Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looks like a Duck

The latest efforts for the DC Lame Duckers to pass another public lands omnibus bill have been abandoned. However, as is often the case with politics, the good news only lasts until the next line. The latest word is that the bill will be broken into smaller pieces and packaged with smaller bills for passage. I found it odd that the omnibus bill would be introduced and then so quickly allowed to die. Then came Secretarial Order 3310 from Ken Salazar on December 23 2010, Protecting Wilderness Characteristics on Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Sect. 1 Purpose. This secretarial Order affirms that the protection of the wilderness characteristics of public lands is a high priority for the Bureau of Land Management, and is an integral component of its multiple use missions. The order provides direction to the BLM regarding its obligation to maintain wilderness resource inventories on a regular and continuing basis for public lands under its jurisdiction. It further directs the BLM to protect wilderness characteristics through land use planning and project-level decisions unless the BLM determines, in accordance with the order, that impairment of wilderness characteristics is appropriate and consistent with other application requirements of the law and other resource management considerations.

In a news release from the BLM it stated, “Secretarial Order 3310 directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), based on the input of the public and local communities through its existing land management planning process, to designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as "Wild Lands" and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.”

To sum the Secretarial Order up, what the BLM can now do is manage areas like Wilderness but under the new name “Wild Lands” but not have to have a congressional act to do so. There are mild references within this order to the idea of a public process, consistent with other applicable requirements of law, however much can be read into the lack of upfront and clear-cut detail.

In a post titled Thinking Locally I talked about bringing the debate back home. This would be so we could work the issues out with the local land managers and residents who know and use the area. This would allow a plan to develop through best practices and common sense not special interest lobby and political favor. However rebranding one bureaucratic label with another to expedite a one-sided agenda isn’t exactly progress. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Wilderness under a different name is still Wilderness.

I have a suspicion that the lack of bureaucratic labels is not the problem the BLM faces. Maybe the ineffective execution of the policies we already have and the hijacking of the political process by special interest is where we need to focus our reform. If you are in a hole and cannot get out, the first thing to do is quit digging. Developing new tools may seem like the easy way to solve a problem however if we do not even use the tools we have, more tools are not going to help.  Creating a new Wild Lands designation isn’t going to do the work the BLM needs to do which is to uphold their multiple use mission and manage our lands responsibly.

It is most likely my naive hope that there is justice and objectivity left in the world that pushes me to try and find the good in Secretarial Order 3310.  The order is vague and there is plenty of room for interpretation of what is, or can be a wilderness characteristics, but let’s be optimistic. I will hope that the fair and transparent public process will really be so. I will hope that this will bring the debate home from Washington and back here with the people who know the country, know the issues and have spent generations being stewards of the land. Let’s start this New Year off hoping and working for better public lands management.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunrise View - Defending Gold Butte

This article was run in the Sunrise View a little while back.

Defending Gold Butte
Desire for wilderness status not shared by all who love area

I believe that this is the first article that has attempted to show some of the debate on the issues surrounding Gold Butte.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Learning the Hard Way

The recent discovery of vandalism at Red Rock National Conservation Area (NCA) at one of the rock art sites has been making the rounds on the news circuits. This kind of senseless and destructive vandalism is inexcusable and I hope that the vandals are caught. However, in trying to find the best of a bad situation, one thing that these recent actions have done is stir up the conversations around protection, education and enforcement of our public lands and cultural sites.

KNPR State of Nevada had Mark Boatwright, BLM Archeologist in Las Vegas, as a guest speaker on December 3rd 2010. The conversation was centered on the vandalism at the rock art sites but the discussions also touched on some of the issues faced when managing cultural sites. In the interview Mark said, “The problems that we have with managing rock art sites is their accessibility. The closer that they are to the road, whether it’s an NCA or a monument; the more likely you are to see graffiti. 

In a post I wrote back in October, Defining Access, I worked to define that access is more than the simple definition of an open or closed road. I think that Mr. Boatwright complements this discussion with his quote about access, “The problems that we have with managing rock art sites is their accessibility.” I believe that access also encompasses the visibility or awareness of certain areas as well. Political designations are one tool that is used to raise awareness of specific areas to a much broader audience. These political designations include NCA, Wilderness, National Monument and the likes. To brand certain areas with distinct labels and highlight them on every map, publishing it on internet sites and printed media is making these areas more accessible by advertising their location. However, with this raised awareness there is also an associated risk that is being ignored.

While many are using the recent actions of vandalism at Red Rock as testimony to rush Gold Butte’s status as an NCA, I would counter that this is plain and clear evidence of why it should not be rushed. If an area like Red Rock that has been protected for many years, is much smaller geographically, and has more intense management and available resources than Gold Butte, and it is still getting vandalized, maybe pointing the spot light on Gold Butte is not in Gold Butte’s best interest. Now is not the time to earmark Gold Butte for the bureaucratic brand.

Now is the time, when Gold Butte is flying low on most people’s radar, to build a practical management plan. A management plan that focuses on education and enforcement objectives that can safeguard Gold Butte’s resources and accessibility for the general public. To label Gold Butte an NCA and highlight it on every map and print it on every national register is reckless and irresponsible. If everyone who believes they are as impassioned as they preach about what is best for Gold Butte, could focus their misguided energies on sustainable solutions for Gold Butte, positive achievements could be accomplished. However, if this agenda is pushed, it is being run at the risk of the irreparable consequences it carries to the physical sites and the general public.

It is time to foster new discussions instead of the same ol’ worn out rhetoric calling for the implementation of ineffective policies that do not work. It’s time to come up with sustainable solutions, instead of taking risks and putting our public lands in danger.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Legislative Integrity – Avoiding Another Omnibus

The phone calls have stopped, the road side signs are being taken down and the negative campaign ads that clogged the television and newspapers have stopped. Finally election season 2010 is over. However don’t let your guard down just yet. With the recent election we are left with a Lame Duck congress. This leaves our rejected representatives held accountable to no one yet still left with the privilege of casting votes that directly impact our lives.

The biggest threat to public lands over the next two months is the looming possibility of yet another unjust omnibus bill being introduced at the midnight hour. This covert and underhanded tactic denies the process of government its constitutional responsibility to adequately consider all legislation introduced. This circumvents the system, set forth by the founding fathers, to take its proper course which governs our nation.

Essentially what an omnibus bill does it take several, if not hundreds, of pieces of individual legislation and roll them all up into one bill. This makes it so our representatives cast an all or nothing vote for a large and diverse group of legislation. At face value this may seem like and efficient way to get things done, however in reality what it does is deny each individual piece of legislation the proper consideration that it deserves. The previous bill in 2009 included about 160 individual pieces of legislation affected nine western states, and eliminating over 2 million acres of public lands for motorized recreation. THIS IS A BIG DEAL.

I will admit that there are some good things that get done with this massive bill, that’s the key to getting it passed. You have a few shining stars that cast a positive light on this bill while in the shadows the favors to special interest are slipped in with the hopes they get lost in the confusion. Gold Butte is a likely candidate for one of those favors to special interest that would get slipped into this mammoth bill. Gold Butte and hundreds of other similar places like it, that deserve individual consideration, will be sacrificed at the hands of another omnibus bill.

The fact that we have situations like the Lame Duck session and allow loopholes like the omnibus bill use to really bother me. I use to question if the system, set forth by the founding fathers, was broke. As I sat down and tried to come up with a better solution to the current system a simple fact hit me like a ton of bricks, it’s not the system that is broke it’s the people we allow to manipulate it. The biggest threat to responsible government is those who are seeking to abuse it.

We can try and create a perfect system or craft the slickest piece of legislation however there will always be people who find loopholes. You cannot legislate integrity. Those principles have to be brought to Washington by those who we elect to public office and we must demand that they uphold those values. Don’t blame the system, blame those who abuse the system.

With the difficulties that our nation faces spending time and resources trying to pass an unscrupulous omnibus bill to further a misguided agenda pushed by special interest is not the best allocation of our representative’s time. Please take the time this week to contact your representatives and tell them that you do not support another omnibus lands bill

Congresswoman Titus

Monday, November 15, 2010

Las Vegas District Office Mailing List

The Las Vegas District Office is building a mailing list of interested parties for future southern Nevada Wilderness Management Plans.

To be included, send your email address to

Friday, November 12, 2010

Arrow Canyon - Public Input

Arrow Canyon Wilderness – Notice of Proposed Action

The Southern Nevada District Office of the Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment and participation to help them develop a management plan for the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area. The three public meetings that they have scheduled have already been held but they are accepting written comments from the public until November 19th.

I was unable to attend these meeting however I will be sending in a letter with my comments and I also encourage you to send in your feedback as well. Arrow Canyon is close to home for many of us and most likely you grew up exploring these canyons and playing on the sand dunes. Over the years we have seen many of our old haunts be gobbled up by over eager environmentalists grasping for their next wilderness trophy. This is done while most of us sit back and let it happen. If we don’t like how things are being managed we have to play a more active role in managing these areas. Yes, Arrow Canyon has already been deemed wilderness but they are proposing new actions and are asking for public input. This is our chance to be involved. Please send in your comments.

I believe that the current means by which the BLM announces their action items is lacking to say the least. I heard about this proposed action and public comment period at the Moapa Valley Town Board meeting this week. I then had to go to their website and search the “In the Spotlight” section for the Arrow Canyon news Release. By the time I had heard about it, all the public meetings had already taken place. I think that there is a better mechanism for how the BLM can communicate with the local communities and those interested in public lands.

I suggest that if they are going to have a public meeting in a community they should announce it in the local paper at least two weeks in advance. This will give those who are interested time to get to the meeting. We also live in a digital age where the majority of citizens have access to the internet and email. The BLM has a website and technical staff that manages their site and content. The BLM needs to set up some kind of news feed or email notification system that allows those who are interested to subscribe for current and upcoming news and action items.

I also think that the simple PDF letter that they provided with bullet points listing the overly vague proposed actions is a disservice to the community as well as underhand and misleading. They have extensive data and trained staff, where are the maps of the proposed actions? I would like to see where they are targeting the invasive species. I would like to see where the decommissioned trails are that they are closing. They talk about new trails to popular features but which popular features and where will the trails be? I would also be nice to have a decent map of the area. All of these things are not freely available, if available at all, to the community.

I am tired of feeling like the BLM is yet another group that I have to fight. They are a public entity tasked with being stewards of our public lands. I think that with a little effort the BLM could create strong community relations with the local communities that they should be working with not against. I have talked repeatedly in previous posts about the idea of the public being the BLM’s greatest asset. If only we could get together and work towards a common goal of responsible public lands stewardship.

Please send in your comments to the BLM and let them know your thoughts on the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area Management and their proposed items. I would also ask that you request for a better notification system to alert the public of their news items and more information with their proposals.

Email comments to the following address by November 19th:

Description of Arrow Canyon
The 27,530-acre Arrow Canyon Wilderness Arrow Canyon was designated by Congress in 2002. Arrow Canyon Wilderness contains three distinct land forms. The west side is a spectacular cliff face marked by a distinctive dark gray band of limestone arcing across the length of the range. The north-central portion of the wilderness area contains a wide valley cut by numerous washes. The east side is characterized by a series of deep washes, including the nearly vertical sides of Arrow Canyon.

Link to the Notice of Proposed Action:

Proposed actions include:
  • non-native invasive plant species treatments to control tamarisk and other non-native invasive plants;
  • Restoration of approximately 2 miles of decommissioned route vehicle tracks to a natural condition;
  • Trail designation and construction to permit public access to popular features while reducing safety hazards and erosion in sensitive areas;
  • Developing guidelines and policies for technical rock-climbing including fixed hardware and maintenance;
  • Removal of spray-painted graffiti; repair of bore holes resulting from geologic sampling;
  • Creation of guidelines for the management of geologic research proposals; creation of guidelines for annual maintenance and repair of wildlife water developments;
  • Establishment of formal trailhead and parking areas at or near the Wilderness boundary with interpretation and education information at: the Warm Springs entrance at Arrow Canyon Ranch Road off Highway 168

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Defining Access

Access can be one of the most divisive issues when it comes to public lands. Many people equate or translate roads directly to access. This is a broad misconception. Roads are a part of access but they are only a piece of the puzzle. Access is not only the means by which we see the country but more importantly the experience and the perception that we get when we connect with a certain place. It is not enough to just see the landscape from a designated vantage point, it is our ability to be a part of, and connect with, the land in a variety of ways that makes a place accessible.

I can see Red Rock from my office window but does that mean I have access to it? If roads are only open to licensed, street legal vehicles, is that access? If the managing agencies quit maintaining the roads to be left to the natural forces of nature to close the road, which relieve them of direct accountability for the road closure, are they providing access to public lands? If hundreds of thousands of acres are manipulated into the idea of “Wilderness” does that allow my family and the public access to these places?

One person’s narrow definition of what access is, confines all of us to experience that place as they believe we should. One person’s political definition of what a landscape is does not change the physical characteristics or the history of that place. What it does, is force the rest of us to conform to their beliefs right, wrong or indifferent. It forces us to see and experience this place as they believe we should be allowed to. Regulation that manipulates the reality to conform to a group’s specific interpretation of a place limits access to individuals to see and experience a place. Creating authoritarian regulation that strips away the Sense of Place, which makes each individual landscape throughout our public lands so diverse, robs a community and future generations of that place.

Agencies that stop maintaining roads on public lands with the hopes that natural forces will close them off, is not responsible public land management. Temporary road closures with vague rationale, no timelines and no communication to the public is not responsible land management. These elusive tactics applied over a long period of time eventually lead to restricted access and erodes public trust in the managing agencies.

What happens to a “designated road” when it cuts through a “potential habitat” for an endangered species like the Arizona Bell Vireo, Banded Gecko, Banded Gila Monster, Blue Grosbeak, Desert Iguana, Desert Night Lizard, Desert Tortoise, Great Basin Collared Lizard, large Spotted Leopard Lizard, peregrine Falcon, Phainopepla, Southern Desert Horned Lizard, Southwester Willow Flycatcher, Summer Tanger, Vermillion Flycatcher, Western Burrowing Owl, Western Chickwalla, Western Red Tailed Skunk, Yellow Billed Cuckoo? You know what will happen, the road will be closed. It will probably be a “temporary closure” while it gets studied but nonetheless a closure. What about other external forces like fire and flood damage? We have already seen road closures due to the above listed items.

Access embodies a wide range of elements including the physical landscape, the complete history of the area, the roads, the means by which we travel the roads and the feelings that a person has about the place they are visiting. It is the overall experience that a person has while exploring the back country that makes it accessible. To rush into legislative action without fully understanding what Gold Butte is, restricts access to it. Labeling Gold Butte with an ambiguous political designation, to pacify special interests, compounds the issues surrounding public lands, it does not solve them. Trying to build a solution on a faulty foundation manufactured for politics, not better public lands management will not succeed in the long term. If we are going to build a sustainable solution that maintains the characteristics of Gold Butte, while preserving access to it, the solution will have to start from the ground up. This can only be accomplished with active involvement by the local communities and collaboration with the local land management agency.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creating a Responsible Environment

I am sure that all of us, at one point or another, have been in a situation where we felt like we were destined to fail. Maybe it was at work with a new policy that was implemented or a supervisor that was trying to prove a point. Maybe you were involved in an extracurricular activity where the demands of the group exceeded the potential of the group’s ability to actually reach their goal. Or maybe a new law was put into practice that, when applied in the real world, was hopeless at best. Often while out with my family enjoying Gods Country I can’t help but feel that much of our current policy and management practices in regards to public lands is creating an environment for people to fail to recreate responsibly.

o Restrooms
People have claimed that there is a problem with visitors to Whitney Pockets inappropriately using the site as a restroom facility. I agree that this is disgusting however there is a relatively easy solution to this problem. Instead of making this a big deal and using it for leverage to push your group’s agenda, focus your energy on fixing the problem. Build a facility. Whitney Pockets is the end of the oil and the gateway to Gold Butte. Instead of squandering time and resources on such things as BLM corrals and closing trails we should work to create and environment for people to recreate responsibly. If we create a situation for people to fail they will. I propose we focus our energy in positive means and work to build Gold Butte as a place where people and families can responsibly enjoy our greatest asset, public lands.

o Camping
I have heard, from both the BLM and other groups, that they report people camping illegally. Again to reiterate what I proposed for the restroom issue; Instead of making this a big deal and using it for leverage to push your own agenda, focus your energy on fixing the problem. Clearly define the areas where you want them to camp, educate and share maps and information with them and the problem is fixed. If you build it they will come.

o Roads & Trails
Roads are the means by which our public lands are controlled. If there is one issue that you can count on to get people stirred up it is roads. Roads have been closed at Gold Butte. Some are categorize as “Temporary Closures” and others have just been closed and marked as “Restored”. I am sure that in some people’s minds the road closures make sense and under certain rules and regulation it is even legal. However the current practice, by which these closures are carried out in my opinion, is where much of the contention is created. This combined with the new mantra of, “if the road is not marked open then it’s closed”, is quickly eroding what is left of the public’s trust in the BLM.
The current practice of temporary closures to roads with little or no information disseminated to the public is criminal. If there is a legitimate reason for a closure then there needs to be a legitimate plan to bring that road back open. Share with the public in an easy and transparent manner the details surrounding the management process. If people or agencies believe there is a problem with people creating new trails and going off-road we need to educate the users of where and which roads are open. Disseminate maps, mark trails and educate the users. Create an environment where the users feel a part of the process rather than against it and progress will be made.

o Cultural Sites
There has been damage to cultural and historic sites. Has the damage been over stated for peoples own agenda? I don’t know. However I truly believe that the overwhelming majority of people who use our public lands have no intention of purposely damaging our cultural sites. What is the remedy? Despite the message that special interest and the environmental lobby take to Washington it is not closing our public lands to the public. The answer is education, community stewardship and fostering a positive relationship where collaboration from all sides can take place. 

The public has the potential to be the greatest asset that public lands, as well as the agencies who manage our public lands, could ever have. Instead of alienating what could be its most powerful partner, our agencies should work with those who truly love public lands to foster a working relationship and build a true stewardship for public lands. The agencies will be able to better direct their funding to keep our greatest asset accessible and open for the public to enjoy. We need to provide a setting where we can freely and openly take the problems and complaints that people raise and then create practical policy that will resolve the issue. We need to create public lands policy that creates an environment where people can recreate responsibly. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Up and Running

Last Saturday, September 25, was the start to the Gold Butte Historic Documentation Project. We had a good turnout but there is always room for more.  The site where we will be collecting our documentation is up and running and we are working to get more content posted all the time. Please help us collect stories and information relating to Gold Butte’s rich history. To see some of the information already posted visit:

If you have any questions or want to submit information or links to other sites with histories already posted email me (Dustin) at:

Or Elise:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Collecting Gold Butte's History

It is not hard to understand why so many people are taken with the Gold Butte region. It is filled with incredibly beautiful and stunning geologic features. While standing at Whitney Pockets, Devils Throat, Horse Springs, or Hell’s Kitchen it doesn’t take long to be overtaken by the natural beauty and marvel at the earth’s natural process of molding mountains, hills and valleys. This geologic backdrop overlaid with a rich biological community comes together to create one of Nevada’s most beautiful backcountry destinations. However this is only one piece of the landscape that makes Gold Butte so incredible. The cultural history, deep-rooted in Gold Butte’s natural evolution, is a central element to understanding the Sense of Place that all of us have been so captivated by.

The Historic Documentation project was born from a conversation that Elise McAllister and I had about how we could contribute to Public Lands Day in a meaningful way. We wanted to embrace the overall goal of National Public Lands Day, which is to celebrate service and recreation on public lands, but also build on that theme to encourage more long lasting support specific to Gold Butte. Elise and I both share the concern of losing some of the historic features within Gold Butte particularly related to mining, ranching and our pioneer heritage. These pieces of history contributed greatly to the story behind Gold Butte. It is with this mindset that we start this project.

The overall goal of this project is to create a catalog of places within Gold Butte and the stories behind them. Our goal is to ensure that the places and the stories behind them are preserved and accessible. Some have been lost and many are not freely accessible but with this project we hope to begin to recover and collect as much as we can. This project can only be carried out with the help and support of the people who love and enjoy our public lands. We hope to collect hard facts such as names and dates but also personal accounts and your experiences with places out at Gold Butte. Family stories and your personal narratives is what will bring this project to life.

Please try and attend Public Lands Day at Whitney Pockets Saturday morning at 8AM for the kick off to our Historic Documentation Project. However if you cannot make it to Saturdays event, this will be an ongoing project where you can submit stories and information to us any time to improve the project. I will add a page to this site with all the information you will need to help out. Thank you for your support and hope to see you Saturday morning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Historical Documenting Project – Public Lands Day 2010 Gold Butte

Bring your Family, bring your four-wheeler or four-wheel drive and come enjoy Gold Butte while helping to record and preserve our history. One of the projects for Public Lands Day is to start building a catalog of all the historic destination found within the Gold Butte region. The goal of this project is to ensure that all of our history gets preserved. We must be active participants in helping record our own history. We are working to give each piece of history its due credit that built the west and Clark County into what we enjoy today. We are working to record Native American cultural sites as well as Mining and Ranching. Each has played a significant role in building the Sense of Place in our western culture.

Saturday Morning from 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM will be signups with the BLM at Whitney Pockets. We will have donuts for those who can make it. After signups we will break into the two different projects that we have scheduled for the day. One of the projects is to work on campsites around Whitney Pockets. If you are interested in this project you will probably want to bring some gloves and possibly some tools like a shovel and rock rake.

The other project will be the historical documenting project. With this project we will have a map and a list of places that we think need to be documented. However the list is neither complete nor do we know of all the places that are hidden within Gold Butte. Please come and share your knowledge with us so every place at Gold Butte will get its due credit. After we have worked on defining all of the places that we can, we will break up and each person or group is encouraged to visit their favorite place or a new spot at Gold Butte and help build our catalog. We want to record springs, mining camps, corrals, windmills, and other places within Gold Butte that helped shape its rich history. We are working to collect a photo, hopefully a little history behind the spot and possibly a GPS point or track to get out there.

Depending on the spot that you choose to go depends on how long you will be out. There is no official closing ceremony to attend. The real goal of public lands day is to connect people back with the public lands and work toward awareness so we can all better enjoy our big backyard.

Please come and join us Saturday morning at Whitney Pockets.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Public Lands Day 2010 - Gold Butte

Living in rural Northeast Clark County we have unique access to many of our States most beautiful landscapes. With this accessibility also comes responsibility. All of us need to be actively involved in managing our public lands. Please help us demonstrate that the public is still the central piece of public lands

Saturday September 25, 2010 is National Public Lands Day. National Public Lands Day celebrates service and recreation on public lands. The Public Lands Conservation Committee (PLCC) is working to get people involved to help keep the Gold Butte region clean and accessible for outdoor recreation. We are working to strengthen the community of good public land stewards.

We will be working on Campground improvements for Whitney Pockets and also a Historical Sites Documenting project that will help preserve the rich culture that makes the Gold Butte region distinct.

Please bring your families and be a part of what makes our public lands such a great success. Signups are at Whitney Pockets starting at 7:00 AM Saturday (Sept. 25) morning until 8:00 AM. The projects will begin soon after.

If you have any questions or need more details you can contact me (Dustin Nelson) at