By Kevin McNair
Hunting season is upon us and all across the state, Nevadans are loading up the truck and heading out in search of the elusive game animals that will provide food for their families. We are lucky here in Nevada that we have so much public land available to us for all sorts of recreational activities. A recent study from the Outdoor Industry Association found that 57 percent of Nevadans are involved in some form of outdoor recreation activity and many of them rely on access to public lands.
This is why the Nevada Wildlife Federation was so excited to support the passage of SB 316 this past legislative session. Sponsored by Senator Ira Hansen, the bill creates penalties in state law for illegally blocking access to public lands. Under the provisions of what is now NRS 202.450, it is now defined as a public nuisance punishable by misdemeanor for a private person to illegally block a public road, access to public land or to knowingly misrepresent the land ownership status of public land. Unfortunately, when out on the public lands, we sometimes run into situations such as those described above. Thanks to Senator Hansen, the Legislature and the Governor, we have an option to deal with the issue.
Now that the state has acted, enforcement falls to the local governments – the county sheriffs and district attorneys. So what should you do if you encounter a locked gate or other blockage on a road that you believe to be a public access road? Your first step should be to verify that it is indeed a public road. Most Nevada counties have mapped all of their county roads as defined in NRS 403.170 and with the advent of GPS technology and products such as onX Maps, it’s easier than ever to know where private land ends and where the public domain begins.
If it turns out that you have encountered an illegally-blocked road, contact the county sheriff or district attorney. Some Nevada counties have already notified landowners of the new law and locks have already come off of the gates – but some might need a little more prodding. And always remember, leave gates as you found them! If a gate is closed (and not locked) and you go through it, close it behind you.
Hunting and fishing are an important pastime for many Nevadans and are a key component in the conservation of our wildlife resources. I know that I cherish the opportunity every fall to get out and enjoy the beautiful places our state has to offer, and every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to bring home something for the freezer. With the passage of SB 316, enjoyment of our public lands became a little easier.
Kevin McNair is a member of the Board of Directors for the Nevada Wildlife Federation