Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Political Frosting

One of the first posts that I wrote when I started savegoldbutte.com was titled “Where We Have Been.” The purpose of this post was to introduce the reader to the “Berkley Bill” ( H.R. 7132). I titled the post “Where We Have Been” because I had hoped that we had moved on from this bill. I had hoped that our political representatives had got the message the first time that this bill was introduced that we thought it was unacceptable if not offensive. Well as I continue to attend meetings and talk with our political representatives and their staff, still three years later, I can without a doubt count on someone pulling this bill out.

Here is my issue with this bill; the framework, the very heart of this bill, goes against everything that we have been working to protect. We can amend, adjust and modify the language over and over to dress up the package but the deliverable is still the same. It doesn’t matter how much political frosting you add on top of this bill, the very core of what it is designed to do goes against common sense conservation and real public lands management.

If we are going to create a bill lets start fresh and build the framework for a bill that attacks the issues at hand. Lets create a bill that deals with building a sustainable future for our public lands at Gold Butte. A solution that creates vast amounts of unreasonable wilderness, and adds more layers of bureaucratic mud to the mire of misguided political public lands management will only deepen the problem. We need to cut through the BS and write a bill that protects all aspects of public lands management and not just a narrowly focused agenda. We need upfront, in the legislation, protection for the existing roads and the off highway vehicles that we use to travel the roads. We need in the legislation the promise that these public lands will be managed for multiple use through camping, hunting, fishing, hiking and ATV access.

The fleeting promise of all these issues getting hammered out in the 3 year management process does not hold water with the public who has been deceived time and time again. We need to protect and provide a place for the public that enjoy their lands and their right to recreate within them responsibly. Remember they are our public lands.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sharing Gold Butte with Candidate Joe Heck

On Saturday July 17, members of the Public Lands Conservation Committee (PLCC) joined up with Nevada congressional candidate Joe Heck for a tour of parts of Gold Butte. We spent our time showing him some of our State’s beautiful backcountry and talking about some of the concerns that face public lands in Nevada.

Some of the specific issues that I voiced with Heck were:
Creating a long term solution for Gold Butte that fits the specific issues facing Gold Butte.
• Working to preserve the traditions and values of the local communities as stewards of public lands.
• Working towards educating the public on the importance of proper stewardship of the land.
• The importance of preserving all pieces of Gold Butte’s rich history
• The importance of maintaining our desert springs for proper wildlife management
• Our goal of Common Sense Conservation
• Protection with access to our States beautiful backcountry treasure Gold Butte

I appreciate Heck and his staff for taking the time from the campaign trail to visit with the Public Lands Conservation Committee and discuss some of the issues that face Gold Butte and many of our public lands in Nevada. Heck seemed to realize the importance of a real and honest long term solution for Gold Butte and that working with the local communities is essential to accomplishing that solution.

Again thank you Joe Heck for taking the time to meet with the Public Lands Conservation Committee.

Read what Joe Heck had to say about meeting with PLCC and Public Lands

Friday, July 16, 2010

What do You See?

The Great Outdoors is a classic 1980’s John Hughes film starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. It is about two families who vacation in a beautiful mountain lake village and the adventures they have while enjoying the great outdoors. I have great memories of watching this movie when I was a kid and still today, when watching it with my kids, this movie is still great. There is one scene in particular however that had never caught my attention until now.

The scene I am talking about is set with Chet (Candy) an all American family man and Roman (Aykroyd) a die hard businessman sitting out on the deck of the cabin overlooking the beautiful lake and the men enter into a conversation about what they see.

Roman - "I tell you what I see when I look out there. I see the undeveloped resources of Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, and Michigan. I see a syndicated development consortium exploiting over a billion and a half dollars in forest products. I see a paper mill and if the strategic metals are there, a mining operation. A greenbelt between the condos on the lake and a waste management facility focusing on the newest rage in toxic waste, medical refuse. Infected bandages, body parts, IV tubing, contaminated glassware, entrails, syringes, fluids, blood, low grade radioactive waste all safely contained sunken in the lake and sealed for centuries. Now I ask you what do you see?"

Chet - "I see trees."

In conversations that I have with people who are concerned or interested about Gold Butte and when reading different articles about people’s ideas about the issues that face Gold Butte I have to ask myself, what do they see?

Is there a Roman Craig out there lurking about trying to exploit Gold Butte?

Is it the threat of big development and a housing tract?

Is it the potential that this area has for renewable energy and becoming a field of solar panels and wind turbines?

Is it the threat of the Boy Scouts of America trying to take a group of boys out on an outdoor adventure?

Is it the threat of ATV riders out enjoying the trails?

I know politically it would be a lot easier to get things accomplished if there really was the obvious threat of a Roman Craig trying to exploit the natural resources held within this desert landscape however this isn’t the case. Even if that was the threat that Gold Butte faced its current status as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) protects it from those blatant exploitations.

Everyone at the table seems to be talking about protection and conservation however everyone has a different view of what conservation is and the line between protection and restriction is blurry at it best.

Is restricting access through vast amounts of wilderness areas the best way to conserve and enjoy our public lands?

Is the status quo of public lands management going to work for this large area with a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts?

For me neither of the above statements is going to provide us with a sustainable future for Gold Butte. The solution is somewhere is the middle. I truly do not see how some new bureaucratic categorization such as NCA is going to solve the problems people see at Gold Butte. It is still the same agency that is going to manage these public lands. The first thing that people in support of the NCA throw out is funding and getting more rangers for policing. However when I talk to our political representatives and the BLM and ask specifically how many more rangers will it take to “adequately” police Gold Butte, and exactly how many new rangers will we get when it becomes an NCA, I cannot get an answer. People always focus on the rare and truly uncommon infractions that occur on our public lands. The use these rare examples for ammo to punish the majority of the public who obey, respect and help enforce the rules and regulations that keep our public lands open.

The way I see we need to stop pretending a congressional mandate with over generalized cookie cutter language, saddled with a polluted history of restricted access, can be the solution for an area with a rich history of multiple use. The way I see it the only way to come up with a sustainable answer for Gold Butte is to sit down with the BLM, our political representatives and all those who feel they have a vested interest in our public lands and come up with a real, common sense solution that will deliver a viable public lands management strategy for Gold Butte. This will not only create a sustainable solution but it will also hold everyone involved accountable instead of being a quick win in an election year and a victory for a special interest group with a narrow agenda.

Now I ask you, what do you see?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Radio Crystal Rewrite

What we think of as history is often just someone’s recollection of an event that has taken place and their interpretation of it. Some things get remembered better, some things get remembered differently and many are just plain forgotten. History doesn’t write itself.

Mining is a thick chapter in the developing history of Gold Butte. There was nothing ever large scale in today’s standards of mining in the Silver State but there were a few mines that operated sporadically beginning in the late 19th century and up through the early 21st century. These small scale mines scattered throughout our State employed many people both directly and indirectly.

My great grandfather Stowell Whitney was a freighter who delivered supplies and ore to and from the mines throughout Nevada, Arizona and California. Gold Butte was often a stop along many of his routes. My Great Grandmother Isabel worked at the Gentry Hotel in St Thomas. Many who worked the mines, sold goods, or delivered supplies stopped over to rest from the tiring trails that connect the beautiful Western United States. My grandfather happened to be one of the men who stayed and the Gentry Hotel. It was here where they met, in a way, because of the mining industry in developing Southern Nevada.

The Radio Crystal Mine site or more recently known as the Treasure Hawk Mine is situated in the heart of Gold Butte within the Cedar Basin. In the spring of 2010 I took my children out to the mine site to give them a glimpse of the mining era that shaped the State in which they live and the lives of many of their ancestors. The Radio Crystal Mine wasn’t a large scale operation but they could see first hand what it would be like to work in the rough country and see the last working gold mine in Clark County. It is this hands-on kind of history that truly helps them understand what you never could by reading from a book.

As we enter another chapter in the Gold Butte History book we face many challenges. At this moment we are at a critical juncture in deciding how the public lands within Gold Butte will be managed from here on out. I have had the opportunity to sit in many meetings and discussions to see what the fate of Gold Butte will be. Most of it has been political, thus in my opinion not productive, yet this is the nature of public lands management now in the west.

Recently the mineral rights for the Treasure Hawk mine were lost. This was due to John Lear owner of the Cutthroat Mining Corporation, missing the filing date to renew his lease. Under the Mining reclamation rules in Nevada the area is required to be cleaned up so that it “blends” with the surrounding area. On top of this being a major blow to Lear it also puts this historically significant site in danger. There is a huge difference between a huge open pit mine in northern Nevada and the last small scale Gold Mine operating in Clark County that is representative of a whole era that shaped our county and the great state in which we live.

What really gets me about this whole process is that certain groups and people are working hard to create a landscape and mold the history of that landscape to fit their perception of what it should be. Because it sounds good in an election year, because environmental special interests have money and because people who are new to this area want to hear the story that they think sounds good, the political wheels are turning.

They tell us they will leave all the roads open, the existing uses will be preserved and the values that have shaped this area and the values as a community will be maintained. That sounds great but actions speak louder than words.

Mining played a huge role in the Gold Butte area and through out the state. It was small mining operations like the Radio Crystal and Treasure Hawk mines laid the framework for which our great state was built. Now at first chance the BLM has run out there and torn down the last remaining small operation gold mine in the county. Yes this is all within the rules and regulations set out by the managing agencies however it is right? Did anyone ask if this was “historically significant and worth preserving”?

They tell us they will preserve the values that have historically dominated this area and will preserve and protect what we hold dear. Well while the BLM is out busily destroying tomorrow’s history and covering up yesterday’s treasures I ask what’s next? The corrals, windmills, catch ponds, guzzlers, the roads, will they tear Coleman and Garrett from the rocky soil in which they were laid? This goal of creating a manufactured landscape to suit some outside party’s agenda is outrageous.

We need to ensure that the true history of Gold Butte is what gets remembered and protected. Mining, cattle, recreation, Native American heritage, multiple use, settlement, mans struggle for survival, these are all important chapters in the history of Gold Butte. One is no less deserving than another.