From 1977-1992, the BLM evaluated 860 roadless areas, called "Wilderness Study Areas," (WSA) encompassing more than 27 million acres in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The BLM has recommended that Congress designate 330 WSAs (9.7 million acres) as Wilderness and release all or parts of the other WSAs for other uses. However, until Congress passes laws to that effect, the BLM must protect the wilderness characteristics of all the WSAs. By law, management of WSAs is less restrictive than management of Wilderness but activities that would impair land suitability for wilderness designation are prohibited. Wilderness Study Areas are places "untrammeled by man offering outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation”.
The Elko District Office in northeastern Nevada manages 10 Wilderness Study Areas totalling over 272,000 acres including the Goshute Peak WSA south of the Utah/Nevada border town of Wendover, just 2.5 hours from Salt Lake City. This area of Basin and Range geography is noted as an outstanding location for observing migrating raptors, due to its wide open vistas, clear skies and central location between summer habitat in northern Canada and Alaska and winter habitat in Mexico, Latin America and South America.
We'll spend our week camped at the Hawkwatch International field station on the ridgeline of the Goshute Peak WSA. Our service project is in partnership with Hawkwatch, who's allowing us to use their site as a base camp from which to conduct trail maintenance and improve the access trail that leads from the base of the range to the station. The trail receives heavy foot traffic in the fall, when biologists and volunteers spend a couple months each year conducting research and making migration counts. We'll drive to the meeting location adjacent to the wilderness boundary, ready our packs and backpack uphill 3 miles to the ridgeline camp. Pack stock is being provided by the neighboring agency Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, to carry our food, commissary and tools to camp. From camp, we'll make daily forays down the trail -- cutting back overgrown vegetation and repairing the trail surface as we go. On our free day, we can hike along the ridgeline to high points in the 9000' range, offering wide views of the Great Basin.
Come join us on our first service project into the Goshute Peak Wilderness Study Area!
Some photos courtesy of Hawkwatch.