The Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday closed the the public comment period on the Environmental Assessment for the Special Recreation Permit for the Best in the Desert annual Vegas to Reno off-highway vehicle race scheduled to start Aug. 19.
The agency had extended the deadline for three days to give the cactus-hugger, self-styled environmentalists more time to concoct imaginative excuses for prohibiting any kind of profitable or pleasurable activity by anyone anywhere.
This prompted Nevada’s congressmen who represent the rural counties through which the race is to be routed — Reps. Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei — to fire off a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell calling for approval of the race, which they say is estimated to generate upwards of $40 million in economic activity for the rural communities involved. Hardy-Amodei Letter to Sec. Jewell
A group calling itself Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility had protested routing the 640-mile race across a 37-mile stretch of dirt road on the newly minted 700,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument. The race is expected to involve about 300 motorcycles, trucks, dune buggies and assorted all-terrain vehicles, as well as several thousand spectators. It has been run annually for 20 years by the Best in the Desert Racing Association. It starts near Alamo, has an overnight stop in Tonopah and ends near Dayton.
“BLM’s race plan makes a mockery out of President Obama’s monument declaration,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “BLM is playing fast and loose with its legal obligations in order to let hundreds of vehicles roar through fragile desert before the monument’s protections can be solidified.”
A spokesman for Hardy released a statement saying, “The science speaks for itself that there is no environmental reason to deny a special recreation permit for this race. But outside special interest groups and some complicit federal officials are attempting to rig this decision to circumvent the public planning process and appease political allies. This administration has a track record of using the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process to advance its own agenda irrespective of law or science. We cannot stand by and allow politically motivated insiders to throw out the results of a rigorous environmental assessment prepared by career professionals.”
The Hardy/Amodie letter quotes from the BLM’s 116-page Environmental Assessment, which says:
A portion of the Proposed Action race course passes through the Basin and Range National Monument. The Proposed Action is in conformance with the Presidential Proclamation that established the Monument. The Proclamation allows for motorized vehicle use on roads existing in the Monument as of its establishment, July 10, 2015, consistent with the care and management of the objects of scientific and historic interest identified in the Proclamation. All of the roads proposed for portions of the event within the Monument existed prior to that date.
The congressmen’s letter states, “To deny the SRP (Special Recreation Permit) along the proposed route after the EA (Environmental Assessment) found that the race was not in violation of the proclamation would mean the BLM has abandoned its mandate in favor of appeasing special interests.”
The letter concludes by taking a shot at the very concept of unilaterally dictating local land use from an office in Washington:
The BLM has three options: Let the race continue as planned. Reroute to avoid the national monument. Deny the permit entirely.