Two area politicians are weighing in on the proposed Lyon-Mineral County Lands Bill that has galvanized residents in opposition.
U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Carson City, has expressed reservations about the bill after talking to local officials and residents, and Lyon County Commission District I candidate Donna Kristaponis has expressed opposition to the measure in its current form.
Heller, part of the Congressional delegation that supports a lands bill in some form, is taking another look at the proposed legislation after Lyon County residents and officials objected to the amount of wilderness area that the Nevada Wilderness Project wants to set aside as part of the measure.
He said he has discussed residents' concerns with both Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., about the development of the public lands bill.
"After meeting with residents of Lyon and Mineral counties it is apparent we need to take another look at the development of this lands bill," he said in a statement. "I conveyed the concerns of local residents to both Sens. Ensign and Reid. Any legislation developed for Lyon and Mineral counties must have the support of the local communities that will be affected by such a bill."
In a letter to the Coalition for Public Access, a group in South Lyon County that was formed to fight the lands bill, Kristaponis said the original intent of the bill, first proposed in 2005, had been hijacked and called the Nevada Wilderness Project's proposal "unacceptable."
She said that Commissioner Bob Milz started work on a lands bill, identifying lands along Highway 50 that could be used for a Wild Horse and Burro Center.
Southern Lyon County was left out because of the Walker River mediation, but the effort fell apart when wilderness advocates demanded designations for 90,000 acres that included the East Sister Mountain and Bald Mountain areas, causing the Lyon County Commission to reject the measure in 2005.
Since then, Kristaponis said, the wilderness advocates have spent the past few years identifying even more land to designate as wilderness, something Cameron Johnson of the Nevada Wilderness Project does not deny.
"In that time we continued to do our inventory work to see what other areas were inventoried, because we had heard from our supporters that there were other areas worth looking into," he said. "We then expanded our proposal."
The original 90,000 acres comprised of the East Sister of the Sweetwater Mountains and Bald Mountain in South Lyon County became 195,638 acres in Lyon County, including roadless areas in the Pine Grove Hills, Lyon Peak and Rawe Peak in the Pine Nut range.
The group also included 497,251 acres in Mineral County, and the two counties were joined in one lands bill.
"We believe that these areas are worthy of advocating for and we will continue to do that," Johnson said.
He said grazing still would be allowed in the areas under his group's proposal, and existing mining patents would continue, but no new claims would be permitted.
Camping, backpacking, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, burro packing and skiing would be permitted, but motorized activity such as ATVs and dirt bikes would be prohibited except on "cherry stems," or roads that allow access into a wilderness area.
Kristaponis said she thought the wilderness designation request was too much the first time, and expressed astonishment at the latest proposal, adding that she would argue against a lands bill.
"There is no reason to proceed with bad legislation," she wrote.
Heller pledged not to rush the development of legislation that will have long-lasting impact on local communities, and said he would ensure "all stakeholders have a seat at the table.
"Moving too quickly or pushing something that does not have local support would be a mistake," said Heller.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 881-7351.
Lyon County - 195,638 acres
• East Sister
• Lyon Peak
• Mount Etna
• O'Banion Canyon
• Pine Grove Hills - East
• Pine Grove Hills - West
• Rawe Peak
• Rough Creek
• Sleeping Dog
• Wilson Canyon
Mineral County - 497,251 acres
• Agai Pah Hills - North • Agai Pah Hills - South
• Aurora Crater
• Buller Mountain
• Chukar Ridge
• East Canyon
• Gabbs Valley
• Larkin Lake
• Long Valley
• Mount Hicks
• Sonoma Canyon
• West Wassuks