Thursday, April 29, 2010

What "Lies" Ahead

The past has long fingers into the present

I believe that if we are to gain a better understanding of how Gold Butte will be managed as an NCA we should look at how other NCA’s within Clark County are being managed.

Shooting, Off-Highway Vehicle and Camping Closure in Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas Field Office

The BLM is establishing this Emergency Closure under the authority of 43 CFR 8364.1 which allows BLM State Directors to establish closures for the protection of persons, property, and public lands and resources. This provision allows the BLM to issue closures of less than national effect without codifying the rules in the Code of Federal Regulations.

My personal favorite:

Exceptions to Closure
Any person authorized in writing by the Bureau of Land Management.

I hope you got your permission slip in early

Sloan Emergency Closure to OHV, Shooting and Camping
Sloan Canyon NCA 

Let your voice be heard, attend the Board of County Commission meeting May 4, 10:00AM

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bureaucratic Mud

The Board of County Commissioners has released their latest resolution on Gold Butte which will be heard on Tuesday, May 4

You can read the resolution by Clicking Here

You can view the proposed map by Clicking Here

If you read anything make sure you read bullet point 6:
"that approximately 130,000 acres of wilderness be designated within the national conservation area, in addition to following the National Park Service’s wilderness recommendations for adjacent park lands"

The Park Service recommendations, in case you are wondering is: 91,963 acres just in Nevada
The following are my feelings on the proposed NCA for Gold Butte: 

The inadequacy of the proposed solution creates more vulnerability for that which the original intent was to protect. The future of our public lands will become ensnared in a mire of bureaucratic mud with which the only solution will be to restrict the liberties of those who have come to enjoy which are rightfully theirs.

Dustin W. Nelson

We are well on our way to taking the public out of public lands

It is imperative that you attend the Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, May 4 at 10:00 am to voice you opinion

A punishment to some, to some a gift, and to many a favor   -- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Monday, April 19, 2010

Trampling The Rules of Justice

Much of my time recently has been spent explaining to people the issues surrounding Gold Butte. People want to know who is involved, what’s going on and what the upshot of all of this is going to be. If I had to sum it all up into a concise one word answer I would describe it as politics.

I have spent much of my time meeting with our representatives from the local level on up to our congressional leaders and their staff. Everyone tells me that time is of the essence concerning Gold Butte. However, no one can clearly tell me (or wants to admit) why it has to be done right now. Washington D.C. and political factions are pushing this agenda and they are pushing it hard.

I have talked much in the past about the interest groups that are getting involved in the Gold Butte issue. There are many groups involved and the ranges of interests that they represent are vast and diverse. I have expressed my concern about these interest groups and their dominance on the issue. My worry over political factions and their role on the issue has only grown. This has led me to look back on the constitution and the writings of our founding fathers and what they had to say concerning political factions and special interest. This led me to the Federalist Paper No. 10 written by James Madison.

In the Federalist Paper No. 10, written by James Madison, the opening paragraph states, “A factious spirit has tainted our public administration.” If nothing else I guess it’s good to know that not much has changed. Madison defines clearly:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Madison goes into great detail on the issue of political factions and special interests in this paper. He essentially states that dividing into groups and aligning by our beliefs is part of human nature. He outlines ways to counter special interest or political factions and also gives both the pros and cons to these ideas. After he explains all of this in conclusion he states:

 “The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS
So the question that I pose is how do we control its effect? Many have suggested that legislation from congress would settle this issue. Luckily Madison wrote on and gave us more insight into the political process and settling our differences.
“It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good.”
My suggestion is not looking to our “enlighten statesmen” but look to the processes and procedures that have been set in place by our government to handle this situation. Our founding fathers foresaw what would come to pass. We shouldn’t look to “enlightened statesman” to handle this issue; we should look to the impartial agency that is charged with managing this area. This is the reason we have an agency that is dedicated to managing public lands. Our founding fathers clearly understood that if rival parties were to take over the issues public good would be disregarded and the, “Predominant party would trample on the rules of justice”.
“The public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority”

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thinking Locally

Today my family and I spent the entire day out at Gold Butte. We rode the trails, visited some of the old mines, took pictures of the wild flowers and visited some of the places where our forefathers pioneered. 


We unloaded near Azure Ridge and headed for Horse Springs. We hiked, explored, and had a delicious picnic. Sitting under the willow tree near the spring, watching my kids splash in the water and run up and down the alleyway of the old corral, my mind wandered to the politics surrounding this incredibly beautiful desert country. I was reminded instantly of the reason that I have devoted almost every spare second of my life getting involved in the politics of Gold Butte; My kids, my family and our right to enjoy public lands. 

Right now there are a lot of groups and politicians who are pushing really hard to designate Gold Butte as an NCA with massive amounts of Wilderness (over 130,000 acres). They use scare tactics to get people to the table and then tell us, you can either ride this train with us or jump off. 


Why is Washington DC dictating to us the future of public lands and bypassing our local BLM office? When did we allow special interest groups to take over the political arena and push the citizens out the door? I am in no way advocating that we create a Gold Butte Militia however I do believe that we need to get involved with our local representatives and resolve these issues with the local office of the agency who manages this area.

November brings the next election and with that many of our public servants are up for reelection. If there is ever a time to let them know where we stand it is now.

In my opinion we need to redirect the train that is headed for an NCA designation. However we need to maintain that momentum to keep people involved but direct that energy to our local BLM office. We need to work with them to build a common sense solution. There is no eminent threat to Gold Butte! It is already designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). There can be no land transferred for disposable land top sell for development as many groups use as a scare tactic. Many trails have already been closed by the BLM that they think are imposing harm on the landscape. There are Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA) funds available for the agency to use if there are critical threats to multispecies habitat. If you believe that there is not enough management at Gold Butte then tell the local BLM office that it needs to dedicated more resources to it. The people who tell us something has to be done now and try and hurry it through have their own ulterior motives and not the best interest of Gold Butte at heart. 

There are no doubt differences of opinion on what needs to be done at Gold Butte and these differences need to be resolved. However the right solution is not going to come down from a politician in DC. The right solution needs to be developed locally. One of the tools that accomplish this goal is the Resource Management Plan with the BLM at the local level.

We need to use the correct channels and processes that have been put in place for this exact reason, to develop a management plan that best suites the needs of our public lands and the people who enjoy their benefits.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wilderness Roads Access and Responsible-Use

We have, for too long, let the special interest groups drive the political agenda concerning our public lands. We have become comfortable and taken for granted the fact that our public lands are open to the public for multiple use. It doesn’t matter if you are out sight seeing, a photographer, hunter, ATV enthusiast, fisher, camper or all of them combined, if you are an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys your public lands and enjoys the access to your public lands you need to get involved and tell your political representatives how you feel about public lands management. 

Friday a group of concerned citizens and a paid employee of the Nevada Wilderness Project had the opportunity to meet with a range of political representatives on issues concerning Gold Butte. The director of the Bureau of Land Management Robert Abbey was one of the key political representatives involved in the discussions. This meeting was largely put together so we could ask Director Abby, as the head of the agency who manages Gold Butte, question about the future management of the Gold Butte.

There was much that was discussed in our meeting however the following are some of the key points that I took away. Director Abbey made it a point to clarify, many times, the fact that the BLM has no current legislation concerning Gold Butte before congress and has no intension to introduce legislation. However Director Abbey told us point blank that the status quo for management at Gold Butte is not an option. The group talked about various other topics but the majority of the discussion focused on the designation of a National Conservation Areas (NCA) for the Gold Butte region.

At this time I will not get into the full discussion of what an NCA is or the Pros and Cons of this bureaucratic management tool for public lands. However I will point out a few of the items that we were told would be a positive thing for designating Gold Butte as an NCA. Director Abbey told us that one of the biggest things that would happen when Gold Butte gets the NCA designation is that it would get recognition on the national level. The point of funding came up a few times but this point got down played and no official numbers or statements came out about any additional funding. We were also told it will add another layer of protection or management for the area (bureaucratic red tape).Wilderness, roads, access and responsible-use were the topics of discussion.


I greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with our political representatives and have the chance to ask them questions face to face. Director Abbey told us the Bureau of Land Management is not pushing the agenda of an NCA designation for Gold Butte. The point remains however that someone is pushing this agenda and it is not the local community or the people who enjoy Gold Butte.

The special interest groups have had the stage to themselves to distort our political representative’s view of what the real issues are in our public lands and how their constituents feel about the current climate concerning these issues. For everyone who enjoys access to our public lands, get involved, tell our representatives how you feel about the closure and denied access to public lands.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Message To Our Representatives

Over the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with a range of political representatives from local community leaders to congressional staffers. These meetings were setup so interested parties could discuss the issues surrounding Gold Butte. My agenda going into these meetings has been pretty simple, however I have found that the answers are not. The following is the message that I share with our political representatives:

The problem as I understand it at Gold Butte is that there is not an effective management plan in place that satisfies all parties who are concerned over the stewardship of the Gold Butte region.

Throughout the last few decades we have fought many battles trying to find a sustainable balance of multiple use in our public lands. However the same issues keep getting drug to the surface and every time we lose more access to our public lands. In 1998 we went through the Roads Management Plan (RMP) process to designate all existing roads as a part of the Gold Butte trail system. A lot of work went into the RMP by many members of the community. However we continue to lose access to existing roads. Later in 2008 Representative Berkley introduced legislation to create Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area against popular opinion.

An effective management plan needs to be created to put into perpetuity the administration and the uses at Gold Butte. We are tired of fighting the battle every time a new administration, a new representative or some political faction obtains political power. The issue needs to be taken care of in a responsible manner. The people who use this area have to be legitimately involved and be able to provide input throughout the process. There is a wide array of people who visit this area from all over the United States. Gold Butte is truly a region of multiple use. It is essential that the existing and historical uses of Gold Butte be protected to ensure the history of multiple use for our public lands.

Is a National Conversation Area the only management tool that you are willing to consider to resolve the issues sounding Gold Butte?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Where is Gold Butte

The large expanse of desert country that has become known as Gold Butte has grown significantly over time. In the beginning Gold Butte was the name of a peak in the heart of this rough country. Gold Butte Peak was encased between the Virgin and Colorado Rivers before their confluence into what is now Lake Mead. In the early 1900’s when the prospects of a mining boom heightened and Copper City, near the Lincoln Mine, started to grow, the area became known as the Gold Butte Mining District. This included mines like the Lincoln, Tramp, Black Jack and various other smaller mines in the surrounding hills. When the mines didn’t pan out, the few tent saloons that essentially made up Copper City packed up and moved on in hopes of the next great strike. However, the name Gold Butte came to encompass areas like Lime Ridge, Tramp Ridge, Azure Ridge and the country in and around Cedar Basin.

After the prospectors headed out, cattle grazing became the main stay of those trying to etch a living out of the Gold Butte country. In the late teens and early twenties the rains came, the grass was good and those running cattle were able to survive. However, as many old timers in this desert country will tell you, the rains come and the rains go. As the dry spell set in and the grass and water for the cattle dried out, so did many of those who ran cattle in this rugged country. They ranchers supplemented their income with a combination of prospecting, cattle grazing, and even moonshine from time to time, but for the most part, the permanent inhabitants of this country blew through like a dry desert wind. It wasn’t just the winds that affected the ranchers in Gold Butte and through out the west, the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 signed by President Roosevelt changed how much of public lands were administered. Among many other things the Taylor Grazing Act created grazing districts. One of the districts that got created was the Gold Butte Grazing district at just under 270,000 acres. Yet again the area that was to become known as Gold Butte grew in size.

In the 1960’s, Howard Hughes, known mostly as an aviator, held many of the grazing permits in Southern Nevada. One of these permits was Gold Butte. For those familiar with the area, the North end of the allotment starts at the cattle guard four miles south of Whitney Pockets. The east side is the Nevada-Arizona state line and the south and west borders are the Lake Mead (or the Virgin and Colorado Rivers if the lake gets any lower). In the 1970’s, the LDS Church bought many of Hughes’s grazing permits. My Grandfather, Donald Whitney ran the cattle on many of these grazing allotments, one of which was Gold Butte. Of the Gold Butte area Gramps tells me “the cactus done well and the most money we made was when we sold rough stock to the rodeos.” On average, while he was running the range on the Gold Butte allotment, they ran 500 head of cattle year round. However, on a good year with decent rains you could run a lot more without detriment the range. The church sold the Gold Butte permit in the 1980’s but was eventually bought with US tax dollars by the BLM and was retired. Due to invasive grasses and the lack of grazing there have now been multiple fires in the Gold Butte region since it was retired as a grazing allotment.

The entire region south of I-15, between the Virgin and Colorado Rivers, has now been labeled Gold Butte. A sign has been put up near the Bundy farm on the Gold Butte Road, letting people know they have now entered the Gold Butte Region. Gold Butte, whether it be the actual Gold Butte at Headquarters or the entire region, has a history that is as rich and colorful as the sandstone mountains found in this beautiful desert country. As the theatrics play out on the politics of public lands at Gold Butte, all of us who enjoy this region need to take part in the process to ensure that a reasonable management plan is created that will provide protection with access to our public lands.