30 Great Places: Pine Forest Range

Region: West
Activities: Hunting, Fishing
Species: Chukar; Bighorn Sheep; Pronghorn; Mule Deer; Rainbow, brown, brook and tiger trout

Where: The Pine Forest Range rests in Humboldt County in northwestern Nevada, just south of the Oregon border. This rugged high desert landscape ranges from 4,200 to more than 9,000 feet in elevation, and intersperses sagebrush and otherworldly rock formations with dense stands of aspens. It’s home to the region’s only alpine lakes.

Why: People driving through northwestern Nevada on I-80 may look out their windows and view a bland landscape to be hurried past. Wildlife biologist (and former Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioner) Jim Jeffress sees a hidden gem.

“The Pine Forest Range offers tremendous ecosystem diversity thanks to its great range of elevation,” he shared. “The great deal of wildlife and tremendous geologic features present aren’t apparent until you get back in there. Once you do, you rarely run into a gate or ‘No Trespassing’ sign, as it’s almost all public land.”

The range’s diversity extends to the sporting experiences it affords.

“Pine Forest has tremendous chukar habitat, and a long season. If you see someplace you want to hunt and you can get there, it’s available. You’re not restricted to narrow corridors. Robust bighorn sheep populations are a draw for big game hunters, as are healthy populations of mule deer and pronghorn. Anglers can find rainbow, brown, brook and tiger trout (a sterile hybrid of a brook and brown trout) in three lakes—Onion Valley Reservoir, Blue Lake and Knot Creek Reservoir. Knot Creek is managed as a trophy fishery, with many fish over 20 inches.”

Local Knowledge: The Pine Forest Range is pretty far off the grid, and you’d better be prepared.

“You’re over 100 miles from any town,” Jeffress added. “You need a good vehicle, with tires that can deal with rough terrain—especially now, as with reduced budgets, there’s limited road maintenance. You should have a couple of spare tires, extra fuel, food and water. You might not see anyone out there for days.”

TU Initiatives: Working with an extremely diverse group of locals, TU helped champion the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act. The bill, which passed in 2014, balances land uses in the region to accommodate hunters and anglers as well as native species. TU is also advising local groups on strategies for dealing with invasive cheatgrass proliferation, overgrazing by unsustainable populations of wild horses and burros, and the continued reintroduction and establishment of Lahontan cutthroat, northern Nevada’s totemic salmonid.

Make a difference: Recent years have seen a renewed interest to do away with public lands like the Pine Forest Range. These efforts have come in many forms, be they hostile takeovers or attempts to quietly pass legislation that would hand over your lands over to individual states to own or manage. Take action today to tell Congress you want to keep public lands in public hands and to work toward real solution that solve land management challenges.

By Shauna Stephenson.