November 2010 - Protecting Nevada's Pine Forest Range

Nov 24, 2010

Captain's Log, 1XE, Day 24 of the month of November in the earth calendar year 2010. A day of Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful for our spectacular wildlands here in the Rocky Mountains and for you our friends and supporters.

Nevada Winnemuca

Pine Forest Range, Nevada. (c) Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight, 2010.


Flashback to day 24 of the month of October, as the flying season quickly begins to close and the cumulus clouds turn dark and ominous in the high country, we are off watching the prog charts, fitting in a number of important flights before the snows come.

Road trip, or rather - Air Trip. Off to Nevada, Idaho and Montana with my trusty side kick Rip, my fearless co-pilot on these missions. Rip is Janey's Border Terrier that tolerates flying and is always a hit at the local FBO's, who feed him continuously. We target diversity in our passengers on our EcoFlights, but I agree this might be taking it to the extreme!

We are greeted by clear skies at our destination Winnemucca, Nevada, a popular stop for those driving on Route 80. Near the Carlin Trench and some of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world, the mining industry has kept Winnemucca in the boom stages with gold at $1,300 per ounce.

Trout Unlimited is our flying partner today - a group which does yeoman's work monitoring water quality and involving diverse groups of people in targeting wild places and wildlife habitat in need of protection.
This summer EcoFlight teamed up with Trout Unlimited and Field & Stream magazine to provide flights over their six Best Wild Places in the West. This series is intended to inspire people to visit these iconic public lands and also raise awareness to the protections they deserve, be it from oil and gas development, oil shale exploration or invasive plant species.

On board each of these flights are writers from Field & Stream who partnered with Trout Unlimited. Our mission today is to bring attention to the Pine Forest Range in Nevada's Humboldt County, including Blue Lakes, an area that has been demarcated in places by the Bureau of Land Management as wilderness study areas (WSA's). This wild area with island mountain ranges surrounded by high desert is prime sage grouse country that is threatened by invasive vegetation, primarily cheat grass, which has reached epidemic proportions.

The Pine Forest Working Group, headed by Trout Unlimited, has been collaborating with local sportsmen, ranchers, elected officials and agency staff to reconsider the WSA situation in this region. Through countless hours of negotiation and compromise, this grassroots group reached a consensus and in mid-October, their land-management proposals to support Wilderness designation were unanimously approved by the Humboldt County Commission. The proposal, which will be introduced in a bill to Congress, is to combine the Blue Lakes WSA with the Alder Creek WSA and almost 1800 acres from area ranchers in exchange for land that they can use. An amazing effort when you consider the make up and the backgrounds of the participants. I only wish our government could work so well together.

That evening, it was a real treat to sit down with Trout Unlimited members to a traditional Basque dinner with representatives of the community. We shared a glass of Pisco Sour, a local specialty and also shared in the fact that through a diligent, thoughtful and respectful talk, great accomplishments can be achieved, as members debated the Wilderness Study Areas in this Best Wild Place.