Agreement reached on disputed Jarbidge road

ELKO - U.S. Forest Service and Elko County leaders have reached a tentative agreement that leaves both sides unhappy in their dispute over a closed dirt road that leads to the Jarbidge wilderness.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Chief Bob Vaught said details of the settlement over the road in extreme northeastern Nevada will be released Thursday. He said all participants in a mediation conference on Tuesday agreed not to discuss details before then.

''We need to make sure everything is together,'' said Vaught as he left a day-long closed meeting in the Sherman Station, a restored 100-year-old stagecoach stop.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Wednesday that under the settlement the Forest Service's South Canyon Road near the tiny town of Jarbidge will not become property of Elko County. County leaders have claimed the road is theirs exclusively, contending it was built before the creation of the Forest Service.

Elko County Commission Chairwoman Roberta Skelton said outside the meeting only that the agreement was better than nothing.

Assemblyman John Carpenter said some of the agreement is good and some is not.

But Carpenter, R-Elko, said the agreement will not stop the July 3-4 gathering in Jarbidge to defy the government and reopen the road with shovels.

''As far as I am concerned, they can go in there and do what they want,'' he said. ''It will be peaceful.''

The closed road has become a symbol of the attitudes of some Westerners toward federal regulations and rules. More than 13,000 shovels have been donated by people from across the West to a group calling itself the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade Corp.

A 900-foot section of the road along the Jarbidge River washed out in a flood in 1995. The Forest Service originally planned to reopen the road, but delayed action after the bull trout that lives in the Jarbidge River was placed on the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fears work on the road could hurt the fish habitat.

The Elko County Commission in July 1998 sent in road crews to repair the road but the Forest Service quickly moved to stop the work.

With no progress made on reopening the road, Carpenter and others last October organized a citizen movement to make repairs by hand.

Before any work was done, a federal judge issued a restraining order and set up the mediation procedure under which the Forest Service and Elko County leaders have tried to work out an agreement.

Outside the mediation meeting Tuesday, Elko County Sheriff Neil Harris said he will not enforce federal laws in Jarbidge next month and his deputies will not arrest people removing rocks from the road.

But Harris said he is concerned that extremists from other states may come to Jarbidge and try to disrupt the shovel brigade.


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