Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mischief Managed

Public lands management is no easy task. There is a multitude of people, all using and enjoying public lands in a variety of ways, and almost all believe it should be managed in a different way. There was a time when multiple-use was the mantra of management however today mutually-exclusive seems to be the means of management. Despite the disparity over the direction of our public lands there is one facet that all agree on. Vandalism is a gross offense. However, the course by which this offence is remedied is far from determined.

Recently there has been a case of vandalism at one of the graves of the Grand ol’ Men of Gold Butte. The grave of Arthur Coleman (1876-1958) was dug up and his remains stolen. The questions far outpace the answers in this case of vandalism that occurred on public lands.

There have been many who call for tighter regulation whenever these types of incidents take place. They call for more money, more police, more policy and less access. In 2010 there was an incident at the Red Rock NCA where a juvenile painted graffiti on one of the petroglyph sites. This happened in spite of the Red Rock NCA being the more heavily managed public land in Southern Nevada. I would estimate Red Rock NCA get the most spending of dollar per acre in the region. Despite this intense management vandalism still occurs. Obviously regulation and money is not going to fix this problem.  In 2010 I wrote an article titled Learning the Hard Way where I discuss some of these specific issues: 
"While many are using the recent actions of vandalism at Red Rock as testimony to rush Gold Butte’s status as an NCA, I would counter that this is plain and clear evidence of why it should not be rushed. If an area like Red Rock that has been protected for many years, is much smaller geographically, and has more intense management and available resources than Gold Butte, and it is still getting vandalized, maybe pointing the spot light on Gold Butte is not in Gold Butte’s best interest. Now is not the time to earmark Gold Butte for the bureaucratic brand." --

If we are going to find a solution to the random acts of vandalism that occur on our public lands it will come from connecting people with our public lands and giving them a sense of belonging to their public lands. Alienating the up and coming generations from our public lands and closing off more and more acreage from their access will not cure but incur a negative consequence.

Local stewardship has been, and always will be the answer to the public lands management woes.

The grave of Arthur Coleman was restored by the local non-profit organization Partners-In-Conservation (PIC) who has a history of active participation in public lands policy and community involvement.