Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is Protection

Wednesday September 28, 2011 the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David J. Hayes came into mesquite Nevada. The Secretary came to discuss Gold Butte with the local stakeholders. The meeting was billed as an opportunity to talk about Gold Butte and setting the conservation priorities for the area.

Deputy Secretary Hayes started the meeting off by stating that Secretary Salazar and the Interior Department wants to promote special areas found within public lands and give them “special protections” and the recognition that they deserve. Deputy Secretary Hayes talked about Secretary Salazar’s letter that was sent to all Congressional Representatives asking for areas within their district that are deserving of special protection. He spoke in broad terms about the lofty ideals of conservation and of its importance. It is my opinion that the Secretary worked to set a tone for the meeting where people would feel comfortable sharing their views on what would be best for the area. However it was not hard to see through the thinly veiled bias of a political appointee.

The message that I delivered was that we need to take the politics off the table and work to build a sustainable future for Gold Butte. It will be after that plan is built that we can pursue the correct political avenue to accomplish that objective, not before. I consider the top down approach, of Washington pushing the agenda and seeking their own designation as disingenuous and backwards politics. This strategy does more to erode the public’s confidence that consensus, rather than politics, will provide a long term solution.

The use of broad terms to generalize complex issues acts only to stir the pot. It does not encourage people to seek the middle ground but rather to assume that their own unyielding interpretation and preconceived ideas are the only answer. It works only to corral the scope of people’s ability to think outside previous practice. This is especially the case when many of these words have a distinct connotation associated to them whether that be negative or positive. For example “protection” to one might mean Wilderness, and to the person next to you, that might mean protecting access to trails. If we cannot advance the conversation past politically charged and timeworn rhetoric then the standoff will continue.


After the meeting I had the opportunity to meet with the Mayor of Mesquite. The Mayor has a plan to put a group of the interested participants together to start anew at building consensus.  As I understand, his goal is to get everyone to the table on the premise of starting with a clean slate. At this point each item can then be discussed as to the pros and cons and its long term consequences on the sustainability of Gold Butte. It will be here that the community develops its long term vision of what they want to see Gold Butte become. It will be here at the community level where a reasonable solution will develop.

I support the Mayor’s plan for Mesquite to take the reins and build a community consensus. It will be at that point that we find the correct political avenue to push that agenda, not the other way around.