One issue in Black Rock debate: licensing ATVs

"Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things...." Frank A. Clark

I guess it's time to weigh in on this Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area business, not because I have any preconceived notions on the subject, but having several acquaintances and a son who are avid backpackers, mountain climbers and hunters, I thought I'd see how they feel abut Sen. Richard Bryan's proposed use changes.

My chiropractor, Mike Riley, is a world-class climber and hiker, and although he favors limiting the use of mechanized conveyances in these areas, especially dirt bikes, he also feels that Bryan's proposed legislation will ultimately result in closing off hundreds of square miles of desert and adjacent areas to everyone other than the few who have access to horses.

The problem is, if trails and roads are closed,and he feels that ultimately they will be closed when finally reclassified as a wilderness area, hikers are limited by the amount of water they can physically carry, which means they won't be able to penetrate any significant distance into the desert, much less traverse it.

He suggests that all established roads and trails remain open for vehicles with prohibition against any vehicle leaving a road or trail other than to park adjacent to it. Driving a vehicle off-road should be cause for immediate vehicle forfeiture if caught.

This would allow hikers to park their vehicles and hike out as far as their water supply will permit, return to their vehicles for water, drive further ahead to a new location and repeat the process. The only downside to this suggestion is that all ATVs would have to be licensed for identification purposes as are SUVs and autos. The upside is that a ranger's job would be much easier identifying those breaking the law if they're seen driving off-road.

My son, Philip Thomas, who is the justice of the peace in the Black Rock area, and is saddled with the Burning Man so-called festival which yearly brings about 40,000 satanic freakos to the Gerlach area and the Black Rock Desert, agrees with Mike Riley that while Bryan's proposed legislation is not to be trusted because it's a prelude to making the area into a national park, thus prohibiting firearms and hunters, nevertheless, something must be done to stop vehicles from being used off-road.

Philip also feels that Bryan's legislation, if passed, will result in the hiring of dozens of federal rangers who will spend most of their time hassling citizens close to their station rather than patrolling the faraway parts of the desert, protecting wildlife. While he's an avid hunter himself, he agrees that ATVs should all be registered and licensed so they can be identified by rangers and other hunters if they drive off-road.

Some hunters use ATV's (quads) to illegally herd deer, driving their quads in packs, using handheld radios, where they'll encircle a hill and force the deer upward where they have no place to hide and then have a wholesale slaughter. I know hunters who've witnessed this kind of carnage and would gladly have turned the perpetrators in to the authorities if only they could have positively identified the offending vehicles.

My neighbor, Bill Kulick, a lifetime hunter and fisherman, also likes the idea of leaving existing Black Rock and High Rock area trails open to vehicular traffic with the restriction of vehicles remaining on the roads or trails at all times, with one single exception: He says that it's occasionally necessary to take his quad offroad down into a ravine to pick up the carcass of a deer where the terrain is too difficult for a man to carry it out. That sounds reasonable, especially considering such an exemption would only be valid during the hunting season.

Much to my surprise, Bill also concurs with the idea of licensing all ATVs to help catch the bad guys. He feels strongly the experienced, well-trained hunters recognize their obligations to the law and the environment. They know better than anybody that the sport of hunting is becoming more fragile because of increases in our population and differences of opinion with respect to hunting. Good hunters will do whatever is necessary to protect their sport.

All three of my interviewees had one final unanimous agreement: They believe that Sen. Bryan, himself, has probably never hiked deep into the Black Rock or High Rock areas. And they also think that Bryan is mainly looking for a legacy that he can point to as his own gift to Nevada. Thinking back, what has the senator ever done to lead us to believe otherwise?

Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.


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