Hors-Sens

Understanding Nature & the Great Basin

Most of the land in the Great Basin is publicly owned and managed for multiple uses.  The Great Basin supported a small population of Native Americans when explorers, trappers, miners and wagon trains crossed this harsh land.  The railroad and settlers started coming to the Great Basin in the mid 1800’s.  The Great Basin was a tough country with little land worth homesteading.

Settlers changed the landscape.  The most important change was developing the water to create or enlarge meadows and make water available on the range for livestock and wildlife.   From the mid 1800’s until the mid-1930s settlers and ranchers managed the public lands.  Mistakes were made but the ranchers kept the rangeland productive to the 1930s when the Taylor Grazing Act took effect.

Today we expect a lot of the Great Basin.  At times our expectations are not realistic.  The Wild Horse & Burro Program is a good example.   I am sure the early explorers of the Great Basin, who often resorted to eating their own horses for lack of game, would laugh at our mental picture of a pristine environment spoiled by settlers and livestock.  It would not surprise me if they would tell us, “as a whole the Great Basin is in better shape now than it was 200 years ago.

With the Public playing an important part in the management of our public lands it is important to have a realistic understanding of nature and the Great Basin.  I will look forward and not try to recreate a past that may not have existed.

 




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