Monday, August 23, 2010

Take Back Utah

Help support our friends and neighbors......Take Back Utah

"Wilderness" is the word the environmentalist's hide behind when they are trying to close our public lands to recreation.

Take Back Utah protects access to our public lands and defends the freedom of all American’s to explore and experience America’s Wild Places, while preserving America’s small town economies and rural lifestyles through responsible land use.

Aug 28th Rally


Please visit the site help in any way that you can to protect our public lands


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Past Present and Future

Earlier this week Stan Hardy and I had the opportunity to take a few members of our congressional delegation, specifically from Dina Titus’s office, out to Gold Butte. To their credit we actually went to Gold Butte. The purpose of the trip was obviously to talk politics but more importantly it was about seeing and experiencing the country we are talking about. It is one thing to talk about 350,000 acres but it is entirely another to travel down the rough roads and experience this backcountry. To experience this vast country, which is more than the few acres around Whitney Pockets, you can start to understand the complexity that surrounds what has become known as Gold Butte.

Some of my goals for the trip were to help show how truly large and expansive this country is. I wanted them to see that yes some areas get some high usage however that is only a small percentage of this country. I wanted them to see that this country is varied and diverse both in its physical characteristics but also with its rich history and strong sense of place which is derived from all of these qualities together. Native American heritage, pioneer heritage, mining, cattle ranching, and outdoor recreation are all important pieces of the landscape at Gold Butte. When talking about managing the landscape we need to see it for what it is, vast, diverse and many things to many people.

 (Horse Springs)

It is one thing to talk about managing the precious resource of water and the health of springs in a conference room however it is entirely another to go out and see the overgrowth of invasive plants like tamarisk choking a spring to death due to lack of proper management.

(Azure Windmill)

It is one thing to look at pictures of a dried up water tank and broken windmill but it is entirely another to see its dry and dusty tank while looking at a picture of it from 15 years ago brimming with water and the surrounding area green and lush helping to sustain life. When the question is asked why it is not running water now and the answer is because the BLM dismantled the windmill you can start to get a feel for the frustration felt by so many who have loved this country and watched it change over a few short years.

(Whitmore Cabin)

It is one thing to listen to the frustration from local residents who had to tear down their families cabin built in the early 20th century however it is entirely another to go out and look at pictures from then and now and see the loss of these historic landmarks.

(TreasureHawk Mine)

It is one thing to hear people’s thoughts and feelings on the Treasure Hawk Mine and how so many are working to erase our history from the landscape however it is another to see the piles of rubble and debris lying on the desert floor. When the question is asked why are there still open shafts not even fenced while so much effort has been given to tearing down the mining shacks you can start to understand the frustration of those of us who aren’t driven by the wilderness agenda.

It is important to see how the management style put in place has a direct impact on the landscape both physically but also within the community.

Sitting under a cedar tree eating lunch and having an honest conversation about the place we are working on was to me productive to say the least. Part of the message that I tried to convey was that this is about the past, present and future of our public lands and who and what is having a direct impact out on the ground level. It is easy to boil the issues down to access however access isn’t as easy to tackle as many would hope. It is not just about access today, but more importantly it’s about access tomorrow. Is it visual access or is it motorized access? Is it access by foot or horse? Is it access by a licensed vehicle or is it access through an OHV?

When working to build long term solutions for Gold Butte the community and historic values need to be the framework for the future management of the area. These are the values that have shaped this great country into what it is. These are the values that will preserve the place that so many have fallen in love with.

If I truly thought that the introduction of legislation and some new federal label would solve the issues that face Gold Butte I would be on board HOWEVER I am not convinced. I know, because I have seen it happen time and time again, that the people pushing for the wilderness designations and the NCA label are only using this as a stepping stone to greater restriction and loss of my rights to enjoy our public lands. It would be the begging not the end.

Whether my message sunk in or they agreed or not the day was productive and we saw some beautiful country. I would like to thank them for coming out and giving me the opportunity to show them the Gold Butte that I have fallen in love with.

 The customary shot next to the graves at Gold Butte.

The Trip Map

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deception and Disclosure

The thing about disclosure is, it’s nice when there is some.

In April of 2010, a group of people interested in the management of Gold Butte took a trip out to this beautiful country. The trip was centered on the attendance of the nation director of the BLM, Robert Abbey. We were also accompanied by other political representatives including Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins and the Mayor of Mesquite. I am a pretty simple guy and my exposure to politics was not much more than the good ol’ boys approach to getting things done. It was my impression that having the national director of the BLM out to Gold Butte was a pretty big deal. He had been the Nevada state director for a number of years and I am sure Gold Butte had come on his radar from time to time. I thought it was just a fellow Nevada man coming back to help build consensus between the groups involved. Little did I know…..

It turns out that during the time between his tenure as the Nevada State BLM Director and the National BLM Director he sat on the Board of the Friends of Nevada Wilderness. This is the parent group of the Friends of Gold Butte. This is the same group who is driving the agenda for an NCA designation, coupled with unbridled amounts of Wilderness, for our public lands and Gold butte.

Little did I know that the Good ol’ Boy system is alive and well, pushing the Wilderness agenda.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Calling BS

Growing up one of my families favorite pastimes was playing games. One of the family favorites was called “BS”. In this game you deal out all of the cards in the deck so every player has the same amount of cards. The game is started by the first player laying all the 2’s that they have face down on the table in a pile and calling out how many of the cards they laid down. The next person lays down their 3’s face down on the pile and calling how many cards they laid down. It goes around and around like this until the first person runs out of cards. However there are a few little tricks you can use to help yourself get ahead. Sometimes in the game you may not have the right cards when it comes to your turn or you might slip in a different card than you are supposed to, to try and get ahead, so you can win. However if another player suspects you of trying to slip in the wrong cards when it’s your turn the other player calls out “BS” and the player who tried to pull a fast one gets stuck with all the cards in the pile. Well this doesn’t seem much different than the politics it takes to get legislation passed, except the stakes are much higher, for all the players. 

Currently in Clark County there are a number of “conservation minded” public lands projects in the works that could potentially require congressional action. Some of these include projects in the Las Vegas Wash, Tule Springs, the Nellis Dunes and Gold Butte. When talking with our representatives and those involved with these projects they often refer to an upcoming Clark County Public Lands Bill. This future bill would bundle all of these projects into one hand for one vote. I am sure that this makes things a lot easier for our congressional representatives however when looking at the above hand there is one card that doesn’t fit.

At the 500,000 foot ‘Washington level’ I am sure that these projects seem like a good match. However at the local level this is like slipping in a king with three Jacks. Yes they are all good cards but should they all be bundled into one hand in the hopes of getting a little ahead in the game? 

Gold Butte is a very distinct region and requires a much different management style than the projects within the Vegas Valley. Grouping a 1,000 acre off-road facility with a 350,000 acre NCA including a proposed 133,000 acres of wilderness is BS. Creating a management tool for Gold Butte is a huge project and will take time and facts to develop it correctly. To quickly bundle it up and say an NCA is the save-all quick fix to the issues that face Gold Butte is BS. Gold Butte should not be a pawn in election year politics.

If our elected officials want to demonstrate that they are responsible representatives then when they throw down their cards with this public lands bill they should not try and pull a fast one with Gold Butte. Yes, bundling it with Nellis Dunes is most likely good political strategy, but at the price of dictating an irreparable management decision to appease the squeaky wheels of special interests?

Gold Butte is no doubt a terrific project and a comprehensive sustainable strategy needs to be developed. However rushing a half shod, imbalanced proposal built on mind-boggling bureaucracy is senseless and unrepresentative. If you want to do something positive for Gold Butte then push aside the partisan and special interest agendas and let’s get to work on defining sustainable objectives and building a management plan that suits Gold Butte and its diverse landscape on a timetable that fits the needs of Gold Butte not politics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Citizen Involvement and Better Management

The Moapa Valley Progress article that was run July 21 titled, “Candidate Heck Visits Gold Butte” talked about the PLCC trip out to Gold Butte with candidate Heck. PLCC used this time to share some of the fundamental yet often misunderstood issues facing Gold Butte. This article spurred subsequent letters to the editor that were printed in the following weeks. Whether some of the readers misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued some of the statements in the original article is not my place to judge, however the discussions that were fostered by the article in my opinion were constructive. Any discussion that brings attention and raises community awareness to current events and issues is a good thing.
I particularly enjoyed Elise McAllister’s letter to the editor and found it filled with useful and encouraging information.

“Designating the area as an NCA and wilderness will not deter idiots who do that as it is already illegal. A perfect analogy is robbery. It is already illegal, but still, it is committed every day. Adding another layer and calling it more illegal' is not going to stop those people.

Education, better management, involving citizens will all help. And there is proof of that at prehistoric sites where an active stewardship program is already in place. George Phillips, Cultural Site Stewardship Program Director states that there has been a 26% decrease in site impacts this year. "Most of this decrease is in OHV damages due to a Roads Designation Plan initiated by the BLM in the North and Eastern parts of the County."

Sounds like citizen involvement and better management (the Roads EA) have resulted in a 26% decrease in just one year. WOW, the current system is working!”

The above facts pointed out by Elise are both positive and encouraging when talking about managing public lands for multiple-use at a local level. It should also be pointed out that the decrease in damage is occurring while usage in increasing.

This is how a common sense solution for the good of Gold Butte will come about; Factual information with positive people willing to work to build a sustainable future for our public lands. I am in no way advocating for a status quo approach to Gold Butte. No one wants to see destruction of our cultural sites or ecological damage to the place that we care so deeply for. What we are advocating for is a long term sustainable solution for Gold Butte that is built from the ground up on a framework of factual information for the good of public lands and the ability to enjoy them. Running to Washington with the quick fix attitude is neither a sustainable or responsible solution for the good of our public lands or the community who enjoys them.