Group Plans Protest Over Land Closure

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A group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts plans to stage a protest over an emergency closure of a portion of the Pine Nut Range to protect ancient fossils.

Protest organizers said they expect hundreds of local residents to join the protest Sunday over closure of 2,340 acres of public land to motorized off-road vehicles.

The Bureau of Land Management's emergency closure doesn't affect hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.

"I'm putting up fliers around the neighborhood. People don't like what the BLM is doing," protest spokeswoman Cheryl Aiken told the Nevada Appeal.

Aiken said her nine-year-old son took it hard when he learned he no longer will be able to ride his all-terrain vehicle into the Pine Nuts. Being able to ride an ATV from her backyard into the mountains was one of the reasons she moved to the area 15 years ago, she said.

Nate Littrell, president of the Pine Nut Mountain Trail Association, said his group does not plan to participate in the protest. He said the association has worked with the BLM in the past and he hopes to find a compromise.

"We've done a lot of good things together, (but) they are going to have a hard time enforcing this from a practical standpoint," said Littrell, a mountain biker and motorcyclist.

In announcing the closure last week, BLM officials said it was needed to protect ancient vertebrate fossils in the area.

Four years ago, a Douglas County teenager on a motorcycle found the partial remains of a three-million-year-old mastodon in the area and reported it to authorities.

BLM officials said the site is rich with other fossils as well, and dirt bikers, ATVers and other off-road vehicle users pose a threat to them.

"Hillside scouring has become a significant issue. This leads to erosion problems, which in turn has uncovered fossils," Tom Crawford of the BLM told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

He stressed that major dirt roads through the sensitive area would remain open.

"We want to work with user groups to identify key roads and trails for public use," Crawford said, adding the routes would be included in a management plan for the area.