Saturday, March 8, 2014


When the dark clouds start rolling in over the tops of the mountains in desert country, it means it’s time to get out of the house. The smell of wet chaparral, and the filtered sunlight gleaming against the deep green leaves, is truly too irresistible to experience through the double paned windows.

Just such a day rolled into our low desert country and the call was too strong for the boys and I to sit back and enjoy from within the confines of our home. From the front window of our house the Virgin Range was enshrouded in clouds so thick that the deep blue that normally radiates from the early morning sun was not even visible. So we loaded our four-wheeler in the back of the truck, packed our lunch, and headed for what the boys call “The Big Blue Mountain”.

On this particular trip I took my boys to some of the old mines that dot the landscape of the Virgin Mountains and the Gold Butte region. What took place on our trip is something that my high school history teacher thought could only happen in dreams; my boys took a real interest in Nevada history. The pace of their questions only intensified as we visited each historic mining camp. “When did they mine here? What were they looking for? Where did they live? How did they dig the tunnels? How deep are they? How did they move the rock? Why is the water in the mines?” and on and on and on.

In my last article I linked to the Desert Companion Magazine in which they took a shot at explaining the politics surrounding Gold Butte. The result of the article is a genteel oversimplification which works to cheapen and malign one particular group’s values.  The concern is not to whom the public lands belong, whether that be figurative or literal ownership, as the article portrays. The debate is about whether a plan for a new designation with its indirect subtext and shadowing addendums is the correct tool to conserving the public’s landscape.  For those who are pushing this preferential proposal I ask, when has additional bureaucracy at the expense of diminished local stewardship ever helped to improve cultural resources management? History is riddled with holes because one group dismissed the values of the other.

It becomes apparent when you read past the headlines and captions below the pictures, that a plan that includes hundreds of thousands of acres of new Wilderness, is obviously trying to rebrand the image of the landscape and thus leave behind our history.

I offer that the reason so many are opposed to these landscape altering proposals is that the history and values we grew up learning, and that our families were a part of, is getting erased and rewritten. This fight has more depth than a schoolyard dispute over the sandbox and who gets to play because they were there first. This is about the history that is getting wiped clean to make way for someone else’s manufactured, feel-good vision of public land.

In the mean time I will continue to take my children out and teach and show and experience our Nevada History first hand. 

On wilderness: Wilderness as a Trophy
Designations as a Management Tool: Learning the Hard Way
Defining Landscape: Swath of Country
Access: Defining Access
Management Practices: Creating a Responsible Environment
Threats to Public Lands: What Do You See
Limiting our Lands: Misconception of Public Pressure