Our country celebrates it’s Independence by creating the sounds and smell of war, not the progress of any achievement or movement toward peace. For many pet owners, veterans, survivors of any gun violence, and lovers of wild places, the Fourth of July is not a day spent “drinking and blowing things up,” it is a “day to survive the assault.”
The Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) page has a short article with references if you suffer from PTSD, know someone that does, or simply want to become more aware of how to be respectful to those that do suffer. (HERE)
Pets can suffer panic attacks and/or run away. The AVMA reminds people to have a current photo, make sure your animal is microchipped and check fences if you can not bring horses into a barn (HERE). PetMD suggests getting your dog as far away from the noise as possible (HERE).
This weekend also creates one of the most dangerous times for manmade fires on public lands.
Many people see these long holiday weekends as a chance to “get out into nature.” Some of these people do not go to get closer to nature, but they bring as much of civilization into nature as they can pack. Guns for target shooting, fireworks, charcoal grills, off-road vehicles; all contribute to fire risk.
Last year the Martin Fire in Nevada began as a “manmade incident” over the Fourth of July weekend and burned over 400,000 acres. The fire burned both private property (structures, land and livestock) and devastated wildlife populations and public lands. It became the single largest loss of habitat in wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMA) since the passage of the 1971 Act due to fire. (note: wild horses only legally occupy about 11% of public lands. This loss was devastating, not only to this herd, but registered a substantial loss of overall habitat. To date BLM has not released estimated casualties and the roundup in 2018 was based on pre-fire inventory goals. )
If you visit public lands, and are not a seasoned traveler, you need to be aware that wildfire moves fast. The Martin fire was clocked with bursts of over 35 mph; faster than a human can run, or drive, in rough terrain.
If you travel on the range you need to be prepared to prevent, and survive, fire. If you take an ATV, dirt bike or full-sized vehicle out on the range this summer, make sure it doesn’t start a blaze. Only a few seconds of contact between dry grass and a hot catalytic converter or tailpipe can start a fire.
Off Road Driving
Follow these basic tips when you drive off-road to prevent wildfire:
- Stay on roads. If a two track is overgrown and you are in any gas powered vehicle, you are unfamiliar with fire precautions and the weather is dry, simply do not travel it.
- Inspect your exhaust system to ensure it is undamaged, functioning properly and free of grass and twigs. (Regularly inspect the undercarriage to ensure that fuel and brake lines are intact and no oil leaks are apparent periodically while traveling.)
- Operate ATVs or any vehicle on established roads and trails only, and park on gravel surfaces or pull-outs. Avoid driving or riding where dry vegetation can contact the exhaust system. Never park over tall, dry grass or piles of brush that can touch the underside of a vehicle.
- Always carry an approved fire extinguisher in all vehicles that are used off-road.
- Carry a shovel and additional water. If you start a small fire by accident (you see smoldering after you pull away, always check) or on purpose (camping) make sure you put it all the way out.
- When you stop, inspect undercarriage for grasses and debris, remove it. We can not stress this enough.
- If you smell smoke in your vehicle check your undercarriage.
- Always check fire danger and local fire reports. You do not want to get caught on the range in a fire.
- When possible, travel with someone that has experience on range in any weather condition you may face (fire season, snow in winter). Learning from those with experience could save your life.
If you are heading out to public lands it is a good idea to check with the agency that manages the area you are visiting for current fire restrictions. You can simply use an online search engine to locate the field office and their phone number. Many districts have already begun fire restrictions including limits and prohibitions for things you may take for granted like a campfire, are now in effect due to current fire dangers.
As the Fourth of July approaches, fire officials remind visitors that fireworks and exploding targets are prohibited on public lands.
The headline above has been appearing in many publications throughout the West.
If you decide that “getting back to nature” or “wildlife watching” is how you want to spend your long holiday weekend? Please remember, not only the danger of wildfire, but that nature itself has it’s own sights, sounds and rhythm. If you chose to head out? spend the time enjoying nature, not imposing all you left behind on nature.
“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.”
The origins of the phrase are unknown, but it is used as a motto for the Baltimore Grotto and many campsites. Our wild places are being severely impacted by large scale industrialization (livestock, mining, pollution and climate change). Tourism into our wild places has escalated what was once a small impact, a few adventurous souls hiking in nature, into a much larger threat. The 400,000+ acres lost in the Martin fire, some of the richest grasslands in the state of Nevada, was human caused by campers on July 4 of last year.
Those of us at WHE celebrate by getting as far away from the “sounds of war” as we can. The Independence won, and all of the wars our soldiers have died in, was not accomplished so war could continue. The end of war always comes with a prayer for peace.
We wish you a safe, peaceful, thoughtful, Fourth of July.
Further reading on the Martin Fire: https://wildhorseeducation.org/?s=martin+fire
Categories: Wild Horse Education
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