Off-roading? How was that off-roading?
I asked those questions over and over again as I drove my pickup down Pipeline Road and back toward Henderson for what could be the last time.
I can't begin to count the number of trips I've made down that road over the years, but those ventures appear to be a thing of the past. Bringing them to an end is an extensive off-highway vehicle closure being enforced by the Bureau of Land Management.
The closure affects virtually all BLM controlled, yet publicly owned, lands surrounding the Las Vegas Valley.
Some of you might be saying, "Good. It's about time someone did something about those all-terrain vehicles."
You might want to back up before you get the party started. According to official language that created the closure, an "off-highway vehicle (OHV) means any motorized or nonmotorized mechanized vehicle designed for or capable of travel off maintained roadways including but not limited to 2- and 4-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs and mountain bikes."
That wide-sweeping description encompasses everything from a bicycle to a sedan to a full-size pickup and beyond.
Have I got your attention?
For the record, Pipeline Road is a bladed and maintained dirt road. It extends from the end of Horizon Ridge Parkway and parallels the gas pipeline into California.
I was parked in a turnout near the junction of Pipeline Road and a bladed power-line road when a courteous and professional BLM ranger (I'm being serious) informed me that I was in violation of not one but two closures. Not only had I driven down a dirt road, bladed or not, but also had my kids shooting at a paper target in preparation for their upcoming deer hunt.
I was perplexed. Doesn't the term off-roading refer to indiscriminate travel across previously undisturbed terrain? And doesn't the Clark County shooting closure end at the City of Henderson's southern boundary?
The ranger did his best to answer my sometimes impertinent questions and then referred me to the BLM office for more information. So I stopped in one day to learn what I could about the two closures. That's when I learned the OHV closure and a target-shooting closure were established in 1998.
Supervisory outdoor recreation planner Robert Wandel explained the OHV closure was created to assist Clark County in achieving mandated dust standards. The one exception to the closure is Nellis Dunes, which is recognized as an open area.
"Because we're partners in the community, we have to work together," he said. "The county could fine us for the dust issue."
Clark County air quality regulation states an owner and/or operator of an unpaved road "shall implement" certain dust-control measures. But Brenda Williams of the Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management said it is highly doubtful the county would levy fines against the BLM.
She also said, "It's about the health of the public and creating problems by breaking the desert crust."
Enough roads and trails exist so that no one, whether he or she rides motorcycles or drives pickups, should be compelled to wantonly destroy previously undisturbed desert soil. But I can't understand the decision to shut down all vehicular access into the remaining open lands surrounding the valley, especially given the number of existing roads and trails. And many of those are bladed.
A map of the closure is available from the BLM. After one look at the map, I couldn't believe the extent of the closure. It reaches for miles in virtually every direction from the Las Vegas Valley.
From Lee Canyon and Apex on the north, the closure stretches to Jean on the south, the Redrock Conservation Area on the west and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the east. When combined with the Desert Wildlife Refuge, Nellis Air Force Base property and the new Sloan Canyon Conservation Area, public lands that are off limits to much of the recreating public completely surround us.
I suppose it's time to buy some Birkenstocks and granola because the only way to experience most of this land is on foot.
Oh, by the way, during legal hunting seasons, you can hunt on most of the land that falls within the closures. You'll just have to walk a couple of days to reach your favorite area because not even your bicycle is allowed.
Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer, and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to the article and newspaper: http://www.lvrj.com/sports/9192527.html