RENO (AP) - With a rural county's blessing, Nevada's congressional delegation has introduced legislation to protect 26,000 acres of a scenic mountain range north of Winnemucca as a federal wilderness area.
The bill would carve the Pine Forest Range Wilderness Area out of two federal Bureau of Land Management wilderness study areas, and release 1,500 acres of existing wilderness study area lands.
The measure also would direct the BLM to exchange federal lands surrounding nearby ranches for private parcels within the designated wilderness area.
In a joint statement issued after the legislation's introduction last week, the congressional delegation said it marked the culmination of a two-year process involving Humboldt County landowners, sportsmen and commissioners. Commissioners voted unanimously in support of the proposal in October 2010.
"Stewardship and preservation of our public lands must be a priority for all Nevadans," Sen. Harry Reid, R-Nev., said. "I applaud the Humboldt County commission and the Pine Forest Working Group on their efforts to bring forward this locally-supported wilderness proposal."
The working group included conservationists, hunters, hikers, anglers, ATV enthusiasts and others.
"This model approach demonstrates that common sense solutions to our public land designations are possible when Nevadans have a seat at the table," Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said.
The Pine Forest Range in northwest Humboldt County backs up to the sprawling Black Rock Desert, and its highest point is Duffer Peak South at 9,428 feet.
"The Pine Forest Range is a special place," said John Tull, conservation director of the Nevada Wilderness Project. "I don't think anyone would argue that this protection is not the right thing."
The wilderness area would encompass two adjoining wilderness study areas - Blue Lakes and Alder Creek. They feature limber and whitebark pine forests and one of Nevada's best trout fisheries.