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Annual Newsletter to Family and Friends -- December 2015

Desert Rat Times

The Desert Rat Times

A Familial Publication by Liz La Rue and Jim Boone

(adapted for the web) Download PDF (2.6 mb)

Desert Rat Times
Volume 28, Number 1 December 2015

What a year we've had! Do we start with this phrase every year? We made some wonderful trips close to home this year, but in contrast to other years, 2015 was pretty quiet; well, sort of quiet...

January. We started the year engaging in our regular activities: holiday parties with friends, sunny-day hikes at Red Rocks and our new Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (NM), birdwatching with international visitors, playing in a few flakes of snow at home, Liz going to school with her 3rd graders, and making a warm lap for the cat. Towards the end of the month, we were sucked into a Basin and Range (B&R) kickoff meeting sponsored by the Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF). We support our public lands, so we attended the downtown meeting not knowing what to expect. There was a nice talk about a proposed conservation area in middle-Nevada and group participation in brainstorming ideas about how to make it happen. Per usual, we left thinking it was nice to support people doing this kind of work. A week later, Jim got a surprise phone call from the CLF: why don't you come out to B&R and see the place? He was hooked.

red rock canyon
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon
tule springs
Hiking at Tule Springs
3rd graders
Field-tripping with Liz's 3rd graders

February. It seems that most of the month was taken by B&R in one form or another. Jim had the opportunity to "guide" for a 2-day tour of the proposed area and was able to rub shoulders with senior staff from Senator Reid's office, the Assistant Director of the Department of Interior, the Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and several other important people in the conservation world. We had dinner with with two of the ranching families who work the B&R lands and we got a tour by Michael Heizer of his land art project called City. Back in town, the DOI had a public meeting to hear what the public thought about B&R, and this was the first of several public speaking opportunities for Jim. This month we also participated in a Bio Blitz helping citizen scientists identify things (mostly birds and plants) they found in our local wetlands park, and we participated in a Friends of Nevada Wilderness (FNW) project rerouting a trail around an archaeological site on our local wildlife refuge. Much of the drive to protect B&R is to protect Michael Heizer's City project, and this month we started to engage with the local arts community over this issue.

public lands

March. Jim started this month with another public speaking event, but then we took a few days off to bird with our local Audubon group to see Greater Sage-grouse on a lek (breeding grounds) in northern Nevada. We didn't get the best views, but we saw about 30 Greater Sage-grouse running about during pre-sunrise sub-freezing temps. We stayed in a motel the first night, but we camped on the way home, visiting one of our state parks for the first time. After a couple of more B&R tours, Chris and Kathy arrived from Boston for their annual Death Valley holiday. We hiked with them for 3 days, then came home to lead more B&R tours. After that, Kathy headed home and Chris and I went camping for 3 nights in Gold Butte (GB), Nevada's Piece of the Grand Canyon.

liz in death valley

April. We started this month with a talk about … B&R. After recovering from a couple of days doing taxes, it was off to the races with the arts and conservation communities, phone interviews with radio shows, letters to the editor, and on and on. One new thing we started doing at B&R was taking down illegal markers from old mining claims, and we spent a weekend removing 30 of these death traps that kill birds and other species. Threats to protecting GB reared their ugly heads again, so there was more public speaking. Jim got to talk at the Mesquite City Council meetings twice, but at least he was able to stay afterwards for a few days of hiking and camping in GB (Mesquite is the gateway city). Even with everything else going on, we found an evening to go see the Crazy Girls show downtown. They were closing the show after 30 years, and as a quintessential Las Vegas experience, we had to see it once.

mining claim markers

May. In contrast with earlier months, this was a comparatively quiet month. Jim spoke to a local hiking group and a state legislature committee meeting, we toured a local newspaper reporter around B&R, and we found another day to take down mine markers. In the middle of the month, Mom arrived to spend the summer, and we took a few days to tour her around, including the Red Rock Audubon summer potluck, Gold Butte, and buffet dinners with friends. We hit our first 100 degree summer day towards the end of the month.

gold butte

June. The summer heat really hit this month, and we spent much of it indoors. We did our two Nighthawk surveys early in the month and spent a weekend taking down mine markers in B&R before the heat overtook the higher elevation. Mom took off for a couple of days in Chicago, leaving us to care for the cat alone. We did some minor activism work, and Jim was asked to give a presentation at the opening night of an art show on the UNLV campus. A group of university and community artists created artwork inspired by B&R for the show. It turned out to be a well-attended event with lots of interest among the arts community for protecting B&R and Michael Heizer's land art. Later, Jim reproduced his talk as a video so it could travel with the art exhibit around the state.

basin and range
Camping at Basin and Range NM
basin and range
Claim marker at Basin and Range
basin and range
Dead bird found inside claim marker

July. With summer showers cooling the desert, it was a good month for B&R, as we won National Monument status on July 10! Jim spent that day, and the next two, out in the new B&RNM, then spent the next two days touring the area with geologists. Home for a night, Jim was off to another public meeting and a day out photographing rock art in eastern Nevada, then led a 2-day Sierra Club tour of B&R. Home for a couple of nights, we were off to the Boone Family reunion in Colorado. We dropped mom at the airport, then spent a long day driving all the way to the reunion, where we caught up with her and 75 others. We intended to camp, but Aunt Mary and Uncle Peter from Austin let us stay in their cabin. It was great to spend time with them, and it was great catching up with other family members. We took one side trip in Colorado to visit the Intermountain Weavers Conference in Durango, and while there stopped at the CLF offices to visit with some of the people who spearheaded the B&RNM campaign. We stayed three nights in Colorado, then spent two nights in Albuquerque with the LaRue side of the family. With all four LaRues together, it was much quieter than Colorado.


August. With B&RNM established, public lands activists refocused efforts on Gold Butte. We kicked off the renewed campaign with a big public event in downtown Las Vegas. A week later, Mom and Jim toured a group of local Native Americans around GB. It was interesting to see how the elders responded to rock art sites, and it was fun to engage young adults in learning about their heritage. At mid-month, Mom departed to continue her travels, and we settled in to endure the summer heat. Jim began upgrading the GB section of the website, and Liz did a lot of sewing. At the end of the month, the B&R Arts Collective hosted Senator Reid at the closing of our art exhibit on the UNLV campus.

art exhibit

September. Another hot month, but at least we were getting used to it. Jim got out with friends for some hikes in the local mountains and spoke to the Friends of GB about hiking at GB. We also led a bird-and-hike for the local Audubon Society on a trail up in the mountains.

sunflower peak
Hiking in desert mountains
mt. charleston
Hiking in forested mountains
mt. charleston
Bird-And-Hike for Audubon

October. The summer temperatures began to moderate, or maybe we just got used to it, but we got more rain this month. Jim started the month by leading a Sierra Club overnight trip to GB, and after they departed, he stayed for another three night alone. One of the days was spent in the jeep while the rain fell and the canyons flash flooded. Unfortunately, water never ran where Jim staked out an observation post, but getting around after the storm certainly required 4-wheel-drive on the washed out roads. During the month, we started working with interested parties (spearheaded by Audubon, Sierra Club, and BirdAndHike in coordination with NV Department of Wildlife and the BLM) on the bird-killing mine marker issue. There is a lot of interest and it seems that we will be able to draw on large groups of volunteers to help with knocking them down.

gold butte
Leading a Sierra Club outing to Gold Butte
gold butte
Staying dry in Gold Butte
sierra club outing
Sierra Club outing

November. This was a good month for hiking. Liz and I toured our new Tule Springs NM with the Protectors of Tule Springs, and we got to see some of the fossil quarry sites. We led a hike for the Friends of GB to visit rock art sites, and we did almost daily hikes up the steep toe of Fossil Ridge at Red Rocks prepping for our greatest adventure of the year. On the 16th, amid 26-degree temps and a raging snow storm, we started backpacking towards the bottom of the Grand Canyon (upper trail, lower trail). Our training at Red Rocks paid off, and on the 21st, after 5 nights down in the canyon, Liz bounded back to the rim barely breaking a sweat!

grand canyon
grand canyon
grand canyon

December. December has been a busy month. On the 1st, we did day-trip canoeing 15 miles on the Colorado River through the Black Canyon below Hoover Dam with FNW on a "work project" where we stopped in a side canyon to pull a few weeds around a hot spring. On the 2nd, Jim helped on a work project at GB erasing tire tracks from illegal off-trail ATV riders. On the 3rd, we drove to Reno to attend the FNW Winter Wingding where Jim received the Activist of the Year award mainly recognizing his efforts on the B&R campaign! We got home late on the 5th because we stopped to survey several areas for illegal mine markers. We found three areas along the highway with lots of markers, so we will be back with volunteer crews to get them down. On the 8th and 9th, Jim went up to B&R to knock down three illegal mine markers and work on the "where can I camp" project. Unfortunately, it took one full day to knock down 24 mine markers and map large areas of other mine markers (at least 2-1/2 miles long and 1-2 miles wide). On the 12-13th, Jim led a Sierra Club outing down south to Mojave Preserve. It was nice to just go out and enjoy the land without having to advocate or knock down mine markers! On the 14th, Jim met with the BLM to coordinate the mine marker project, on the 16th we attended the Sierra Club winter potluck, on the 17th we attended a Friends of B&R (the Basin Rangers) kickoff meeting, and on the 18th, Jim led another hike for the Friends of GB … and now everyone knows why our annual newsletter is a bit late!

friends of nevada wilderness

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing you and your family all the best in the year to come.

Cheers, Jim and Liz

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 151221

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