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EDITORIAL: BLM’s olive branch to bikers covered with red tape

The bureaucrats at the Bureau of Land Management remain terrified that someone, somewhere is having a good time on public lands.

Mountain bikers are a regular target of their ire. Outdoor recreation has increased in popularity, and more and more people are riding the trails. Some of those trails are sanctioned, but many aren’t. Officials say there are more than 50 miles of unapproved trails around Red Rock Canyon.

Think about how a business might handle this. “Wow. So many people want to use our product that we can’t keep up with demand,” an entrepreneur would think. “We had better do everything possible to speed up delivery of our product.” In a free market, a business is rewarded when it has something to offer people. That encourages them to quickly provide what consumers want.

Contrast that with the federal government. Bureaucrats generally don’t earn more money for innovation or offering new products. Indeed, bypassing procedure in the name of efficiency could get you fired.

BLM provided a great case study of this dynamic last year. Officials found an under-construction mountain bike trail in Sloan Canyon, a nearly 50,000-acre area south of Henderson. There is a small area with petroglyphs, but it’s mostly filled with rocks, dirt and hills.

Those mountain bikers were attempting to create something usable on land that was not considered environmentally sensitive. Instead, BLM officials left a note saying they planned to dismantle their work, but would not try to arrest them. Oh, the irony. Thieves blatantly rob stores without any apparent fear of consequences. But those smoothing dirt and moving boulders around on “public” lands face the wrath of federal prosecutors.

Sloan Canyon manager Jenna Giddens then sought out those in the local mountain biking community. “I let them know that it would be more heavy-handed in the future, but that this was our opportunity to work together,” she said.

Credit to Ms. Giddens and BLM for at least seeking to work with mountain bikers. Other government officials may not have even done that. But there’s a problem. Unlike a company that’s rewarded for responding to the desires of customers, red tape constrains BLM bureaucrats. That includes the National Environmental Protection Agency Process, which demands an environmental review of new trails.

“If you’re waiting for the BLM people to do it, it’s just going to take a long time,” said Alison Cormier, an education coordinator with the Southern Nevada Mountain Biking Association.

Consider this is one more reason why so much of Nevada’s land shouldn’t be trapped in regulatory purgatory. Nevadans, not slow-moving BLM bureaucrats, should control more land in this state.

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