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.