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.