Thursday, September 08, 2016

Editorial - Road's open, case closed

Wilderness groups have won what should be the final chapter in a 15-year lawsuit by the federal government against John Carpenter, the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade and Elko County. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du last month rejected a settlement agreement between the Forest Service and the county involving the legal status of South Canyon Road.

Even though locals lost their case, the effort to preserve access through federal lands was greatly improved by this battle, and the outcome does not change the fact that the road is open.

“The decision in the Elko County case does not affect public access or limit the U.S. Forest Service’s ability to manage the South Canyon Road,” Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger told The Associated Press.

Since the Shovel Brigade removed “Liberty Rock” on July 4, 2000, the only thing keeping vehicles out of that portion of the canyon is the fact that much of it remains obliterated by the cataclysmic flood of 1995. Gone are the nice campsites along the road and the federally installed outhouse at the end of it, nor are they likely to ever return like the bull trout did.

It was a fish advocacy group that originally put a halt to the Forest Service’s plan to rebuild the road, claiming bull trout would be harmed by dust drifting from the road, but it was two wilderness groups that called foul after the Forest Service agreed Elko County owned the right of way.

Earthjustice attorneys put up a big fight on behalf of The Wilderness Society and Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Despite their names, let’s remember that South Canyon Road is NOT located in any federally designated wilderness area. This conflict was centered around half of a mere 2.4-mile road leading from the tiny town of Jarbidge to the trailheads of the Jarbidge Wilderness.

Even in boasting about their victory, Wilderness Society attorney Alison Flint conceded that the decision changed nothing on the ground.

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