Stop The Burn
By: Jennifer Whiteley
Since the 1870’s, my family has been ranching in north eastern Nevada. Today my boys are 7th generation ranchers in Elko County. They spend a lot of time with my parents, in the house that stands on the ranch my great grandparents purchased in the 1930’s. I hope that they and their cousins will be the 5th generation of cowboys, cowgirls, and ranchers to work on the Bieroth Ranch near Mountain City, Nevada. Riding over the range that I grew up helping my dad gather and push cows across. That is my wish for my boys.
My boys aren’t unique. All of our neighbors in Mountain City have been working the same ranches that have been in their families for generations. Even though we aren’t all related by blood, we are still family. We help each other brand our calves, vaccinate our cattle, and when one family faces a hardship, we all face it together because that is what family does. They look after and support each other through good times and bad.
I think that is why this South Sugarloaf Fire has us all so devastated. It hasn’t happened to just one family in Tuscarora, or one family in Petan, or even a family in Mountain City. It has happened to several of our neighbors, our family, and it could have been prevented. I think that is what burns the most. All of this devastation, while it wasn’t completely avoidable, most of this devastation could have been prevented.
We can’t control Mother Nature. If she chooses to send down lightening, we must live with it. What we can control is fuel load. As ranchers and stewards of the range, our hands have been tied for decades. We know better than someone in Washington DC, who has never even been to Bull Run, or Columbia Basin, or Silver Springs how to take care of our range. How much we should allow our livestock to graze, how much feed we need to save for next spring. We know if we over graze now, we won’t have any feed next year. We are very cognizant of the feed we have because it is our livelihood. I’ve heard that 2% of our nation provides food and fibers for the remaining 98% of our nation. That 2% is continually decreasing. Without cattle ranchers, we won’t be able to feed our country.
This summer, we have a fuel load 200% to 400% above what it should be. Due to that gross mismanagement by the United States Government, my family has lost their cattle grazing land for the next few years. We have also lost prime sage grouse habitat, along with many hunting and recreational activities many of us in the west enjoy. What hurts the most is that it all could have been prevented.
Our government agencies have a “let it burn” mentality and an agenda to get all cattle off the range. This summer has been one of the worst fire years to date in respect to homes, livestock, wildlife, and livelihoods lost. It is also one of the most expensive. In 2017 our government spent over $2 billion fighting fires. This year the cost will be much higher. In a time, when we should be cutting costs and decreasing government spending, they throw more money at the problem. Instead of spending billions, lets save billions and graze these public lands. With a little sunshine and grass, we will help feed the hungry, decrease fuel load, and prevent wildland fire.
The ranch I grew up on is burned on all sides. I am so grateful to the firefighters who fought relentlessly to save the house I grew up in. It’s going to take us quite sometime to come back from this. It isn’t just my parent’s ranch, but it is every ranch up Trail Creek, as well as ranches in Tuscarora, and Petan. They raise us tough in northeastern Nevada. We will survive.
Jennifer and Travis manage the Maggie Creek Ranches in Lamoille Nevada. Both Travis and Jennifer have deep cowboy and ranching roots that span several generations.