|Take Action for the Douglas County Conservation Bill|
What is it?
This is a locally driven community proposal that would permanently protect floodplains, open space, natural resources, rural character and cultural heritage in Douglas County. Through the sale of “difficult to manage” federal parcels within the county, the bill would raise money to acquire conservation easements on picturesque county agricultural lands, adding to an existing scenic corridor that includes about 15,000 acres of agricultural easements previously acquired. Important cultural lands would also be transferred to the Washoe Tribe. The bill also calls for “greatly enhanced” recreation, including trails, trailheads and staging areas.
A key section of the proposal would designate Burbank Canyons as permanently protected Wilderness. The Burbank Canyons have been designated a Wilderness Study for the past 31 years. Land bills commonly designate wilderness as a measure to balance the transfer or disposal of federal lands out of public ownership. In this instance, Douglas County is requesting that several thousand acres be transferred out of federal ownership, and that any proceeds be used to acquire environmentally sensitive lands within Douglas County. Given that the Burbank Canyons have been managed as wilderness for the last 30 years and closes no travel routes, Douglas County feels this is a reasonable compromise, particularly considering that improvements can be made to ensure that historic uses are protected.
What are the Burbank Canyons?
The Burbank Canyons are located on the eastern side of the Pine Nut Mountains, north of Highway 395, 15 miles southeast of Gardnerville, and 5 miles northwest of Wellington. The area was designated a Wilderness Study Area in November 1980. The Burbank Canyons Wilderness Study Area comprises 13,395 acres, 12,333 of which are in Douglas County, and 1,065 of which are in Lyon County. The boundaries of the Burbank Canyons Wilderness Study Area coincide with the roads and private property boundaries in Red Canyon to the north, the foot of the Pine Nut Mountains on the east, Rickey Canyon Road on the south, and the ridge of Bald Mountain on the west. The Burbank Canyons Wilderness Study Area is located within the above-described boundaries, and has no affect on travel along Rickey or Red Canyon Roads.
The1,065 acres of the Burbank Canyons Wilderness Study Area located in Lyon County will remain a Wilderness Study Area, and will continue to be managed as wilderness.
The wilderness protection won’t interfere with the many recreational opportunities offered by Burbank Canyons, including hiking, horseback riding, photography, bird watching, wildlife viewing, hunting, mountaineering, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
What’s the history?
Douglas County has been working on this proposal for nearly three years, conducting outreach activities and obtaining the input of more than 100 stakeholder groups and several hundred individuals. Douglas County has worked with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, federal agencies, state agencies, local towns and general improvement districts. The Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved the bill on Februaqry 16, 2012, and now it's up to the Nevada Congressional delegation to introduce the land bill in Washington. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., represents this area would be the lawmaker to take the lead on the measure.
Why do we support it?
The Burbank Canyons are a stunning wilderness study area in the Pine Nuts northwest of Wellington. Not only is there great hiking and backpacking, but the three deep canyons in this area provide important wildlife habitat.
The bistate sage-grouse population in Douglas County and other Nevada counties has been decimated in recent years due to the loss of its sensitive sagebrush habitat. The easements proposed under this lands bill will go a long way toward providing funds to conserve irrigated meadows and other areas that are essential to the bird’s survival.
Two important bistate sage-grouse leks have been documented in and near the Burbank Canyons. What’s more, the Burbank Canyons exhibit core nesting and early brood rearing habitat. Making Burbank Canyons a permanently protected Wilderness is an important action towards protecting the sage-grouse and preventing its listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Why should others support it?
Wilderness designation will not affect travel routes in the Pine Nut Mountain. The two main roads in the area, Red Canyon Road and Rickey Canyon Road, define the north and south boundaries of the Burbank Canyons Wilderness. The boundary of any portion of the wilderness area bordered by a road would be at least 100 feet from the edge of the roads to allow public access and provide sufficient room for maneuverability, passing, turning around, loading and unloading, road maintenance, etc.
What’s more, if the bistate sage-grouse is listed under the Endangered Species Act, the impact on Nevada will be devastating, particularly on off-highway vehicle travel. Designating the Burbank Canyons Wilderness Area may help to protect OHV travel throughout Nevada.
What can you do?
Let the Congressional delegation know that the bill is important to you and that you would appreciate a speedy introduction of the federal legislation. Also, when we get a sense that a special push is needed, we'll send the word out about any coordinated efforts to reach Nevada's federal lawmakers. Stay tuned folks!