RENO, Nev. - Federal land managers have completed a management plan for 10 wilderness areas around northwestern Nevada's sprawling Black Rock Desert.
Kristine Struck, a wilderness specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, said public meetings on the plan drew few people because it was not controversial.
Congress made the tough decisions before enacting legislation designating the wilderness areas in 2000, she said, and they'll continue to be managed with no major changes under the new plan completed this month.
"There wasn't anybody who expressed any concern," Struck said. "The establishment by Congress of the wilderness areas was fairly controversial, but the management since then hasn't been controversial."
Continued management actions will include reclamation of closed routes, noxious weed control and wildfire rehabilitation. Additional actions could include restoration of aspen and cottonwood stands eliminated by human activity, and inventories of historical, cultural and paleontological sites.
The remote, starkly beautiful wilderness areas were established by the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area Act of 2000. The legislation provided protection for nearly 1.2 million acres of public land, creating an 800,000-acre NCA and designating more than 750,000 acres as wilderness. Some 380,000 acres of wilderness are within the NCA.
The NCA is designed to protect landscapes along the Applegate-Lassen Trail, which was followed by thousands of covered-wagon pioneers en route to California's gold fields in the 1800s. Historians say the Nevada section of the trail is one of the most unspoiled sections of any historic trail in the West, offering visitors a chance to see the land much as it was in the 19th century.
Gene Seidlitz, manager of the BLM's Winnemucca district, said management under the new plan will be generally similar to management since the wilderness designations.
"This is an incredibly important step forward in our overall management of these wilderness areas," he said in a statement. "This will allow for these areas to be managed and protected for future generations."
The plan will give BLM managers discretion in wildfire management, including the option of full suppression. Some wilderness groups expressed concern over wildfires that burn sage grouse habitat and native grasses.
Ranchers' access to and maintenance of authorized range developments will continue to be addressed in livestock grazing permits.
The wilderness areas have attracted many hunters and guides but few backpackers because of the lack of water, Struck said. They have no developed campsites or trails.
"You can find a lot of solitude out there," Struck said. "You can be out there and not see anyone for a very, very long time."