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Locals rage over roadless plan

by Christy Chalmers

They tried not to shoot the messenger, but Douglas County residents aimed sharp words at a federal initiative to create roadless areas throughout forests nationwide.

The so-called “roadless initiative,” proposed by President Clinton, would designate roadless areas in patches of national forests. More than 3 million acres could be affected in Nevada, including 22,000 acres in Douglas County southeast of Topaz Lake and near Monument Peak. Some 67,000 acres could be affected in neighboring Alpine County, Calif.

Dave Loomis, a forest planner from the Carson Ranger District, told Douglas County residents and leaders Thursday that four potential alternatives are being considered and reviews will be out later in the spring. But he couldn’t answer many specific questions, such as how roads will be defined or what the implications would be for existing roads in the proposed roadless areas.

After listening to an hour of comments by frustrated residents, the county commission decided to pass a resolution opposing the initiative.

“The West seems to be under premeditated assault by the eastern government-type folks,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis. “It’s not federal land. It’s our land. President Clinton, I challenge you to come here and talk to the people of the West and see what you’re doing to us.”

Commissioner Steve Weissinger called the proposal “total insanity.”

Several residents said they think the initiative is another effort to restrict access to public land and ignore local concerns.

“We shouldn’t be fooled by statements that this is not really an intention to close the roads,” said Topaz Ranch Estates resident Ken Barr. “This is just one more step in the process of restricting the public (access) to the things that it owns.”

“Who’s he (Clinton) protecting it from? It’s our land. He’s protecting it from us,” said Alpine County Supervisor Herman Zellmer.

Others criticized the Forest Service for providing what they said is not enough information to evaluate and comment on the proposal.

“‘Southeast of Topaz Lake’ is intentionally too vague to identify which areas in Douglas County we are talking about,” said Valida McMichael, who lives north of Topaz Lake. “Somewhere, the public’s representatives have been left out of the equation.”

The initiative could affect 3,142,000 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest throughout Nevada. Another 243,000 acres of Humboldt-Toiyabe land in Alpine, Mono and Sierra counties in California would also be included.

Loomis said public comments will be sought after an evaluation of the alternatives is released later this spring.

The U.S. Forest Service is considering four alternatives to the roadless initiative. According to Forest Planner Dave Loomis they are:

– Prohibitions on new road construction

– Prohibitions on new road building or timber harvesting

– Prohibitions on all activities that don’t “maintain or enhance” the “ecological values” of the roadless area.

– No action