Old trails good; New trails bad?
Preservationists Bid to Exclude Breedlove,
Assault on Speed Record, from Black Rock

By Randy Gray

The renewed joust for the world land speed record will never be contested again in the Black Rock Desert if environmental protection groups have anything to say about it.  
While battle lines have been drawn between jet-powered vehicles, they've also been drawn between environmental preservationists and the Bureau of Land Management.
Craig Breedlove of Rio Vista, Calif. was the picture of mixed emotions after his failed attempt on Oct. 28 to wrest the title from Richard Noble of Great Britain.
He was shaking from a brush with disaster after his car veered off course at 675 miles per hour and he was worried about the damage to his car. He was also bitter about having his schedule squeezed by legal action which sought to prevent his run.
"If the environmentalists wanted to keep an American from getting the record, they succeeded," Breedlove said.
Susan Lynn, executive director of Public Resource Associates, issued a "no comment" to Breedlove's statement. "I have nothing against him personally," she said.
Public Resource Associates (PRA) is a privately funded non-profit organization focusing on natural resource and public-land policy issues. Based in Reno, it is funded by John Livermore, a geologist who was involved in the original discovery of Nevada's gold-rich Carlin Trend.
Breedlove, Noble and Gary Swenson of Puyallup, Wash. were granted BLM special recreation permits for Sept. 16-Nov. 15. Environmental groups then filed an appeal and asked for a stay of execution to prevent use of the desert.
Bruce Harris, a deputy chief administrative judge, refused to grant the stay.
An appeal was filed by the Coalition for the High Rock/Black Rock National Conservation Area. Included in the coalition, besides PRA, are representatives of the Oregon-California Trails Association, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and the Wild Horse Protective Association.
Lynn said she could not comment on the legal proceedings and said she had no idea how long it would be before the appeal was ruled upon.
"From what I've heard, it could be anywhere from nine months to five years," she said.
Lynn Clemons, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM's Winnemucca district office, said he expects a decision "anywhere from six months to a year."
So what were the concerns over the use of a small portion of the smooth, brownish-white playa formed by the ancient Lake Lahontan

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covering 400 square miles whose southeastern edge is just outside of Gerlach, Nev., 100 miles north of Reno?
"Actually, it's not an environmental problem, it's in the interests of historic preservation," PRA's Lynn said. "We're concerned with the BLM's process in considering health, safety and welfare, and protection of the immigrant trail.
"The car could veer off course, which it did, and injure bystanders. That should be the bureau's concern more than ours.
"I was out there specifically to look at land management, and there was no management per se. We're worried about people driving over the old immigrant trail and trashing the hot springs because of so much activity."
The Bureau of Land Management filed a seven-page rebuttal to contentions in the Coalition's appeal, according to Clemons.
"If there were 100,000 people out there, they'd have a legitimate complaint," he said. "But from what I understand, there were no more than 200."
Clemons, who was at the site during preparations for the run along with other BLM personnel, said at the time he did not expect the number of spectators to exceed 500 during Breedlove's practice runs, qualifying runs or record attempt.
He had also monitored Noble's record run of 633.468 mph at the Black Rock in 1983.
"They (environmentalists) want the land use planned out. They want an environmental impact statement just on a whim," Clemons said. "I've worked with them for years.
"They're worried about the Applegate-Lassen historical trail on the east side. What are a few people going to do to the surrounding areas?"
Clemons was on vacation and not present for Breedlove's record attempt but said he was disturbed by reports that onlookers were within a mile of the car when it careened out of control, tipped onto its side and wound up two miles off course.

"Very emphatically, yes, we are going to be looking at the safety factor for the next attempt," he said.
The permits for use of the Black Rock for the jet-powered cars were for two years, Clemons said.
Breedlove, Noble's SCC Thrust organization and Swenson will have access to the Black Rock from just after Labor Day to mid-November next year if the Coalition's appeal is not upheld.

copyright (c) 1996, Randy Gray

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