Becky Trout

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March 10, 2005
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BLM wrestles with land use


The Bureau of Land Management has kicked off a months-long process to plan for future uses of the 18,000 acres it manages in Nevada County.

The process will update the agency's guidebook, which dates from the 1980s when 40,000 fewer people lived in Nevada County and preventing wildfires was not considered a top concern, said Ken Hood, the bureau's chief of fire management.

Now, brush clearing is crucial, said Vern Gross, who lives south of Grass Valley.

"I'm concerned because there are BLM lands not too far from me, and they're usually a fire threat in the summer," Gross said.

The threat stems not only from the heavy brush cover, Gross said. Homeless people and others light illegal campfires, Gross said.

The agency doesn't have enough money to conduct major brush clearing or enforcement projects in the 230,000 acres - stretching from Nevada to Merced counties - the Folsom-based crew manages, Hood said.

Instead, it gives money to the Nevada County Fire Safe Council, local fire departments and to fire education, Hood said.

Additional brush clearing could be conducted, however, if more people submit comments that emphasize the need for additional fire prevention, Hood said at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Fire prevention isn't the top issue for everyone interested in BLM lands, however.

Jeff Roberts attended the meeting to learn about leasing land for paintball. Supervisor John Spencer asked about stewardship opportunities. Martin Ward of Alta Sierra came to learn more about the land he enjoys spending time on.

Another perennial issue is managing conflicts between dirt bikers and horse riders, hikers and hunters, said Deane Swickard, BLM's Folsom field manager.

Comments on those topics and others will influence the final plan, which Swickard said will not propose any "revolutionary changes." Instead, it will refine and improve the agency's actions, he said.

Historically, BLM held onto land until it was sold to a private party. Now, the agency wants to consolidate its properties while retaining the same amount of land overall, Swickard said.

BLM is not planning any major land purchases or sales in Nevada County, but it does accept donations, he said.

A draft of the plan is expected by the end of 2006.

Comments will be accepted until the end of March and should be directed to Bureau of Land Management, Folsom Field Office, 63 Natoma Street, Folsom, CA, 95630.

For more information, call (916) 985-4474 or visit www.ca.blm.gov/folsom.


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The Union Updated Mar 10, 2005 11:42PM Published Mar 10, 2005 12:00AM Copyright 2005 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.