Group protests Black Rock Desert measure
RENO, Nev. (AP) – States’ rights activists staged a peaceful protest Saturday at the government’s dedication of a national conservation area for the Black Rock Desert.
Protesters held placards bearing anti-government messages as speakers hailed passage of the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.
Under the action taken by Congress in December, nearly 1.2 million acres are being designated as the national conservation area and 10 accompanying wilderness areas.
Bureau of Land Management officials estimated no more than 50 of the nearly 300 people at the event were protesters. Protest organizers say from 100 to 150 protesters turned out.
BLM Nevada Director Bob Abbey was master of ceremonies for the hour-long ceremony on the Black Rock Desert 120 miles north of Reno. The event featured talks by historians.
”With the 10 new wilderness areas and the NCA, I think the public will be well served,” Abbey said. ”They will get an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of urban areas so they can enjoy the solitude, the scenic vistas and spend quality time with their families.
”It will be a place this generation can appreciate as well as generations to come.”
But the Nevada Committee for Full Statehood, which organized the protest, claims the federal government has no jurisdiction over the remote area about the size of the state of Delaware.
Committee members say the Black Rock Desert region is state property, and Congress was wrong to close it to mining and geothermal activity.
Nevada is home of the Sagebrush Rebellion, an effort spawned in the late 1970s by ranchers, miners and others to shift control of public land in the West from the federal government to the states.
The federal government manages 87 percent of the land in Nevada, but it has been generally open to mining, grazing and off-road recreation. Before now, almost none was set aside for wilderness.
The measure creating the national conservation area was pushed by Sen. Harry Reid and former Sen. Richard Bryan, both D-Nev.
”(Bryan and Reid) ignored opposition of federal control of the Black Rock by county governments and Nevada citizens, and sold out to the federal government,” said O.Q. Chris Johnson, a member of the statehood group and chairman of the Elko County Republican Party.
”Certainly, they have succeeded in taking the public out of public lands.”
Some protesters wore T-shirts bearing the message: ”Nevadans Betrayed by Bryan and Reid.” Others held placards with messages such as ”Nevada Is a State, Not a Territory” and ”Endangered Species: People on Public Land.”
After the ceremony, protesters sang ”Home Means Nevada,” the state song. They also chanted ”Statehood.”
Bryan and Reid sent representatives to the event but did not attend. Bryan was recently hospitalized for a week with a throat infection. Reid was unable to catch a flight to Nevada because of Friday night’s vote on patients’ rights legislation, a spokeswoman said.
Abbey said he thinks most Nevadans support efforts to preserve the wildlands much the way they were when pioneers first passed through 150 years ago on the Applegate-Lassen Trail.
Conservationists agree, saying Nevada’s attitudes about public land use are changing because of the state’s growing urbanization.
Nevada is one of the nation’s fastest growing states, and more than 85 percent of its population now lives in Las Vegas or Reno, they note.
”We just know there are more and more people moving in here who want to protect the land,” said Kevin Mack of the Nevada Wilderness Project.
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