Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gold Butte National Monument

Some points from the proclamation:

Ø  The monument encompasses 296,937 acres of land currently administered by the federal government in southern Nevada.
Ø  The establishment of the monument is supposed to be subject to valid existing rights, including valid existing water rights.
Ø  If the Federal Government subsequently acquires any lands or interests in lands not owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map (attached), those lands are supposed to be administratively added to the monument.
Ø  The Department of the Interior will establish a management plan for the monument, and it is supposed to establish a local advisory committee to provide information and advice regarding development of the land use plan and management of the monument.
Ø  Motorized vehicle use in the monument will only be permitted on roads designated as open to such use as of today.
Ø  The monument is not supposed to interfere or preclude with the operation, maintenance, replacement, modification, or upgrade within the physical authorization boundary of existing flood control, pipeline, and telecommunications facilities, or other water infrastructure, including wildlife water catchments or water district facilities, that are located within the monument.   But, no new right-of-ways will be issued within the monument unless it’s for these activities and that is at the discretion of the Department (meaning they could still deny it).
Ø  No grazing in the monument.

From the White House Fact Sheet:

Located in Clark County, Nevada just northeast of the outskirts of Las Vegas, the Gold Butte National Monument spans nearly 300,000 acres and will protect significant cultural resources, important geological formations, and vital plant and wildlife habitat. The monument will provide critical protections for important Native American historical sites, as well as areas that are currently used for traditional purposes by tribes. Notably, the area includes abundant rock art, archeological artifacts, and rare fossils, including recently discovered dinosaur tracks dating back hundreds of millions of years. In recent years these resources have faced increasing damage from threats such as deliberate destruction and vandalism, and today’s designation will help ensure that these cultural and archaeological treasures are better protected. The monument will serve as an important connection between already protected lands, including Lake Mead Recreation Area and the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument across the Arizona border, protecting key wildlife corridors for large mammals such as desert bighorn sheep and mountain lions, and vital habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise. Additionally, the monument will protect important historic resources. Structures that detail western ranching heritage can still be found in the Gold Butte area, as well as an early twentiethcentury abandoned mining town and sites associated with Spanish explorers from the late eighteenth century. Today’s action follows decades of local support from tribes, local stakeholders and conservationists, and draws from legislation that was first introduced in 2008. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Values and Vandalism

Vandalism is a problem for all public lands. Experience has shown that it doesn’t matter it if is the most highly managed piece of ground or a beautiful back country byway far from civilization, stupid people are everywhere. For example in 2010 there was a highly publicized act of vandalism at the Red Rock National Conservation Area (NCA). I wrote about this in an article titled Learning the Hard Way (  . Gold Butte is not immune from vandalism either with the most highly publicized incident with the digging up of Art Coleman’s grave in 2014. These two BLM managed areas of public land are at near opposite ends of the management perspective yet they both experience vandalism.

The Red Rock NCA is the most visited BLM managed land in Southern Nevada with visitor counts over 800,000 per year since 2008. The Red Rock NCA is also the most highly managed BLM administered land receiving the most dollar per acre expenditures for protection. Despite all the protections, rangers and money spent on protection, vandalism still occurs in the Red Rock NCA.  Gold Butte sees a small fraction of the visitation that the Red Rock NCA does, as well as a fraction of the spending on this BLM designated Area of Critical Environmental Concern. I speculate that if you could reduce the numbers down to the lowest common denominator, the number of people visiting and the dollars spent per acre in relation to the number of vandalism events, the numbers would be proportional in comparison.

It may seem logical that the more we spend the more we can protect. I don’t disagree that more money for public lands management wouldn’t be beneficial however, the difficulty is in the details of the dollars and how they are spent. Money alone is devoid of moral responsibility. Without a strong sense of moral obligation to our history and a value alignment between the managing agencies and the local communities, any additional money would be apathy at its best. The issue is not the amount of money being thrown at the problem; the issue is the course that public lands management is being directed in overall.   So where does the course correction start?

If we truly want to curb incidents of vandalism towards cultural sites in our public lands then we need to start in our local communities first. If local communities have a strong connection to the land then they will take ownership and responsibility for ensuring its conservation. For instance if local boy scout troops are encouraged to camp and enjoy local public lands, those boys will grow up with fond memories of the area and want to see it well-looked-after. These troops as well as other service oriented organizations could also potentially become a resource for future volunteer based projects in the area. Having our future leaders invested in the multiple use landscape from an early age would be our best safeguard for public lands.

Another way to help promote local involvement is to get more school field trips funded to visit local public lands. The rising generation needs to see and experience the geologic curiosities and cultural sites within their local area. I remember as an elementary student loading up in a big yellow bus and traveling out to Valley of Fire. One of our stops was the petroglyphs at Atlatle Rock. I still remember to this day walking up the long stair case to gaze into the etchings on the bright red sandstone and thinking how cool they were.  I didn’t need to read from a text book why it was important to preserve these ancient drawings because I felt a personal connection with them at a young age surrounded by my peers. We need more young people could connect to public lands on an individual level and learn from seeing and experiencing history, local culture and geology. More could be accomplished with one trip of the importance of protecting cultural sites than ever could in a classroom or by threat of fines.

Getting the local community involved in public lands management really is not an insurmountable barrier to overcome however the task is a shared responsibility. The federal agencies involved that manage these public lands and their policies have to create an environment that encourages and even allows this type of relationship.  This is an area where the federal government is failing horribly and quickening their pace at doing so.

For example as a young scout we use to have many camporees and overnighters in the Virgin Mountain area including White Rock and Whitney Pockets. Less than two decades later after receiving my Eagle Scout and now being involved with scouting we cannot have these same types of activities within the parameters set by the BLM. Another example is when the Virgin Valley Stake wanted to do a youth Pioneer handcart trek where part of the route crossed over the Gold Butte ACEC but couldn’t due failed policy and inadequate bureaucracy which deters instead of encourages local connections to history and public lands. Many of the youth who would have been involved with the trek had pioneer ancestors who did cross this land in a wagon to help settle this land. Another example is when we put on the ST. Thomas celebration to commemorate our local heritage and the Park Service stymied the permit process and blatantly downplayed our community’s connection to ST Thomas. There are many more local examples from just the Southern Nevada region and this is certainly not a regional issue. This is failed federal administration in action.

The trust of the local communities in the federal government’s ability to manage our public lands is eroding at an ever quickening pace. The feds are responding by cutting out the need to call on the communities input on their policies and the sidestepping communities with the implementation of those policies.  It is this ever eroding chasm that will be the downfall of the diversity found within our public lands across the west. The more the feds work to circumvent local communities and culture the harder time they will have at maintaining public lands.

Local land managing agencies need to be more attentive to local community values and align their managing practices to encompass and protect the values that are important to the local communities. It is true that the public lands were created to be enjoyed by all who want to share in their beauty but that does not mean that narrow special interest groups should be given the same credence as those who chose to live, work and play locally and strive be involved in public lands management on a daily basis.

If we want vandalism to stop, if we want the next generations to appreciate the cultures and the relics left behind upon the landscape then it is up to all parties involved to work together to protect all aspects of our public lands. Public lands management is most successful when starting from the local office and reporting progress on up, not top down mandates with one size fits all policy directives from a political appointee burdened with cost of what it takes to get to the top.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wellspring of History

March 26th 2016 we celebrated the history of Gold Butte focusing on the most notable characters Arthur Coleman and William Garret. We came together to rebury Art after some miscreant disturbed the final resting place of this early prospector. We did our best to right this wrong and reburied Art’s remains, to rest once again alongside his longtime friend William Garret.  

The circumstances that brought us together were appalling at best, but like the resilient pioneers who settled this country, we made the best with what we had, and rose to the occasion. The event will be remembered by all those who rattled down the road to headquarters hoping to partake in the history, available to those willing to seek after it. Our history is infused within the desert hills, just a part of the landscape as the Joshua trees and weathered buttes.

The well of history was brimming in the desert winds, proffering its narrative to those willing to partake. The reward was a refreshing treat whose succulence could never be recreated. One day those who knew of the way it was, will not be here to share it with those of tomorrow. For the wellspring of history, if not recorded, revisited and remembered will one day dry up.  It was in the spirit of remembrance that we gathered and celebrated Art Coleman and Bill Garret.

We first reburied Art and reworked the graves in hopes to protect from future marauding intruders. After the graves of both men were cleaned up we held a simple ceremony to rededicate the final resting place. Duane Magoon presided over the service. Gene Houston gave the opening prayer. Myself, Dustin Nelson, gave the eulogy. Lindsey Dalley dedicated that graves. The closing prayer was given by Shem Teerlink. It was a simple affair but seemed fitting for the good ol’ boys for which we gave tribute.

(Click here to read my eulogy)

After the service we had a pot-luck lunch and gathered to share stories and memories of Art and Bill and of the many who have lived their lives within the backdrop of Gold Butte. For me, eating potato salad while visiting with friends, stirring up stories from the past, in the very place where many of those stories took place, is about as good as it gets.

I spent most of my time visiting with Norm Tom who wore quite a little leather off the tree chasin cows alongside many of the cowboys in Gold Butte. He told me stories of Jimmy Hayworth when he worked for Howard Hughes, of my uncle Moose Whitney when he was out here running with my Grandpa Don Whitney and many other cowboys and city folk who thought they were. Kicking our boots in the dust of Gold Butte and being able to point to the very washes where Norm remembered working cows and making camp is a memory to….well, write about.

One of the highlights of the day was when the Jacobs family arrived bringing with them Art’s original Model A Ford. The story I got was that Art left the car to the Jacobs family in his will and it has remained in the family ever since. James Jacobs, the son of Slat, towed the car out. He said if he had had a little more time he could have got it running and drove it out. Running or not, it was most excellent to see the old car reunited with this rough and rugged country. The Jacobs family use to have the ranch just below the Nay’s at the bottom of the mountain on the Arizona Strip side.

When all was said and done and folks started to pack up and leave, I speculate they left with more than they came.  To the casual passerby, who fails to behold these hills imbued with its historical perspective, the contrast of human and nature can seem a stark contradiction. But for those who understand and appreciate what has transpired within these surroundings, there is an insight which pulls in harmony the contrast of humanity and nature to reveal a more vivid landscape and an accompanying desire to conserve it. It is these community events, where we celebrate our history that ensures our public lands stand resolute.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Art Coleman Eulogy 2016

Today we re-interred the remains of Art Coleman at Gold Butte. If you need a little background on why you can click the following link:

I was asked to give the eulogy today for Art. I had a lot of friends who wanted to be there but could not so I wanted to share the tribute I gave. I will write up and post more pictures on the whole event in the next day or so.

I have been accused of being naturally blabby and a bit irreverent so I guess that is why the lot fell to me for this tribute. It’s a hell of a task to write a eulogy for a feller who died even before my parents were born but it puts into perspective how important written history really is. I love history, I love to hear a good story. I enjoy nothing more than sitting under that shade of the Cotton woods with Marylyn and talking about the early days. I enjoy my memories of taking cows to the auction with grandpa and running into Dennis and Jim and eating lunch at the market grill and auction house hearing about the way it used to be out here running cattle. I have read and talked to everybody I could about the Gold Butte area so I feel like I have a little bit of insight on the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte. I am certainly not an authority nor claim to be but I think they needed somebody with enough hot air and BS to tell a few stories so here it is.
As I have thought it over and tried to gain some insight into who Art Coleman was I came up with this: If you whittle it all down to the essentials you are left with two defining characteristics that I think sum up the long and the short of Gold Butte. The first is the value of a reliable friendship and the second is an appreciation for beautiful country.
The first mention I find of Art in Nevada is in Copper City which is near Gold Butte proper. When Art arrived in Copper City the city was a group of canvas walled tents that, if I have the story right, about 9 out of ten were selling supplies consisting mainly of distilled beverages. Art set up his operation and started dry sluicing a few of the wash bottoms. He had devised a way to reuse the water to be able to run things through and make a go. However I think by the time he got there the only thing left was hard work and a few tailings piles of played out mines…so he moved on. 
Not finding what he had hoped for this prospector continued to ramble on down the trail. From what I can piece together Art took a little hiatus from the prospecting trade in the early 1920’s and went into a little more scandalous dealings running the Moapa Bar during the prohibition days. It might have been the constant menace of being crossways with the law that pushed Art to move on but really I think even more so, it was the call of rugged country, the solitude found in the sage and the prospect of a few good flakes that called Art back to the Gold Butte country.
He setup in Jumbo Basin this time to do a little dry farming and prospecting. I would guess very little farming but possibly other endeavors that included the distilling of agricultural products such as wheat, barley or corn.  The prospecting was good in the washes of this beautiful country and Art was able to find a few good nuggets that he would showcase for the weary western traveler.
It was here where he teamed up with Bill Garret who had setup residence in the abandoned house, a vestige from the boom years of Copper City and Gold Butte Mining District.
Garret was likewise a rambling man but whose background was in cowboying instead of prospecting. Like Art, Garret had been hither and yon but found solace in the hills, valleys and cactus of Gold Butte. Garret worked for George Hartman as a cowboy. There had been a few good wet year and feed was plentiful and the herds grew in proportion. But as we well know drought can set in too and following the late 20’s Hartman was losing to the elements, economy and a changing west. After things dried up with Hartman, Garret got what he could for payment in stock and decided to lay down some roots and setup in Gold Butte making a run at it with what he had…which he did for the next 40 years.
            It has been written and told by all those I have encountered that there was always an available seat for those wanting to reminisce with these ol boys and if the still was running out back a little liquid could help quench the thirst and liven and embellish any story.  It is their hospitality I think that lives on foremost in the stories told of those who knew them.
The boom and the bust has been a part of Nevada story since chapter one. A few good years of rain can mean enough feed to support a growing herd and a cattle ranchers dreams. But a few dry years can pull the rug right out from under the hopes of the same cattleman’s aspirations. Likewise the early whispers of the next mother lode can provoke the wandering dreamer to pack up and head for the next desolate encampment striving to strike it rich where a burgeoning city could grow overnight and playout just a quick. 
            So what was it that pushed these two wandering men to throw in together and settle down in the rough and rugged desert? It certainly wasn’t the dreams of getting rich.  What does it mean when a prospector lays down his pick and shovel and quits searching for the next big lode? I speculate it was the off chance that these two men struck up a friendship that both knew was worth its weight in gold and an appreciation for remote country that offered what no city skyline or society dinner party ever could. If you have watched the early morning sun bath these hills in natures brilliant golden pallet or watched the last color slip away from the cliffs of the Grand wash in the setting sun you need no explanation…and if you haven’t you wouldn’t get it anyways. Art passed away in 1958 at the age of 82 and Bill died in 1961 at 81. 
My parting thought is this, just last weekend dad and I sat at the base of Grand Gulch Canyon where it dumps into Grand Wash. This particular spot offers a unique perspective that provides perception into the grandeur and enormity of this rugged country. From this vantage you are looking across the Grand Wash with Tramp Ridge pointing through to the St Thomas gap covering thousands of acres of brush and cactus. As we sat at the base of the Grand Wash cliffs I asked dad how the hell the early pioneers and prospectors covered such rugged country atop a horse, hell it was beating me up on our four-wheeler with full independent suspension.
It got me thinking about what we miss as the speed of life increases to the point where we can cover in a day in a jeep in this country what would take weeks sitting astride horse. What are we missing because our perspective is at such a faster pace? Are we gaining any more insights on the meaning of life or more wisdom or just covering more territory?  Maybe these ol boys had it figured out. Beautiful country and a good friend to share it with in the end when measured and weighed in the balance adds up to the most.

To the Grand ol Men of Gold Butte I tip my hat….amen

Sunday, January 17, 2016

LakeView Mine Trip

These are a few of the pictures from our LakeView mine trip this last week.