10,000-shovel parade protests Forest Service roads policy
ELKO, Nev. (AP) – Disgruntled Westerners shipped thousands of shovels to northeast Nevada Saturday to protest the Clinton administration’s environmental policies and lend support to local citizens feuding with the Forest Service over a washed out road.
About 200 pickup trucks, trailers and makeshift floats were entered in a parade Saturday afternoon to carry an estimated 10,000 shovels down Elko’s main street to a rally at the county courthouse.
”It has taken on a life of its own,” said O.Q. ”Chris” Johnson, an Elko businessman who helped organize the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade Parade.
”It’s bigger than the Fourth of July,” he said.
Ranchers, loggers, miners and small business owners across most of the country donated the shovels in a show of support for locals’ efforts to rebuild a road on a national forest that the Forest Service says would harm the Jarbidge River’s threatened bull trout.
”These are country folks,” Johnson said.
”This is their way to show their concern, a peaceful demonstration of their support – Westerners supporting Westerners,” he said.
Most were delivered in a caravan from Montana, where loggers and mill workers long have been at odds with the Forest Service.
”Somehow, sending a shovel seems symbolic. Maybe it will make a difference,” said Cary Hegreberg, executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association, who traveled here from Helena, Mont.
”Most people understand shovels are a symbol of work. That’s something we have in common – we want to work,” he said.
Elko County Commissioner Mike Nannini, who helped organize the parade, said shovels are arriving in the mail from as far away as Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Maryland and Arkansas.
”It’s just a grassroots deal. It’s not just the West anymore. These people are saying ‘No more,”’ he said.
The Jarbidge River, in a remote canyon near the Idaho border, is home to the southernmost population of bull trout in North America.
The Elko County Commission claims the Forest Service has no jurisdiction over the South Canyon Road along the river because the road was there before the Humboldt National Forest was established in the early 1900s.
A federal judge in Reno issued a court order banning any work on the road in November when Johnson and others threatened to rebuild it by hand in defiance of the Forest Service. The county and the Forest Service have been ordered to federal mediation on the matter.
The controversy prompted a congressional field hearing and has become a lightning rod for criticism of President Clinton’s proposal to protect tens of millions of acres of roadless areas in national forests.
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, offered his support for the protest in a letter to organizers on Friday.
”Since the vast majority of the public lands are in the West, perhaps the bureaucrats in Washington D.C. simply don’t understand the impact their decisions have on our western way of life,” Guinn said.
”Sometimes the only way to get their attention is to stand up for our rights,” he said.
Bob Secrist of Elko loaded down his pickup with nearly 300 shovels for Saturday’s parade.
”I’m in the firewood business and the Forest Service is giving me a bad time. They are supposed to manage the forest but they are just shutting it down and locking it up,” he said.
”The president wants to make everything roadless. That’s fine for the people in Kansas, but 85 percent of our land is controlled by the government in Nevada. We’re expected to make a living on the other 15 percent,” he said.
Forest Service spokesman Bob Swinford said a draft environmental impact statement on Clinton’s isn’t scheduled to be completed until the end of March, with a final decision on the plan expected at the end of the year.
”The roadless initiative hasn’t closed anything yet,” Swinford said.
”It’s obvious a lot of people have concerns, some of them with the Jarbidge situation but others about the president’s roadless initiative and national forest access in general,” he said.