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On the road again

For 20 years, an outfit called Best in the Desert has organized an annual Vegas to Reno race that takes participants piloting trucks, cars, dune buggies and motorcycles on a grueling trek through the Nevada outback.

This year’s race — the nation’s longest off-road event — will feature more than 300 participants and perhaps 5,000 spectators. It will take place on Aug. 19 and run 640 miles on existing dirt roads across the desert from Alamo to Dayton.

Or will it?

Because the rally takes place largely on federal land — Washington controls some 85 percent of Nevada — the Bureau of Land Management must sign off. And it seems the agency faces pressure from the D.C-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility to quash the race.

The objections from the green bureaucrats center on the Basin and Range National Monument, a 704,000-acre refuge that President Obama designated a year ago for protection. This year’s Vegas to Reno route includes 37 miles through the monument, which sits about 120 miles north of Las Vegas.

The group isn’t happy that the BLM has given “tacit approval to the race even though a management plan and other guiding documents have not yet been drafted for the monument,” the Review-Journal’s Henry Brean wrote this week.

The BLM’s environmental assessment of the race does include alternatives, one being to force participants to portage their vehicles around the monument. Really.

Here’s the best option for the BLM: Approve the race as it stands and ignore the mewling from critics.

Best of the Desert has a two-decade track record of running this event in Nevada. The race takes place on tracks already carved through the dirt and organizers will clean up and even grade the route after the rally ends.. Allowing a tiny portion of the course to traverse the corner of a national monument that didn’t even exist until last year will hardly lead to long-term degradation.

“If they’ve done it before and haven’t screwed up the place, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to do it again,” Jim Boone, a local ecologist who advocated for the monument designation, told Mr. Brean. “It’s their national monument, too.”

Amen.

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