Shovel Brigade appeals Jarbidge decision
By Adella Harding
For The Times-News
ELKO, Nev. -- The Jarbidge Shovel Brigade is appealing Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Bob Vaught's decision on South Canyon Road at Jarbidge.
Attorney Grant Gerber said the big question in the appeal is "why is a Forest Service employee proceeding to close about one-third of the road we're fighting over?"
Vaught's decision on the controversial road was to keep it primitive, with some repairs up to Urdahl Campground while closing the remaining four-tenths of a mile to vehicles from there to Snowslide Gulch.
Gerber argues that the Forest Service can't close any part of the road.
"So far the Shovel Brigade appeal is the only one officially going through the process," said James Winfrey, special project coordinator for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. "We're putting together our response for the regional officer."
The appeal prevents the national forest from implementing Vaught's plan until a regional ruling on the appeal, Winfrey said.
The filing deadline was June 17, but the Forest Service is giving the mail a week to arrive, and there is another pending appeal, Winfrey said.
Randy Sharp, acting supervisor in Vaught's absence, said the Wilderness Society and Great Old Broads has filed a "protective appeal" in case Elko County appealed the decision. The county chose not to appeal, so they may drop theirs, he said.
Sharp also said he thought Vaught's decision was "kind of a compromise that meets the needs of Elko County and the environmental community."
The Shovel Brigade's appeal questions Vaught's right to close the road in light of a court settlement in which the Forest Service agreed to not contest Elko County's contention the road was an RS 2477 right of way.
Gerber also points out that Elko County's lawsuit to prove the road is the county's under RS 2477 is still in federal court and that a federal court ruled in November 2000 that the Forest Service couldn't close the road.
"That order is still in place," the appeal states.
Gerber filed the appeal for the brigade and three individuals, including Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko; Demar Dahl, brigade president; and Elwood Mose, brigade vice president.
Carpenter said he sent comments to Vaught on the record of decision, "and then Grant decided to appeal it, which was fine with me."
The assemblyman, who has been involved with the road fight since the beginning, said he doesn't think the Forest Service can close the road, "but it is pretty primitive. They could improve it with an ATV trail."
He said he would like to see the last part of the road accessible by ATV, as well as to horses and hikers.
Carpenter also said he had concerns about "wet crossings" on the road in place of bridges and felt the low areas should be hardened "so the river can't be washing it out each spring and making a big mess."
Although Gerber is stressing the RS 2477 issue in the appeal, Vaught said after his decision was released that whether the road is county owned or a federal road wouldn't affect his decision.
Costs are a leading factor, and any work still is subject to U.S. Fish and Wildlife approval because of the federally listed bull trout in the Jarbidge River.
Vaught also said the land itself, where the road is located, would still be managed by the Forest Service.
South Canyon Road was washed out 10 years ago and the fight over repairing and reopening the road or keeping it closed led to protests, lawsuits and formation of the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade.
The battle drew national attention. Truckloads of shovels began arriving in Elko, and the Shovel Brigade reopened the road on July 4, 2000.
Adella Harding is a reporter with the Elko Daily Free Press in Elko, Nev.