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Shovels Shipped in Forest Protest

January 29, 2000

ELKO, Nev. (AP) _ Disgruntled Westerners shipped thousands of shovels to northeast Nevada to protest federal environmental policy and lend support to residents feuding with the U.S. Forest Service over a washed-out road.

About 200 makeshift floats and other vehicles were entered in a parade Saturday to carry an estimated 10,000 shovels down Elko’s main street to a rally at the county courthouse.

``It has taken on a life of its own,″ said O.Q. ``Chris″ Johnson, a local businessman who helped organize the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade Parade. ``It’s bigger than the Fourth of July.″

Ranchers, loggers, miners and small business owners donated the shovels in a show of support for locals’ efforts to rebuild the South Canyon Road along the Jarbidge River in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The Forest Service has fought their efforts, saying the road work and erosion would harm the river’s population of bull trout, an endangered species.

Most of the shovels were delivered in a caravan from Montana, where loggers and mill workers long have been at odds with the Forest Service.

``Somehow, sending a shovel seems symbolic. Maybe it will make a difference,″ said Cary Hegreberg of Helena, Mont., executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association.

``Most people understand shovels are a symbol of work. That’s something we have in common _ we want to work,″ he said.

Elko County Commissioner Mike Nannini, who helped organize the parade, said shovels arrived by mail from as far away as Rhode Island and Maryland.

``It’s just a grassroots deal. It’s not just the West anymore. These people are saying `No more,‴ he said.

The Jarbidge River, in a remote canyon near the Idaho border, is home of the southernmost population of bull trout in North America.

The 1.5-mile road leads to a trailhead for a wilderness, and provides vehicle access to fishing and camping along the river.

The Elko County Commission claims the Forest Service has no jurisdiction over the South Canyon Road along the river because the road was there before the Humboldt National Forest was established in the early 1900s.

Johnson and others threatened to rebuild the road by hand, but a federal judge in Reno issued a court order banning any work on the road in November.

The controversy has prompted a congressional field hearing and has become a lightning rod for criticism of President Clinton’s proposal to protect millions of acres of roadless areas in national forests.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, a Republican, offered his support for the protest in a letter to organizers on Friday.

``Since the vast majority of the public lands are in the West, perhaps the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., simply don’t understand the impact their decisions have on our western way of life,″ Guinn said.

One of the protesters was Bob Secrist of Elko.

``I’m in the firewood business and the Forest Service is giving me a bad time. They are supposed to manage the forest but they are just shutting it down and locking it up,″ he said.

``The president wants to make everything roadless. That’s fine for the people in Kansas, but 85 percent of our land is controlled by the government in Nevada. We’re expected to make a living on the other 15 percent,″ he said.

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