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Roadless initiative before commission Thursday

by Christy Chalmers

U.S. Forest Service representatives will try Thursday to explain a plan that hasn’t been fully explained to them: The federal “roadless initiative.”

Forest Service Planner Dave Loomis will be at the Douglas County commission’s meeting to take comments about the initiative, which would affect an estimated 3,385,000 acres throughout the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which covers parts of Nevada and California.

The plan could affect 22,000 acres in a corner of Douglas County, as well as 67,000 acres in neighboring Alpine County. The Douglas County acreage is southeast of the Topaz Lake area, and some surrounds Monument Peak.

Carson District Ranger Gary Schiff said people from throughout the state have commented on the plan, but he hasn’t been able to provide answers because the initiative’s implications aren’t entirely known.

“We don’t know what is going to be defined as a road,” he said. “We don’t know what the alternatives will look like.”

Possible alternatives are expected later in the year. For now, the Forest Service is taking comments, both on the initiative and on alternatives.

Douglas County Manager Dan Holler said Alpine County officials are strongly opposed to the roadless initiative. He predicted Douglas officials may share the sentiment.

“The comments we get (from residents) are generally opposed to limiting access to land,” he said. “From a principle standpoint, the board looks at it in the sense of the public’s ability to use public land.”

Commissioner Bernie Curtis, whose district includes the Topaz Lake area, said he hadn’t received any comments about the proposal as of Monday. Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen, whose district includes Minden and the western edge of the Carson Valley, said he also hadn’t gotten any comments but predicted general opposition.

“That’s kind of like our back yard,” he said, referring to Alpine County. “They (Alpine) may be in a different state, but we kind of regard them as Nevadans and it does feel like this is being pushed by the feds.”

A total of 3,142,000 acres throughout Nevada could be affected by the initiative. The remaining 243,000 acres of Humboldt-Toiyabe land are in Alpine, Mono and Sierra counties in California.

Schiff acknowledged the concerns about federal control and emphasized the Forest Service welcomes comments.

“Some residents have expressed frustration because of what they see as a lack of local involvement and input in their own back yard,” he said. “I understand their concerns about that.”

The county commission will meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at the old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden.