Wilson Canyon closure to ORVs in works to help restore river

Federal officials are waiting on word from Washington, D.C., before closing 451 acres on either side of Walker River near Wilson Canyon to off-road-vehicle traffic.

While the Bureau of Land Management's emergency closure of 51 acres along the river to vehicles has drawn the most attention, by far the larger site is 400 acres south of the river managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Keith Whaley, a geologist at the Bridgeport Ranger Station, said the Forest Service land will be closed off gradually after the closure order was approved in mid-September.

"We intend to put signs around the area, and we will be in the process of erecting some barriers to keep vehicles from entering there pretty soon," he said.

The Forest Service closure will affect one trail passing along the south side of Highway 208 in Lyon County.

"It was brought to our attention by private citizens and other concerns about the visual effects left there by off highway vehicles," Whaley said. "Once we were approached with the concerns, we took a look and there is obviously some resource damage going on."

Vegetation in the area is not prolific and that is one reason why it is so important to limit access, Whaley said.

"Plants are struggling to survive there," he said. Whaley said the Forest Service has support from off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts, who will still have access to the more popular trails.

The order to close 51 acres along the Walker River within Wilson Canyon itself will go into effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register, according to Chuck Pope, Bureau of Land Management assistant manager for nonrenewable resources.

"It is in the process of review, but I don't know when we will hear back from Washington."

The closure will affect campsites and all-terrain vehicle use along the river. Anglers and hikers will still have access to the area.

Pope said the BLM is working with Lyon County and two advocacy groups on either side of the closure issue.

"The idea really is to come up with a longer-term plan for management of the river corridor," he said.

Pope said the BLM land closure will begin with spreading information about what will be closed and when.

"Initially we will get information out there about what is involved with the closure and then we will begin short-term planning on where to place the barriers. Getting barriers all the way around that area will be an undertaking."

A map of the area to be closed both by the BLM and the Forest Service is available at the Bureau's field office in Carson City. Copies were distributed over the Labor Day weekend to campers in the area.

Friends of Wilson Canyon representative Chuck Worley said as long as the closure is temporary, his organization has no problem with it.

"It doesn't affect that much; only about five or six campsites won't be available," he said. "They want to stabilize the campsites so they can be reopened."

Worley said his organization, which favors off-highway vehicle access in the area, conducted a cleanup on Labor Day Weekend, when Bureau of Land Management officers were distributing fliers.

"There were probably 100 people or so camped there," he said. "Most of the campsites were full."

The boundary is drawn between the river and the roadside rest stop near the entrance to the canyon.

"We support the closure as long as there is a better plan coming," he said.


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