Off road

The federal government inexplicably controls more than 85 percent of the land within Nevada's boundaries.

This predictably has led to conflict between federal and local officials concerning land use. Many of those disputes have played out in remote northeastern Nevada's Elko County, where commissioners have contested federal road-use restrictions on national forest lands.

But now the fight has spread to the Reno area, where the Pacific Legal Foundation has sued to overturn a new federal "travel management" plan on lands in the Sierra just west of The Biggest Little City in the World.

"We are filing this lawsuit to stop the U.S. Forest Service from illegally padlocking vast areas of the Tahoe National Forest and blocking the public from enjoying responsible recreational use of public lands," Brandon Middleton, foundation attorney, said in a statement.

Green groups, of course, counter that the federal regulations don't go far enough to limit off-road vehicle activity that they maintain damages the environment.

Restrictions on recreational uses of federal land have multiplied exponentially in recent decades. In areas around the state, miles and miles of land and roads that locals once regularly used and frequented have been declared off limits.

"Basically, the Forest Service is deviating from its congressional mandate for multiple use," Carl Adams, a Reno resident and off-road enthusiast, told The Associated Press. "They're substituting a self-defined agenda of preservationism. The entire process is a farce. It's clear the Forest Service doesn't want the public in the forest."

To the extent that the Pacific Legal Foundation's lawsuit calls attention to this trend, the state will be better off. But ultimately, this conflict will be solved only when Nevada regains control over the vast majority of its own territory, now managed from far-away Washington, D.C.