Monday, September 23, 2013

Creaking Hinges of Idealism

“I heard somebody open and shut the gate to the barn lot, but I didn’t look around. If I didn’t look around it would not be true that somebody had opened the gate with the creaky hinges, and that is a wonderful principle for a man to get hold of. What you don’t know don’t hurt you, for it aint real. They called that Idealism in my book I had when I was in college, and after I got hold of that principle I became an idealist. I was a brass bound idealist in those days.  If you are an Idealist it does not matter what you do or what goes on around you because it isn’t real anyway.” -- All the Kings Men – Robert Penn Warren

I ran across this passage while Reading the novel, All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren, and couldn’t help but consider this concept within today’s political scene. Today Washington is full of lobbyists and special interest groups whose objective is to be an uncompromising idealist.  These individual groups work with a one track mind impassioned by a mission statement to ignore the reality around them and focus their resources to push their vision of utopia. Within the world of lobbying ideals, they can ignore the sounds behind them, for if they don’t turn around and look, then it aint real.

The short sided attitude of, “it isn’t real anyways”, might work when vying for time within the confined space of political influence, however when this attitude is taken ahold of by those actually creating policy, the effects are far more disastrous. For instance when an elected representative introduces legislation to designate handpicked tracks of land and mandate its management practices, they are under the influence of idealism. They circumvent the infrastructure created specifically to manage public lands and sell out to the delusions of a narrow ideal.  Though this idyllic landscape paints the picture of utopia it acts as a thin veneer to mask the sounds of the creaky hinges behind them.

 In the world of public lands management the sounds of the creaking hinges that are being ignored are things like wildfires. If politicians want to chalk these up as a result of global warming that is their choice, but the reality is that there is a lot more to this picture than a warming climate. The mismanagement of public lands for years and idealistic ignorance only adds fuel to the fires that rage within our public lands.

We need to invite our elected representatives to turn around and look at the direct consequences of their legislation upon our public lands. We need to demand that they quit ignoring the sounds behind them and quit pretending that creating idealistic legislation with a hands-off approach to public lands is providing any real value. A local based approach to create and maintain a multiple use landscape will be the only fix to the ever increasing squeaking hinges of our mismanaged public lands.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mica Notch Mine

Other Names: Virgin Mountain chrysoberyl Mine , Mica Notch deposits and Leavitt claims

Commodities: mica and beryllium

Location: Township 15 S, Range 71 East, Section 17,18

History: Earliest work was done for mica in about 1900; some beryllium ore was produced in 1935.

Geology: Muscovite mica occurs in pegmatite dikes associated with chrysoberyl, beryle, garnet, magnetite, and tourmaline. The dikes cut Precambrian garnet-mica schist; gneiss foliation trends northeast and dips southeast. The mica occurs in books up to several inches thick and g to 8 inches square. Specks of foreign material are present and it is not cleavable in large sheets.

I found the picture below in a mining journal in the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. I tried to take the next picture from the same spot but I should have gone down the road a little farther. However you can see the change over the years:

This is what remains of the old mining shack of the Mica Notch Mine. You can can still see some of the old shingles from the roof:

My son and I looking over the remnants of the Mica Notch Mine in Nevada's backcountry:

Some of this information came from Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Report 45. Mineral Resources of the Overton 30' x 60' Quadrangle:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Swath of Country

While working on my Bachelors of Science my major was in the field of Geography. Within my coursework in Geography we explored the theory behind Landscape. I was fresh off the farm when we first started talking about Landscape so I thought the definition was pretty cut and dry. My understanding was that landscape was the swath of country that lay before you. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my professors were talking about something entirely different.

The concept behind landscape is an academic abyss of scientific theory enveloped within an indefensible appeal to the human senses. My crude grasp of landscape as simply being the swath of land before me was replaced by something much less concrete. Landscape embodies the sights, the sounds, the smells, the history and the spirit of the given place. It’s not just what I see but also the perceptions that I have about the place. It’s all of the individual characteristics, physical and cultural, coming together to make that place unique.  The idea of landscape can get pretty fuzzy and is no doubt open to interpretation.  This connection or identity can be personal or it can be shared with a community of people who have the same values. One physical location is often defined by many interpretations of what makes up a landscape.

I find it worrisome that the Bureau of Land Management has chosen to run headlong into the theory of landscape as a tool to manage public lands. Our land managers do not exactly a good record when it comes to managing our cultural antiquities. The wrongful implementation or management of the landscape theory can inflict irreparable damage by losing key components of the cultural landscape. This management tool also enlarges the vulnerability in being susceptible to political pressure to modify those aspects of the landscape that aren’t compatible with the current political climate.  As a result one group’s view of what the landscape is gets imposed upon everyone else who henceforth experiences that landscape. True interpretation of landscape isn’t distorted to serve one specific perception of the area but rather to truly encompass the whole history of the area.

Implementing the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, Senator Reid and Congressman Horsford have introduced a bill in each respective House of Congress to designate the Gold Butte region an NCA with large quantities of wilderness. The NCA is a designation within the National Landscape Conservation System. This real life scenario regarding Gold Butte provides a perfect example of this process being manipulated by outside factors to fabricate a landscape to fit within one group’s view of an area and employing their political influences to modify the landscape to fit their needs.

The cultural landscape of Gold Butte does not reflect a landscape that has been untouched by human existence as the current proposal depicts. Rather the rich cultural tones of the landscape are highlighted with the human struggle to survive and adapt within the setting they inhabit. The cultural features found on this landscape such as rock art, arastras, mines, corrals, barbwire and roads enrich the cultural account of this beautiful and complex landscape.  The theory of Wilderness contrasted against the historical account of humans and their interaction with the landscape of Gold Butte makes the claims by those seeking this designation laughable for anyone who knows the history of the area.

I am not opposed managing our public lands through the theory of landscape; however I am opposed when this concept is used to retool a landscape to fit a political agenda. We need to focus our energy on documenting the full historical account of this landscape and expend less energy on second rate labels and categories to box these areas within. I hate to see the current path the Interior is taking in managing our lands because we will again lose generations of history and culture as their labels and bureaucracy erase what made this country strong. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bigger Fires to Put Out

Southern Nevada is currently experiencing the largest wildfire currently burning in the lower 48. As I have watched the smoke pour off Mount Charleston and inundate the Las Vegas Valley for the last couple of days, I cannot help but think of the damage this fire is causing on one of the Vegas Valley’s favorite outdoor recreation areas. Painted against the backdrop of this tangible threat is the fabricated threat which comes in the form of a public lands bill currently lingering in both Houses of Congress. This disgraceful yet no less dangerous hazard threatens yet another one of Southern Nevada’s outdoor recreation areas.

Over the years, as I have been involved in some of the discussions regarding public lands management, the threats to public lands have been a big topic. As I think over the individual threats, there is one event that imposes all of these threats at one time, and that is a wildfire.  It is my opinion that wildfires are the biggest threat to our public lands joined by the management practices that create the conditions for these catastrophic events.

In 2012 alone 9.3 million acres were burned by wildfires. The total acres of the Forks, Tramp, Virgin Gold, Bunkerville and Nickel fires totaled over 125,000 acres within the Gold Butte ACEC.  Wildfires are a legitimate threat to Gold Butte area.  Some of the threats and the impacts imposed by wildfires that I can think of include: Erosion, Habitat Loss, Loss of Wildlife, Pollution, Invasive Species, and Loss or Damage to Cultural Sites.

It is time that our politicians and lands managers cut through the smoke and take notice that there are bigger fires to put out than the ridiculous conjured political threats surrounding public lands management. It is the very public lands management tactics of, hands off management, that are working to be imposed on places like Gold Butte that contribute to the conditions that tempt these wildfires to start.

As I listen to the reports, one of the biggest difficulties given in fighting this fire is the inaccessible terrain. As the debate rages on concerning access and roads on public lands, one important idea to keep in the forefront of the conversation is the importance of these roads when it comes to battling wildfires. Roads act as both firebreaks and as a means of accessing the fires when they do break out.

Instead of sitting around debating which label might attract more visitors or the possibility that a star on the map acts as an economic engine or any of the other nonsense that continues to fill the halls of congress, I encourage our politicians to tell the special interest lobby to focus their energies somewhere other than Gold Butte and Nevada because we have bigger fires to put out. I encourage our elected officials, at the local, state and national level, to focus their energies on working with our public lands management agencies to develop local, state and national efforts to combat the conditions that lead to, and the effects of, wildfires on our public lands. We need management policies that deal with the wildfire threats, not encourage them.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Still Are, Still Do and Working Away

The last couple of months have been brimming with the politics of Gold Butte. In May 2013 Senator Reid introduced a bill, the same ol’ bill that we have been seeing and hearing about for about the last ten plus years, into the Senate to designate Gold Butte as an NCA with loads of Wilderness. Then shortly thereafter Congressman Horsford introduced his version in the House. There has been a lot of good coverage about the details and meetings that have been going on over the last couple of months in both the Moapa Valley Progress and the Mesquite Citizens Journal.

I have spent a lot of time visiting with our County Commissioner going over the maps and proposals trying to come up with a cocktail of a compromise for a bill that could appease the differences of opinion on the best practices on public lands management. I have spent a lot of time trying to come up with, for myself, the things that I want out of our public lands. As I have tried to boil it all down for myself I believe the truth of the matter to be that the management practice of Wilderness and fancy designations from a Washington bureaucrat does nothing in reality for our public lands. My thoughts have been expressed over the years in different articles that I have written:

On wilderness: Wilderness as a Trophy
Designations as a Management Tool: Learning the Hard Way
Threats to Public Lands: What Do You See

As I have read over these articles my thoughts are still the same. Designations and unscientifically proven management practices should not be implemented on our public lands. Wilderness as defined by Congress in 1964 is an idealistic piece of poetry not public lands management:

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

For now, those who visit our public lands known as Gold Butte still are. Those who enjoy four wheeling responsibly, still do. Those who enjoy peaceful solitude in the back country still find it at Gold Butte. And those who make their living proselytizing bureaucracy in the form of wilderness are still working away.
Meanwhile the raging chronicle continues in regards to the politics that have consumed Gold Butte like a wildfire. As long as proposals and numbers on wilderness acres come before legitimate conversations on the actual issues that face our public lands there will always be contention.  

Let us hope that like those bills that have come before, this latest rendition will also go by the wayside. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Aspect & Dimension

Gold Butte is awash with beauty, culture, vegetation and animal life. It is evidence of the shared struggle
between plant, animal and human life for survival in an unforgiving landscape. For those who have
seen the interplay of life and landscape, who have looked deeper into the recesses of the canyons and
histories, come away as a consequence understanding what makes Gold Butte captivating.

I can be to the top of Virgin Mountain drinking fresh cool water seeping from the cracks at the top of the
peak, to a low desert Joshua Tree forest and then on to a basin filled with cedar trees and then, if I am
ambitious and have enough fuel, on down to Lake Mead or the Colorado River. Along the way I can see
petroglyphs, Spanish Aristas, mines, corrals, windmills, sink holes, caves, springs and a variety of wildlife.

With such a variety of history present upon this rugged landscape, are any one of these represented
periods of history and their record upon the landscape more valued than another? The importance of all
the cultural sites entwined upon one landscape composes the complete history of that place. Regardless
of personal favorites and the ranked value you impose on a particular location, the fact remains there is
intrinsic value in a whole history.

Today there is a demanding conformity to which our public lands are being boxed in and packaged to
grease the wheels of bureaucracy. This conformity is pushed ironically by those who eventually will
not tolerate others, who once tolerated them, within a multiple-use landscape. The scope of public
lands management has become to simply label and categorize public lands into a narrow and one
sided picture. This is done at the incalculable cost of neglecting and erasing the few remaining traces of
history and the access to these sites.

With each aspect of public lands that is lost, the dimension of our landscape begins to flatten. Eventually
all we will be left with is a one dimensional image that you literally can only visit by looking through
photographs. There needs to be a wide and tolerant view of what our public lands are, have been and
what we want them to be for the next generation; a vibrant, historically rich landscape which is, in every
sense of the definition, a multiple-use landscape.