Road decommissioning can often be a daunting task, even for the most seasoned and enthusiastic conservation worker. Breaking through the hard, dusty ground of the Mojave Desert with steel tools for the duration of a day requires a determined mental and physical effort from the whole crew.
Gold Butte is a large region of
primarily BLM designated land to the northeast of Las Vegas. The rock
formations here are large and vast; the towering aggregates of sandstone
and granite are quite a unique display amidst the rolling creosote
dominated hills of a typical Nevadan intervalley landscape.
our first day here we worked and camped at high elevation, where the
thermocline allows for the growth of Pinyon Pine and Mountain Juniper,
as well as other large woody plants, a refreshing sight when one has
been working in the low desert for some time. Because of our high
elevation, the first road we decommissioned showed a deep layer of top
soil that was rather pleasant to work in. The soil made digging and
planting vertical mulch (dead plant material used to disguise a roadway)
much easier, and the process quite enjoyable. The surrounding trees
made gathering mulch easier as branches were plentiful.
the second day we descended to a much lower elevation where Creosote
Bush became the dominant flora, and the sun much hotter and exhausting.
The roads we decommissioned here were those made by negligent ATV riders
who repeatedly drive their vehicles off of designated path, hardening
the desert floor and killing off vegetation. We moved numerous rocks
onto the road to prevent them from being used again, as well as planting
Creosote bush cuttings in convincing density throughout the roadway.
second campsite was a designated camp at the foot of a large sandstone
formation. Climbing around this structure after work hours was a
pleasant experience for all the crew members. A few of us were fortunate
to observe a Ring-tailed Cat; a rare and impressive mammal native to
arid regions of North America.