Carson water district directors raise cain over proposed roadless rules

There's no logging in southern Douglas County; there are no spotted owls, and no bull trout. In fact, the predominant species that inhabits the Forest Service land is of the human kind, and is getting crankier by the day as the government continues to push the roadless initiative.

Deputy U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Karen Shimamoto tried to allay the concerns of Carson Water Subconservancy District directors Wednesday night that the government wants to take a moderate approach in its roadless area conservation plans.

"Who does this land belong to? It belongs to the people of the United States," said director and Douglas County Commissioner Bernie Curtis. "Did we, the people, vote on this? No, it's going to be a decision."

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, which includes Douglas and Alpine counties, is 6.3 million acres and the largest forest area in the lower 48 states. More than half - 54 percent - is totally roadless and would stay that way under the road rules proposed by the Clinton administration to protect the area by banning new construction.

The Forest Service has hosted a series of informational meetings to discuss the proposal, but Curtis, who represents southern Douglas County, says his constituents can't make it to Markleeville or Sparks and USFS should come to them.

"As you can tell, there is not a great deal of trust with me and the Forest Service. We have had some bad experiences; I am very concerned and very cautious. I represent a lot of people in my district who are, too," Curtis said. "When you have meetings in Sparks and Markleeville, that's not where the areas are. When you have an absence of information, that's when the rumors start."

Curtis said a high percentage of South County residents are elderly, and some have transportation and mobility problems.

- Come to Topaz. "I am concerned that the people out at the southern part of the county who occupy that (forest) area will not know about the ramifications. We need the Forest Service to come out here," he said.

Kelly Kite, a county commissioner and water district director, took exception with the USFS policy of not creating access areas in the forest unless there is a fire.

"Then it's too late," Kite said. "There's no time to build roads if there is a fire in the Pine Nuts."

Jacques Etchegoyhen, who also sits on the county commission and the water district, said he is concerned about the thousands and thousands of acre feet of Carson River water rights on USFS land in Alpine County, subject to the water master's "use it or lose it" edict. If the water rights are not used, they can be transferred elsewhere.

"We try to be watchful. We have water-righted properties, 25,000 acre feet in the upper river watershed for recharge and riparian water rights. I'm concerned when the time clock turns into a time bomb," Etchegoyhen said.

The water district directors objected to the government's unfamiliarity with the area and the tendency to apply the same regulations to the entire forest.

"There is no timber harvest at Sweetwater range and the Wellington Hills," Curtis said. "It's just one more rule that the feds have got for rural Nevada that we have not had to have and do not need. We, the people of the state of Nevada and the United States, own that land and now there are additional restrictions on our abilities to visit it."

- Little notice. Curtis said he is concerned with the precedent set in Southern Utah where "thousands and thousands of acres were put under federal control with very little notice."

Shimamoto urged the subconservancy district directors to present their concern to USFS officials.

"All the comments you made are extremely valid and important," she said.

Shimamoto said it's important that the public understand the forest service isn't closing roads, it just won't build new ones. However, county and subconservancy district officials are concerned that the Forest Service also won't restore roads that might be damaged by flood or fire or just wear and tear.

Valida McMichael, a Douglas County planning commissioner who lives in southern Douglas County, said she almost never sees anyone on Forest Service property.

"If I thought there was a lot of activity, I might feel different," she said. "But this is a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to the issue and I resent that."


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