But nationally when you propose a lands bill it helps.”

Under the proposal, the 12,333-acre Burbank Canyon Wilderness Study Area in far eastern Douglas County would be converted to a wilderness area.

Etchegoyhen said the real change would be that the word “study” would be removed from the title.

But Ritter accused Etchegoyhen of misinterpreting the law in order to make the wilderness area more palatable.

“The recent fuels reduction and firefighting activities in the Burbank Canyon Wilderness Study Area were carried out with a lesser degree of regulation than would have been necessary in a wilderness,” Ritter wrote.

Ritter said the coalition originally requested that the wilderness designation be reduced to 5,000 acres centered at the top of the mountains.

The lands bill is scheduled to go to commissioners for a vote at their Feb. 16 meeting in Stateline.