Lyon Commission standing fast on wilderness rejection
By Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Lyon County officials aren’t budging in the face of pressure by the state’s Congressional delegation to add more wilderness area to a proposed federal lands bill.
The commission has approved a resolution calling for no additional wilderness area in Lyon County.
The resolution is a pointed response to the request by the delegation and the Nevada Wilderness Project to set aside hundreds of thousands of acres in Lyon County for wilderness.
Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill said that as talks for a Lyon Count-Mineral County federal lands bill go on, wilderness advocates ask for more and more land to be set aside.
In September 2005 the commission rejected the Lyon County Lands Bill because of inclusion of the wilderness designation.
The resolution asks Congress to reject wilderness designations in Lyon County and allow any lands bill to remain under the control of local citizens and local government. It says that all accesses, roads trails and rights-of-way should remain open and that no action be taken without the unanimous support of the Lyon County Commission.
Phil Tucker, of Wellington, part of the Coalition for Public Access, said the proposal from the Nevada Wilderness Project has gone from 166,000 acres of wilderness to 700,000 acres, and they want to add part of Esmeralda County for wilderness.
“It’s impossible to speculate what the overall request will result in,” he said. “Given what they are looking at, it will probably be in excess of 1 million acres.”
Tucker said adding wilderness designations will hurt jobs, particularly the off-road vehicle industry.
“Based on a study I have done, there are 80 businesses related to the repair of off-road vehicles or the sale of off-road vehicles, or for parts and services,” he said, adding that those businesses employ about 1,000 people all across Northern Nevada.
“If the Nevada Wilderness Project proposal is accepted in Lyon and Mineral County and Douglas County, some portion of these jobs will be lost,” he said. “It would gut the recreational industry in Northern Nevada.”
Tucker alleged the proposal will reduce tax revenue to municipalities and ridiculed the Project’s pledge to cherish the land and continue to allow access.
“The history in Montana, Idaho, Utah and White Pine County is that when wilderness is designated, gates, locks and chains go into place,” he said.
Jim Kinninger of Smith Valley said he thought the Congressional delegation was trying to divide the county by offering land deals to residents in the north and at the same time taking recreation opportunities away form those in the south.
He said the wilderness proposal would render public lands off limits to older people or those with health problems.
“It’s an elitist thing where only young people who are fit, who want to hike, can get in,” he said.
Hunewill said the Nevada Wilderness Project was not just looking at Bald Mountain and the East Sisters as they were in 2005, they want to extend it to Rawe Peak and other areas in the Pine Nuts. A call to the Nevada Wilderness Project was not returned.
The Nevada Wilderness Project’s proposal includes 195,638 acres in Lyon County and 497,251 acres in Mineral County.
Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign have issued a joint press release saying that there will be additional public meetings, and that a bill is not written yet.
Milz encouraged residents to contact their representatives, and the commissioners unanimously voted to approve the resolution and send a copy to all members of Congress.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.