By Vernon Robison
June 22, 2011 – Moapa Valley Progress
Bureau of Land Management representatives gave a report to the local town advisory boards (TABs) in meetings last week about the results of an ongoing project to monitor roads in each of four Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) surrounding the Moapa Valley area.
BLM Habitat Conservation Coordinator, Carrie Ronning, was in attendance at each of the two TAB meetings and explained the background on the project to board members. She handed out maps of the four ACECs including Gold Butte, Mormon Mesa, Coyote Springs and Rainbow Gardens (just north of Las Vegas valley).
Ronning explained that population increases in the region and increases in tourism had brought damage to these areas because of casual use. Roads were being expanded into illegal areas causing damage to endangered desert tortoise habitat. BLM efforts to establish a road inventory in these areas had been in the works since 1996, Ronning said.
“Back then we thought we had a good inventory of the roads in the areas,” Ronning said. “But when we brought it to the communities for input, we found out that we really didn’t.”
This resulted in a cooperative effort with the public over the following 15 years, Ronning said.
In 2008, the BLM released a roads document which showed all designated routes in the areas. Since that time, BLM has been working to monitor conditions and activity on these designated roads, Ronning said. In this, the BLM had been assisted by local volunteers under the direction of the Partners in Conservation organization, she said.
“All in all we have logged a lot of miles over the past year and a half,” Ronning said.
She said that BLM workers had logged about 5,000 miles since January 2010 in the monitoring project. During the same time period, PIC volunteers had logged about 40,000 miles on the project.
“These are your friends and neighbors doing this monitoring,” Ronning said. “It is a tremendous amount of work done in a short time period. We never could have done it so quickly on our own.”
The map handouts showed the results of the monitoring. The maps were dotted with locations where “incidents” had been recorded. These incidents could be negative events such as unauthorized trails, illegal dumping, sign damage and other things. But they could also be documenting positive use like evidence of responsible camping, target shooting areas, fire rings, etc. The reports also showed road deterioration or road hazards for BLM officials to be aware of.
Ronning told about the great value that community members brought to the project. “We have found out that we can find out a lot faster when something is going wrong out there when the public is out there doing the monitoring,” she said. “Then we can come in and assess what needs to be done to solve the problems.”
Ronning opened the floor to the public for questions or comments. In Moapa, MTAB member Don Davis asked about the status of the old Carp/Elgin access along the railroad tracks. He said that after the flood of 2005, when Union Pacific was rebuilding the railroad, the road alongside the tracks had been closed because of an argument with the BLM, he had heard. He asked if anything could be resolved to restore that access.
Ronning said that she would work to find an alternate route on BLM land that could be opened to allow for similar access.
In Moapa Valley, the meeting was also attended by BLM Las Vegas Field Office Manager Bob Ross. PIC Chairman Lindsey Dalley praised Ross for being willing to listen to the public in lands management issues.
“Because of Bob’s leadership, the whole demeanor has shifted at the BLM,” Dalley said. “They really want to help. They are willing to listen and ask what people want. We have worked with the BLM for many years and I can say that it has not always been that way. I’d just like to publically thank Bob. I’ve seen the pendulum swing back and forth over the years. And I just have to say that we are in a good spot right now.
MVTAB member Dustin Nelson reviewed the many positive things that had been accomplished by the public working with the BLM in these types of projects. “I’d like to explore ways that we can continue to nurture that relationship,” Nelson said.
“If we can contribute as many helping hands as you do,” Nelson said speaking to BLM officials, “then we can effectively double the work force and get much more accomplished. Plus you get buy-in from the community on what you are doing.”
Ronning said that the BLM had funding to continue the monitoring project through the end of the year. But BLM officials hope that the monitoring will continue past that. “We hope to have a volunteer force that will help to continue this work and to give local input to these issues,” she said.