Courtesy of Sheriff Ben Trotter
Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 | 8:15 p.m.
Sand Mountain Recreation Area
A fight is brewing between federal and local officials in rural Northern Nevada over keeping Sand Mountain Recreation Area open amid the lingering government shutdown.
It has prompted the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office and the Bureau of Land Management to post contradictory — and even competing — signs at Sand Mountain’s entrance since the furlough began last week.
Sand Mountain, a 2-mile-long sand dune about 90 miles east of Carson City, was among hundreds of recreational sites closed due to the budget impasse after most personnel with the Bureau of Land Management were furloughed on Oct. 1. In response, employees with the federal agency posted signs at Sand Mountain’s entrance warning visitors not to trespass on the unstaffed property.
The efforts of Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter have kept the area open to the public since, and no one has been cited for entering. The sheriff personally visited the site and posted his own sign two days after the shutdown started. Its message: Enter at your own risk, pay your fees, and please keep the bathrooms clean.
Sheriff’s deputies are responding to emergencies at Sand Mountain, but the department is not providing security or maintenance services.
“There’s been a bit of a conflict between me and the local BLM. After I hung my sign, they put theirs on top,” Trotter said, noting that he has since sent a deputy to uncover the sign he placed on Oct. 4. “It’s a little bit disrespectful.”
Trotter said he met with BLM officials this week to urge local representatives to reach out to staff in Washington to allow the park to stay open. The sheriff said the talk went well, and he hopes the conflict will be resolved by Friday.
“They have to work through 1,500 layers of bureaucracy,” Trotter said. “Mine’s pretty simple. It’s just me.”
Still, while visiting the park today, he noticed his sign had apparently been covered up once more by the feds.
Attempts to reach BLM officials were unsuccessful on Thursday — an automated email response and voicemail greeting said the agency’s spokespersons were among the furloughed.
The sheriff said the fight isn’t just a power struggle over land — it’s about the local economy, too.
“To us, Sand Mountain — specifically on holidays — gives us a small but needed economic boost,” he said. “People come here from all over Nevada and California to enjoy the place and they buy gas, food and so on.”