Off-road enthusiasts protest land closure
About 250 people on Sunday protested the closure of a section of the Pine Nut Mountains to off-road vehicles. Motorcycle riders aged 5 to 75 converged off Pinenut Road while others came in cars, all-terrain vehicles and by horseback.
“The closure is lousy, terrible, wrong and probably illegal,” said protest attendee Bob Hall. “There were no prehearings or anything; they just walked in and did it.”
“I think it was just crooked the way they did it,” his wife Joyce added.
Both in their 70s, the couple rode out on their all-terrain vehicle quads.
Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management banned ORV use on 2,340 acres near Ruhenstroth, an east Carson Valley neighborhood, to protect fossils from erosion. So far there has been no sign of enforcement, riders report. The area made headlines when dirtbike rider Derek Prosser discovered mastodon fossils in April 2000.
“Why do 2,500 acres need to be closed because they found fossils under one rock?” asked Johnson Lane resident Stan Gaworski. He and his two daughters ride dirtbikes.
“I just don’t think they did enough research on this,” he said.
Another Johnson Lane resident, Wylie Wilson, was angry there wasn’t more public discussion before the closure.
“Where do they get the right to make an emergency closure of land over one or two complaints? They need to go to the people and discuss this before they make closures. It’s public land.”
A boy near him held a sign reading “Don’t take the public out of land.” People took turns speaking into a microphone brought by members of the Pine Nut Mountain Trails Association.
Cheryl Aiken organized the protest with her husband, Trip. They enjoy riding all-terrain vehicle quads with their two children.
“We moved down here from Lake Tahoe so we could still ride,” she said. “We got kicked off the lake because of our Jet Skis, and we got kicked off the Tahoe Rim Trail because of our quads.”
She recommended the closures be restricted to more precise areas where fossils are found.
“You could fence them in – we’d even be willing to put in sweat equity to get it done,” she said.
Watching from horseback in the distance was Karen Chaton. She had mixed feelings.
“I don’t want to see it totally closed, but as a horse person, I get a little tired of almost getting run over. I was out here the other day, and I almost got hit by the same kid three times.”
A Ruhenstroth resident for 12 years, she recommends more education for riders.
Leonard Campagna said he could help increase rider awareness by building a Web site. He doesn’t ride off-road, but he doesn’t like to see options taken away.
“I moved from a very congested area to find more open space, and I don’t want to see that openness taken away,” he said. “Even though I don’t ride, I’d like to have the option to ride if I decide to. And I support people who do ride – as long as they do it with respect.”
No one from the BLM was at Sunday’s gathering, nor could they be reached for comment Sunday. Representatives at the Carson City Field Office knew the event was going on, according to Cheryl Aiken. They will be invited to speak at another meeting Sunday at 11 a.m. along Pinenut Road, she said.
In the meantime, her husband said, “I’m going to make some phone calls, send some faxes, and encourage everybody else to do the same.”