Wilderness in name only

  Dear HCN,
Thank you for the article on Nevada wilderness (HCN, 3/3/03: The Wild Card). Many of us promoting and protecting wilderness in Nevada didn’t know how much was being traded off. Thanks to your intrepid author, we do now. I’m dismayed that the bill promotes development and that more is proposed in exchange for future bills.

It’s also dismaying to learn that this wilderness bill contains specific concessions supporting the dubious practice of building "game guzzlers" — water facilities for wildlife (read bighorn sheep) — in wilderness. In California, we are battling a Fish and Game Department proposal to build hundreds of such contraptions in the desert, complete with major intrusions on the land and the construction of roads. Putting water in the desert is bad because permanent water draws predators like coyotes and mountain lions, threatening the sheep. Predators also attack other native wildlife, such as desert tortoise, rodents, birds and reptiles, thus impoverishing the wildlife we visit wilderness to see. Truly wild desert animals don’t need artificial water.

In addition, these water developments attract hunters, who build blinds nearby, then pop up to shoot the animals when they come down to drink. That’s why bighorn hunters, who spend $2,000 to $5,000 to $50,000 for a tag and are primarily interested in heads, are known as "trash hunters" by local folks who hunt real meat. These "guzzlers" are the focal point of a very destructive practice that exists mainly to service fat cats who have no interest in the desert.

There are real consequences when one gives up seemingly "nit-picking" compromises. Yes, you get acreage, but you end up with "wilderness" in name only, where neither wilderness values nor wildlife are respected.

Steve Tabor
Oakland, California
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