Into Wilderness, from Whence it Came
A Brief History of the Arc Dome
Wilderness Area, Nevada
Arc Dome is currently one of 68 wilderness areas in Nevada. In total, 6,579,000 acres of public lands have been designated as wilderness here since 1964 when the Wilderness Act became law. The Jarbidge Wilderness Area was the first parcel in Nevada to be protected (http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS. This was the same area that later gave birth to the Sagebrush Rebellion when local residents became upset over the closure of a nearby road crossing a stream providing habitat for the endangered Bull Trout,
It was not until 1989 that other federal lands were provided this same protection. That year 14 more areas, totaling 867,281 acres, were added to the list of wilderness areas. One of these was the Arc Dome Wilderness Area. Situated in Toiyabe National Forest, and in the mountain range with the same name, it is located in the approximate middle of the state. Humboldt/Toiyabe National Forest is the largest national forest in the continental United States and includes lands in California and Nevada.
Unlike other areas in the west, it was not until late in the history of westward expansion that Nevada was explored. Only one of the early (1830-60s) explorations traveled through this area; John C. Fremont pass through in 1844. It was not until gold was discovered in the 1870-80s that Euro-Americans travel here in any appreciable numbers (Angel 1973; Elliot 1987). In 1878, John Muir visited Arc Dome as a guide for members of the U. S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey expedition as across Nevada to study and map parts of the region for later explorers (Muir 1878; Seymour 2007). During the 1878 and 1179 expedition, the Geodetic Survey team built an observation station on the summit of Arc Dome peak at 11,775. Here they to began to build the geodetic grid along the 39th parallel between Salt Lake City and San Francisco. The grid was the basis for the cadastral mapping system we use in the western United States today. Shortly after this momentous feat, what now approximates the Toiyabe National Forest was added into the National Forest Reserve between 1909 and 1911. The road once used by these men is now seen as a faint trace and is part of the Toiyabe Crest Trail.
In the early 1980s, local and national wilderness advocates began to build an interest in some remote areas of Nevada. Interest was so great that a tour was provided for certain pro-wilderness legislators out of Washington. A helicopter ride over the region convinced them of the merit of these efforts. With the help of Ohio House of Representative John Seiberling, then House member of Nevada, Harry Reid, attached language to an appropriations bill. Nevada Senator Chick Hecht was decisively anti-wilderness. The two Representatives effectively bypassed Hecht. He was not happy, nor were many rural Nevadans. Bill P.L. 101-195 [S.974] was passed on December 5th, 1989 (101st Congress 1989). Lois Sagel, a private citizen and the most prominent person from Nevada promoting the passage of this wilderness bill, received numerous death threats. Harry Reid has said, “The day I voted for that bill was the day I lost the rural vote.” Even today, the state is split rural vs. urban, not unlike other areas in the west.
With the 2006 passage of the White Pine County Lands bill, more land was designated as wilderness and many rural Nevadans have become pro-wilderness realizing that their way of life is slowly eroding through an array of development threats such as waste storage and water transfer.
1989 Public Law 101-195 [S. 974] December 5, 1989. Nevada Wilderness Protection Act of 1989. United States House of Representatives, Washington D.C.
Angel, Myron (editor)
1973 History of Nevada. Reproduced from History of Nevada with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Thompson and West, Oakland, Cal, 1881.
Elliot, Russell D.
1987 History of Nevada. University of Nevada Press, Lincoln.
1878 Nevada’s Timber Belt in Steep Trails: California-Utah-Nevada-Washington-Oregon-The Grand Canyon. Ed by William F. Bade, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
Seymour, Gregory R.
2007 Archaeology at the Top of Nevada: Geodetic Surveys of 1878-1895. Trails Past, Inc. Presented at the Nevada Archaeological Association Annual Conference, April 2007, Ely Nevada. Posted at http://trailspast.com/html