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