Big weekend goes smooth at Sand Mt.

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Crowdog
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Big weekend goes smooth at Sand Mt.

Post by Crowdog » Wed Jun 02, 2004 6:56 am

http://www.lahontanvalleynews.com/apps/ ... /106020006

Big weekend goes smooth at Sand Mt.

Cory McConnell
June 2, 2004

High gas prices didn't keep the vacationing throngs from gassing up cars, trucks and RVs and heading out to Sand Mountain this past Memorial Day weekend.

An estimated 6,000 people motored out to the popular recreation area 30 miles east of Fallon, with about 85 percent of them from California, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

"If this wasn't the record ( in attendance), it was right up there," said BLM Associate Field Manager Elayn Briggs.

Although the impromptu city that cropped up at the base of the 2.5 mile-long, 600-foot-tall dune rivaled the size of Fallon, everything went smoothly for recreators and the nine rangers patrolling the scene.

Churchill County Sheriffs deputies came to survey the situation Friday and encourage the bureau's law enforcement officials to call if they needed help.

Aside from an attempted wet t-shirt contest and one drunken-driving arrest, however, Briggs said there were no major incidents.

Gearing up for the kind of off-roading injuries that have previously plagued Sand Mountain recreators in past high-use weekends, the BLM brought in extra medical personnel and firefighters.

A stark contrast from this past Easter, when a dozen people were rushed to hospitals in Churchill County and Reno, no one was seriously injured last weekend.

One Careflight helicopter and one ambulance were called out to the recreation area, but neither proved to be necessary, officials said.

Some bureau officials spent the weekend monitoring trails that run through some of the recreation area's still vegetated land off of the massive dune itself.

The dwindling plant life there is the only known home to the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly, a species now under consideration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned to get the butterfly listed.

Briggs said she saw a few OHVs trek through trails where the BLM has posted signs asking them to keep out, but not many.

The trail closures are voluntary, meaning the bureau cannot cite anyone for not obeying the signs.

The system has been a point of contention between off-roaders who want recreators to be given a chance to voluntarily conserve the Sand Mountain ecosystem and environmentalists, who say the bureau is buckling to pressure from the off-roading industry - even in the face of a species annihilation.

An off-roader advocacy group called Friends of Sand Mountain, which has led the charge to give recreators the chance to voluntarily stay off the sensitive land, used the high-traffic weekend to try and educate off-roaders.

The group spent the weekend handing out pamphlets to Sand Mountain visitors, explaining the butterfly's plight. FOSM also posted signs to clarify BLM markers the group says are sometimes confusing.

"That is still the biggest complaint I hear out there... that the signs aren't clear," said FOSM President Richard Hilton.

Briggs said a BLM biologist is checking out the recreation area this week, to try and gauge the effectiveness of the voluntary trail closure program over this past weekend.

The bureau is scheduled to evaluate and update its management plan for Sand Mountain Recreation Area starting in October, and possibly enact stronger conservation measures.

Cory McConnell can be contacted at cmcconnell@lahontanvalleynews.com

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Post by quad1100 » Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:26 am

Yeah, they shut down that wet tee-shirt contest as soon as the first shirt came up. Otherwise it was a great weekend.

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Post by LoBuck » Wed Jun 02, 2004 10:26 pm

An off-roader advocacy group called Friends of Sand Mountain, which has led the charge to give recreators the chance to voluntarily stay off the sensitive land, used the high-traffic weekend to try and educate off-roaders.
=D> Way to Go :!:
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