Author says common sense should prevail in Black Rock debate

Debate on the formation of a conservation area for the Black Rock Desert has strayed out of the realm of reason, says the Carson Valley author of a book about the desert.

"It is rapidly getting into an emotional state," Raymond M. Smith said of the debate.

Smith was introduced to the Black Rock Desert in the early 1950s.

While a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., will probably not pass this year, there is a move to bypass Congress by having President Bill Clinton to designate the area as a monument.

Under Bryan's bill, the conservation area would include 600,000 acres of the desert and another 1 million acres in nearby areas.

Smith says he agrees that some of High Rock Canyon deserves protection, but that the playa erases itself every year.

"You can see tracks this year, but not the next year," he said. "The canyon does deserve special treatment, though."

Wagon ruts can be seen in the canyon bottom and names are painted or chiseled into the rock inside the canyon.

The Bureau of Land Management is very protective of the canyon and prohibits grazing inside the canyon.

"Cows have been out of that canyon for a long time," Smith said.

The old Applegate Trail bisects the Black Rock Desert turning northwest toward Oregon. The Nobles Trail to California split off near the Humboldt-Pershing County line. There are more than 100 miles of trails.

Smith said Bryan's bill leaves quite a bit to the imagination. Even after its introduction, the acreage included is left blank.

"There are so many holes in this legislation," Smith said. "Many of the problems we have are related to administrative decisions coming out of local offices."

Smith says he has wandered around the Black Rock Desert for years.

"I've seen some letters from do-gooders, who have never been north of Gerlach," he said. "The people who get in there are inveterate backwoods hikers."

Smith wrote "Nevada's Northwest Corner: The Black Rock Country of Northern Humboldt, Pershing and Washoe Counties."

He said that while he questions the scope of the most recent proposal, there is something about the Black Rock Desert that makes it special.

"Once you get it in your bones, it is hard to get out," he said.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment