Halloween weekend is one of the busiest times at Sand Mountain Recreation Area (SMRA), seeing thousands of visitors. Located about 25 miles East of Fallon on Highway 50 in Nevada, Sand Mountain is a popular spot for ORV (Off-road vehicle) enthusiasts. This past weekend, Nevada Outdoor School partnered with the Bureau of Land Management to provide Tread Lightly! information and ATV Rider Course possibilities to the public.This was my first visit to Sand Mountain and I was amazed with what I saw. Staying along Vendor Row gave me an up-front view to the wild fun and craziness of the weekend. It was extremely impressive to see how many safe riding practices were being followed: Whip flags, helmets, speed limits, SIPDE (a riding strategy to reduce and manage risk –ASI). However, the most impressive and encouraging thing I encountered by far was the support for Tread Lightly!
We had an information booth set up with handouts about Sand Mountain, invasive species in Nevada and Tread Lightly! Many people came over to get information and share their riding experiences and thoughts. One such conversation that sticks out in my mind was with a 12 year-old girl and her grandfather. They have been coming to SMRA for years and are ORV enthusiasts. The young girl told us about riding with her grandfather around the dunes and seeing other ORVs riding in restricted areas. As she happily took another Tread Lightly! Lightfoot tattoo, she told us that her grandfather said actions like that are what’s going to get OHV use possibly banned from this area in the future. In truth, her grandfather might be on to something.
Sand Mountain Recreation Area is home to many unique plant and animal species. Some of these species, like the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly only live in this small area of Nevada. Unfortunately, loss of critical habitat due to OHV use is threatening these species. The BLM has tried to minimize this impact by closing and restricting access to certain trails and areas within SMRA but unfortunately, not all recreationalists follow these posted signs and closures. This is causing groups such as Xerces to call for the Sand Mountain Blue to be put on the Endangered Species list and therefore get protection under the Endangered Species Act.I think we can all take a lesson from the little girl and grandfather that I met this weekend. OHV enthusiasts will benefit more in the future by Treading Lightly and following posted signs and closures to ensure the continued access to great OHV recreation sites such as Sand Mountain.
Have a blast out there and remember to Tread Lightly!
|Jessie and Brenna getting ready to check out Sand Mountain|