Lahontan Valley News
Funding approved for Sand Mountain trail system
CHRISTY LATTIN, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 27, 2007
An off-road vehicle trail system at the Sand Mountain recreational area is one step closer to reality with the signing of a funding agreement at a recent county commission meeting.
The commissioners approved the funding agreement between the state, through its Division of State Lands, and the county. The state will be responsible for 75 percent of the cost of the project, which is estimated to run $992,000. The county will, theoretically, shoulder 25 percent of the costs, which total approximately $252,000.
However, a memorandum of understanding between the Bureau of Land Management and the county was also approved by the commissioners, which states the BLM will match 25 percent of the state funds for the project.
"Churchill County's 25 percent is really our 25 percent," said Bryant Smith, associate field manager with the Carson City BLM office.
The county did agree to provide $5,000 for the project when it approved the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly conservation plan last September.
Smith explained that state money for this project comes from Question 1 funds, which Nevada voters approved in 2005. Question 1 funds can be spent with state or local governments, but not with federal agencies such as the BLM. The money BLM will provide comes from public user fees. The county will serve as an intermediary fiscal agent for the project funds.
The trail system at the popular off-road dune is the main element of the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly Conservation Plan and Agreement, which was drafted by various off-road user groups, the BLM, city of Fallon, Churchill County, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The deadline to submit the plan to USFWS was Oct. 10, and the Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance met the deadline.
Work will begin soon on fencing and erecting signs at the recreational area, said Leo Drumm, the recreational and travel coordinator with BLM. The bureau will act as the project manager and will keep the county and LVEA informed about its progress.
"This is an adaptive management program," Drumm said. "We're not intent on fencing off trails."
He said work on the trail system will begin within the next six months. Erica Behimer, executive director of LVEA, said the draft funding agreement states the work will be complete by Dec. 31, 2008.
"From our perspective, this has been an incredible partnership," Drumm said.
The off-road vehicle groups are not supporting the trail system financially, but rather through volunteer man-hours, said Behimer. The LVEA facilitated the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly working group. The off-road groups are spreading information and educating users about the trail system and the petition by conservation groups to list the blue butterfly as an endangered species.
Bob Williams, Nevada Fish and Wildlife Service Office field supervisor, said the USFWS will publish the finding on the status of the butterfly in the Federal Register by the end of April.