Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I love getting out in the hills. Getting out and about is one way I take a break from the routine of everyday life. There are some places that are my go to spot, I love going there and it never gets old with new sunsets and changing weather it’s always something new.  I also love exploring new places, finding traces of life where something has tried to eke out an existence from some bygone era or seeing some new geologic formation for the first time awakens my sense of adventure. I love cruising new vistas and being reminded of my place in existence and time.  

Part of going out is being prepared, and part of being prepared is studying the map. Over the last few years there has been a proliferation of mapping tools made available with high resolution imagery that is regularly updated. These new mapping tools combined with the good ol’ USGS maps or BLM\Forest Service maps allow us to know where we will be going like never before.

Sometimes however when you are wanting to go and explore a new area, it nice to know what some of the highlight spots are from other people. In my younger days I would do this by getting out my dad’s old maps and looking for the circles he and my uncle had drawn on the map of the places they had visited. Sometimes I would call my uncle and try and get directions to a place but that didn’t always work as his sense of place and mine were often drawn from different vantage points and the directions didn’t always translate.

With this little history as a backdrop I would like to introduce release 1 of my mapping site . With this first release I am introducing a mapping application that allows you to view and create your favorite spots out in the back country as well as report on the status of that site.  

When you open up the site it will initially zoom to the Whitney Pockets area in the Gold Butte region. At the top right of the map is a search tool that allows you to search all the spots that have been added to the map. This is a wildcard search so if you type petroglyph, then any spot that has petroglyph in the name will come up. After you select a name from the drop down, hit submit and the map will zoom to that particular spot.

The little orange X’s mark where there is a spot that has been added by a user.  Click the orange X to identify that spot and open the information panel. When the panel opens it will give you the name of that spot. Some spots have a link that says, “Click for more info about this spot”. This link will take you to my site where I have more detailed information about that particular spot.  Also in this panel is a checkbox that says, “This is my go to spot”.

After you check the “This is my go to spot” the panel will expand to show a form where you can submit a little bit of information about that spot. Please answer the two questions that this form asks.

If you have a favorite spot but there isn’t a X that marks the spot then you can click navigate the map to your spot and add it. To add your spot click where your spot is and a new panel will open asking for the name of the place and the type of place that it is.

I built this site with a couple goals in mind. I love studying maps so I wanted to create a site where people could access easy to use dynamic maps. Right now I just have the USGS map for the base map but in the future I will change it so you can switch between aerial imagery and hopefully historic maps and other types of base maps. I wanted a place where people could add their favorite spot and view where other people like going for new trip ideas.

I also wanted the application to be a tool that helps improve public lands management. Folks are always asking for ways that they can be involved. I want this site to be a place where after you visit a spot you can report on the condition of that place so if we need to put together a clean-up then we know where to go. As the database builds with user reports I will work with local non-profits like Partners-In-Conservation to ensure we are good local stewards of our public lands.  As reports come in I can create maps to depict where clean-ups need to take place. The map below is a heat map of the current locations that have been added to the map. It shows where people’s favorite places are to visit. This is an example of the types of maps that I can create:

In the next version I am going to start adding roads into the map so you can view different trails and report on their status. This will then help people know when they are planning their trip what the conditions of the roads are and what type of vehicle will be needed to traverse the road.

Please go check out the site and add your favorite spot and report on the conditions of places where you have visited recently. I hope that this site will be a tool that is useful and informative and that you will check back often for updates and to find new places to explore.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mica Peak Vermiculite Mine

I ran across an old mining journal published by the Mackay School of Mines at UNR on the vermiculite mining in the Gold Butte area. While the History of Mining section was small it contained a lot of great information and also grabbed my interest as I have many fond memories of visiting the cabin growing up and exploring this area. It also mentions the owners of the mines at the time, Roxton Whitmore and Laura Gentry who were St. Thomas folks. These historic ties are what keeps the local sense of stewardship for our public lands alive in the local communities.

The best I could do to find a picture of Laura Gentry was this photo which states that she is the little girl looking through the fence. If my Whitmore friends are out there and can let me know whether this is correct or not I would appreciate it.
This is a picture of teh Harry Gentry Genral Store in St. Thomas.

The best I could do for Roxton Whitmore was this picture I have of his place in St. Thomas.

Gold Butte vermiculite deposits, Clark County, Nevada
Mackay School of Mines, University of Nevada 1967

The Gold butte vermiculite deposits are in the central portion of the South Virgin Mountains in northeastern Clark County. They lie within a one-mile-square area of the Gold Butte 15’ quadrangle, in sec. 15 T. 19 s., 70E.. The area is accessible by way of a maintained county road that connects with US Highway 91 at  Mesquite, Nev; the distance from Mesquite to the deposits is 52 miles.

Intermittent attempts have been made to exploit the vermiculite deposits, but no record of production is available. The first carload of unprocessed vermiculite was shipped to Los Angeles in 1942, and at least several car loads were shipped out later for experimental purposes. A mill was completed in 1945 with a reported daily capacity of 25 tons. The material was mined by open put methods. It is said that no more than 5 tons production per day was obtained, and the operation soon ceased. Failure to clean and size the material properly, lack of capital investment, and extreme difficulties of transportation are probably the chief reasons for the limed production.

In 1962 two cabins and the remains of the wind-damaged mill are the only structures on the property. A mine pit, almost 300 feet long, and waste dumps are present near the mill. Elsewhere, shallow exploration test pits and trenches dot the area. In a well near the mill, the water level has been within 20 feet of the surface in summer. The mining claims are held by Laura Gentry and Roxton Whitmore of Overton, Nev.

If you look to the far left you can see the roof of the old cabin. Next time I go out I will try and get an updated picture from the same vantage point however for now this is the same angle looking from Google Earth.

 This is my dad Jack Nelson out at the cabins at the Mica Peak mine before the BLM torn them down. This picture was taken in about 2001.

There is still a little machinery scattered out in the hills from the old mill.

This map was included in the journal.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Motion

While I lay under the stars last night enjoying the beautiful back country of Gold Butte,  I couldn't help but feel a peace that can only come while sitting among the hills and sage. It was a beautiful night. There wasn't a hint of a breeze, nor a trace of a cloud and the moon was hours from peaking over the Grand Wash Cliffs so the stars were dense and brilliant. Laying in my bed roll next to my boys in the back of my truck, it would have been hard to feel any more still, however the shutter on my camera tells a different story. It reminded me that things are always in motion.

With the shutter wide open for much of the night my camera captured the motion of the night sky with the star trails glittering by. It is the same with the political landscape of Gold Butte as well. Last week on February 10, 2015 Dina Titus introduced legislation to designate Gold Butte as an NCA. Albeit that is is not the first, second or third time this bill has been introduced it still muddies the waters and undercuts anything positive that could be done for public lands in Southern Nevada.

These bills are not what they seem. It is easy to read into the rhetoric and get caught up in the feel good hook that these wilderness bills convey. The hidden barb that sinks in after these bills get passed are the stories, the history and the landscape that gets swept clean to create a landscape to fit this agenda. These bills are unable to encompass a wide enough perspective to capture a complete picture of our public lands and the stories they hold. Instead they focus on one point in time and disregard any evidence that detracts from this one vantage. It is my history, one of cattle ranching, mining and pioneering that often gets swept aside.

As I travel the back roads of Gold Butte the history emanates from the hills and springs, corrals and mines. There is a story of many people who have passed through this country. It is not a simple landscape that can fit within a narrow agenda nor be captured by a philosophy watered down by money and ego. I will continue to work for protection with access for our public lands and work to conserve every aspect of history that has played out on our public lands.

H.R. 856: To establish the Gold Butte National Conservation Area in Clark County, Nevada, in order to conserve, protect, and enhance the cultural, archaeological, natural, wilderness, scientific, geological, historical, biological, wildlife, educational, and scenic resources of the area, to designate wilderness areas, and for other purposes.

Feb 10, 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My RMP Request

This letter is in regards to the proposed RMP for the Southern Nevada.

I appreciate that you have extended the amount of time that you gave the public to comment on the RMP proposals however the real problem is not the length of the comment period but the content. The proposed RMP does not include a proposal that is acceptable to a better part of Nevada residents and those who enjoy public lands. The proposed RMP sets a path that will drastically alter how the citizens of this beautiful country interact with public lands in Southern Nevada.

What is needed is for the BLM to suspend the comment period while a new practical proposal for Nevadans is created. The public and specifically those communities surrounded by public lands need a better alternative that encompass our uses and perpetuates the multiple-use landscape within Nevada.

In the book Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg he states, “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” What you, as the BLM have created are proposals in response to your method of questioning, leaving the residents and communities of Nevada obscured. The agency has employed tools that present only a myopic view of public lands while turning a blind eye to many of its current and historic uses.  This is done to implicitly limit our ability to comment. You cannot disagree with what has not been included and you can only comment on what’s been included. You as the BLM have refused to expand your method of questioning to include the everyday citizens and how they interact with public lands and its resources. You as the BLM have taken years to gather information using a process designed to give you exactly the results you needed and then given but a fraction of time to comment on slanted and narrow proposals.

I request a deferment to the comment period while the BLM develops an alternative proposal that better reflects a multiple-use landscape which is representative of Nevada residents and its historic uses.

Dustin W. Nelson
Logandale, NV

Please send in your comments Email:

This is a time lapse where I tried to capture the snow melt on the Virgin Mountain on New Years day


Friday, December 5, 2014

BLM Contact Information RMP

Please contact the Southern Nevada BLM office and request, if nothing else, at least a 1 year extension of time to the RMP


I would also suggest contacting your congressional representatives and asking them to tell the BLM that they need to reevaluate their RMP and come up with alternatives that fit with the values of the people who enjoy and recreate on public lands.

Lee Kirk, Planning and Environmental Coordinator for the Las Vegas Field Office, is the primary public contact for the Resource Management Plan Revision (RMP) and leads the interdisciplinary team that is developing the RMP and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

Gayle Marrs-Smith is the Field Manager for the Las Vegas Field Office, which manages public lands in Clark County, NV.

Deborah MacNeill is the Field Manager for the Pahrump Field Office, which manages public lands in southern Nye County, NV.

The above three people are located at the BLM Southern Nevada District Office:
Bureau of Land Management
4701 N. Torrey Pines Dr.
Las Vegas, NV 89130

Telephone: (702) 515-5000
Fax: (702) 515-5023

BLM's RMP Website:

Below is a time lapse the boys and I took today while out and about. It was taken up on Whitney Pass on the Virgin Mountain

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hemmed In

The BLM is once again stirring up a storm. This time it is a bit more muted, while working to fly under the radar with their paper work but nonetheless, dramatic in its long term effects on Clark County.

Living in rural northeast Clark County, public lands are a part of all our lives. All of our communities are surrounded by these lands. Some of us own property that bound public managed land. Some of our livelihoods depend on access to our public lands and all of us depend on utilities to deliver electrical and water services that cross these lands and most of us recreate in one form or another on this government managed land. With so much dependency on these lands it would be assumed that both parties would be thoroughly involved in designing a management plan. However as precedent has proven, this is never the case.

The BLM has released their latest management proposals for the Southern Nevada region. These proposals include changing the status for over 250,000 acres of land.  For residents of the Virgin and Moapa Valleys the impact hits close to home. The Mormon Mesa between the two valleys is greatly impacted, Gold Butte stands to take even further alterations as well as almost every other hill, valley, wash and mesa stands to get some designation or label of one kind or another.

The BLM has asked for the public to comment on their proposal and has given but a short window to do so. The closing date for comments is January 7, 2015. They are not asking for our feelings or how it will impact our lives but critical analysis down to the page and section that we think is faulty or where they have made flawed analysis. The irony of it all is that the document is heavy on fluff and light on substance and actual data to sink your teeth into. They don’t even have decent maps by which the public can scrutinize what is happening in their back yard. 

With the timeline given to review the documents the BLM is in essence saying “trust us”. However this is a hard pill to swallow since all the agency has done since 1976 FLPMA is erode the relationship they once had will the people.

If the BLM doesn't even have the courage and decency to come out to the rural communities that they are hemming in with their latest proposal, then I think there should be and extension of time at least until they can come out and give detailed presentations on their plans with decent maps, the science behind their rationale and how this will directly impact the rural citizens of Clark County and all those who frequent the back country. They have said this proposal has taken them almost six years to produce, well I think at least a year to review the said documents accompanied by presentations to the communities and widely available maps with clear information should be the least they can do.

The BLM’s latest proposal to so narrowly manage our public lands clearly, reveals that this agency is disoriented and adrift, readily succumbing to the political breeze spilling over the Potomac.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Out and About Sensing - Citizen Science Part II

Since I wrote my last post about my Arduino projects I have learned a lot. I released my first project into the wild the night of the huge rain storm we had in September when north east Clark County experienced some intense flooding. On that weather station, which the boys and I call DRASTIC, I was logging humidity, temperature, light, time and soil moisture.  I was able to make readings for a while and capture some interesting data, however I found out the hard way that my system was not water tight. After about 21 hours of capturing data I shorted out one of the circuits and stopped capturing data.

This is the graph of our sensors the night of the big rain storm. You can see my system biffed it in the morning but we still managed to capture some interesting data.

This was the afternoon after the big flood and there was still a lot of water draining off Mormon Mesa. 

We also found this guy while we were out checking our Arduino system on Mormon Mesa. 

Since that time I have been building and testing more sensors to capture even more data with the Arduino system. One of the sensors that I have built and tested over the last month is a soil temperature monitor that captures data at 3, 6 and 12 inches below the soil.

the boys and I out checking on the system

Another one of the areas I have been experimenting with is utilizing solar panels and rechargeable batteries to power the Arduino system.  I can successfully run the Arduino system of my solar panels and record the data but during the low light and the night I am out of order. Since the nighttime is a time of activity in the desert and the low light conditions like a storm is when I really would like to be capturing data this is less than ideal. Because of this I have tried to wire up rechargeable AA batteries within the electrical system to store the needed energy. So far I have been able to extend the operating life of the Arduino system into the night for a while but I have not yet been able to make it through the night. This setup is still vulnerable through an extended weather even with heavy cloud cover for multiple days so there is still testing and experiments left to go. One of the requirements for my system is that it remains as small, light and cheap as possible. I know through larger batteries I could extend the life but once this system is built it will be deployed out in the hills so I want it to remain small.

Another of the huge breakthroughs that I have been able to make is to run my Arduino system off of AA batteries for an extended period of time. Out of the box the Arduino system will only run for approximately 6 hours off of 4 AA batteries. However through a series of articles on the web and countless hours of testing I was able to tweak the code to shut down the Arduino between readings and wake up on a timer interrupt.  This will be huge. I hope to take this enhancement and tie it together with what I have learned from the solar recharging experiments and tie it together so I can run my device, I hope, indefinitely.

With all that I have learned and built over the last two months I hope to get my Arduino based weather\environmental monitor back out into the wild and start building a repository of data for North Eastern Clark County that I can then use for future experiments and analysis.
This is the barometric pressure as registered through our Arduino in mid November. This is one of the sensor we are incorporating into our system 

One of the first projects I hope to do is start collecting data within some of the areas that have experienced wild fires within the Gold Butte region and start assembling the pieces for a larger scale analysis. I will continue to post updates on our projects.

the kids and I out checking on another iteration of our Arduino based weather station