TU supports Pine Forest Wilderness Bill

Mon, 11/07/2011

Contact: Jim Jeffress - (775) 560-9594
Bill Deist - (775) 623-6300


TU supports Pine Forest Wilderness Bill

Grass roots legislation gains broad support in Nevada

Winnemucca, Nev. — Trout Unlimited (TU) announced today its strong support for the Pine Forest Recreation Enhancement Act of 2011. The legislation is the result of the collaborative work of the Pine Forest Working Group, a group of local citizens from northern Nevada, and will create a new 26,000-acre official wilderness area in the northwestern part of the state from two existing wilderness area study areas (WSA) through a unique series of land exchanges and creative compromises.

"From our first meeting in January to writing this legislation in September, I don't think anyone could do a better job of creating this bill, which is strongly supported by the county commissioners," said Humboldt County Administrator Bill Deist. "This legislation came from the ground up; it wasn't a land-use decision pushed down on us by the federal government. As a group we went out on the ground to see the area, and then made the decisions that allowed us to take this proposal to our representatives in Washington."

The proposed wilderness, which augments the Blue Lakes WSA but releases 1,500 acres of the Alder Creek WSA for multiple use management, would conserve an area of Nevada that provides some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in the state. Mule deer, pronghorn antelope and California bighorn sheep thrive in a landscape that ranges from 5,400 to over 9,000 feet of elevation, and also provides habitat for sage grouse, chukar partridge and valley quail. Three fishable lakes, the Blues Lakes complex and both Onion Valley and Knott Creek reservoirs, are a point of destination for thousands of anglers that visit each summer and fall.

"When we started, I thought that with 50 people involved, we'd be banging heads more than we did," said working group member Howard Hammond, an off-road vehicle enthusiast and president of the Northern Nevada Recreation Coalition. "But the whole process really went well." Hammond added that ensuring access to some of the more popular places in the proposed wilderness made many stakeholders in the process willing to accept the more restrictive travel rules that govern all wilderness areas in the nation. "Going in, we didn't want to see any roads closed to motorized vehicles out there," he said. "We pushed hard to keep a road in the middle of the two WSAs open, and that's what we got. Everyone was willing to work with us to do that.

"At the same time, we realized that there is some really nice country up there that should be wilderness. You can't get in there with anything other than your feet or by riding a horse, and that's the way it should be," Hammond said. "This bill is a good deal all around, and we're pretty happy with it."

"For a lot of people out here, establishing a new wilderness area isn't really at the top of the list," said Annie Drake, a Winnemucca resident and member of a family that ranches in the area. "This has been an opportunity to learn just what it means for land to be wilderness, and it's been very positive. Going in, I think there was a level of skepticism, but most of us, the ranchers and the recreationalists and the government entities, like the BLM, have all been respectful of each other. If we can have our interests respected and protected, and for ranchers that's access to the land and water, then it's in the best interests of everyone. That can take some extra effort, but it's worth it, because we all want to see the land protected."

"Simply put, this is the way it should be done," said Jim Jeffress, the Nevada backcountry coordinator with TU's Sportsmen's Conservation Project who facilitated the Pine Forest Working Group and helped guide it through the legislative process. "Here in Nevada, and in a lot of places in the West, people are frustrated that thousands of acres of public land have been sitting idle as wilderness study areas without any real support to enact them as official wilderness or release them for other uses. In the Pine Forest Range, we included everybody, from the sportsmen, to the ranchers, to the off-road vehicle people, the county commissioners and the wilderness advocates, to see if we could do something about that. In the end we had 100 percent consensus on a deal we could take to Congress."

"It just works a lot better when you do it this way and we couldn't be happier with the result," agreed Deist. "I think this process could work anywhere."


Trout Unlimited is the nation's largest coldwater conservation organization, with 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting, and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.


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