Outdoors: Seven things to watch for in 2018
Sarah Jane Woodall, a nude model who goes by 'Wonderhussy,' is a prolific Nevada explorer. And she's got advice for people who want to up their own adventure game.
It’s a new year and by now, hopefully, you’ve ushered the relatives out the door and taken down the holiday décor.
Now it’s time to look ahead to 2018 and think about things to come.
We’re not in the prediction business because, as anyone who lived through 2016 and 2017 can tell you, predicting things is rough business.
But we can take a look at the landscape and anticipate what will be hot outdoors and environment issues in 2018 and explain why they’re important to all of us.
Since I resolved to get to the point more quickly in 2018, let’s get this preview started.
Holy, pow. Where did the snow go?
The Sierra Nevada is experiencing serious whiplash when it comes to snowpack.
This winter is the third-driest so far since 1981 in the Tahoe Basin. That's a huge contrast from last year when the Sierra Nevada was absolutely buried from December well into summer. Rain and snow filled reservoirs, including Lake Tahoe, to the brim, meaning we’re still good for a water supply through 2018.
But the warm, dry start to this season is bringing back memories of the 2012-16 drought.
Since seasonal forecasting tends to be iffy, we’ll have to keep our eyes on the sky for the next 45 to 60 days to find out whether we’ll be getting significant snow in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin.
When the talk turns to snow, or lack thereof, the next logical thing to think about is climate, as in how will the ongoing effects of human-induced global warming manifest themselves in the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin.
President Donald Trump remains in denial about the effect fossil fuel consumption is having on the habitability of the planet, if his tweets are any indication. And that’s having a trickle-down effect on the federal government, which is acting to produce more fossil fuels and downplay or dismiss climate concerns.
No amount of posturing from politicians or bureaucrats, however, will stop the physical forces at work heating up the planet.
In 2018, people who care about the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin and the communities within will be on the lookout for how the region will grapple with global warming.
A warmer climate with greater extremes when it comes to both drought and precipitation presents greater challenges for communities when it comes to everything from water, to wildfires to invasive species.
Expect to hear more about the challenges throughout the year, especially during summer when the Tahoe Environmental Research Center publishes the annual State of the Lake Report, a document that’s highlighted the ways climate change alters the lake.
Oil and gas development
Nevada isn’t a major player when it comes to drilling for oil and natural gas. But thanks to the aforementioned political push to develop fossil fuels, there’s renewed interest in drilling in the Silver State.
Sometime in spring, the U.S. Forest Service is expected to decide whether to offer lease sales on more than 50,000 acres in the Ruby Mountains, a range known as the Swiss Alps of Nevada.
The proposal has drawn widespread opposition from conservationists and the public at large. The outcome will be among the most-anticipated decisions of the year.
Beyond the Ruby Mountains, Nevadans should expect more oil and development proposals to crop up as the Bureau of Land Management steps up the amount of land it offers up for potential lease sales.
Mountain bikes and wilderness
Oil and gas development is just one of several public lands issues worth watching in 2018.
Mountain bikes in wilderness is another bubbling land controversy people should expect to hear more about in the coming year.
That’s because a bill in Congress sponsored by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., would lift a blanket ban on mountain bikes in federally designated wilderness.
It’s a big deal because the Wilderness Act of 1964 resulted in wilderness designations on millions of acres of land, the highest level of political protection land can get. The act, or at least subsequent interpretations of it, bans even people-powered wheeled vehicles from wilderness area.
A portion of the mountain biking community is seeking to turn the blanket ban into a case-by-case situation, with federal land administrators free to make the call for whatever wilderness they manage.
Opponents say it would be a dangerous rollback of critical protections and open the door to more destructive uses of public land.
The wilderness controversy won’t be the only big bike news of 2018 for Northern Nevada.
In September, Reno will for the first time host Interbike, the largest cycling industry trade show in the United States.
Reno tourism officials lured the show from Las Vegas. It’s expected to bring thousands of people, millions of dollars and the attention of the cycling world to the Biggest Little City.
Wild (or feral?) horses
In late 2017, the wild horse world got thrown for a loop when the Nevada Department of Agriculture voted to relieve the state of approximately 3,000 free-range horses in the Virginia Range by giving them to an as-yet-unidentified nonprofit to own and manage.
The decision was controversial because most knowledgeable horse advocates say it puts the herd at greater risk of slaughter.
That’s because once the state hands over the horses it would have little to no control over their fate. And even a well-meaning nonprofit might find it difficult to bring in enough money to properly manage the herd on the range.
So far, the horses remain the property of the Nevada Department of Agriculture but the agency is working on a request for proposals from potential nonprofit groups to bid on the animals.
The fate of some of the most iconic animals in Nevada could hang in the balance.
Marijuana and the environment
With voters in California and Nevada choosing decisively to legalize recreational marijuana, the prospects for the pot business are looking up.
But a surge in growing might not be great for the environment, especially if marijuana remains illegal on a federal level.
In 2016 and 2017, readers learned about how cultivators of illicit grows on public land are poisoning large numbers of wild animals and polluting waterways with rodenticide they spread to keep pests off their crops.
Expect to learn more about the environmental dark side of marijuana cultivation in the coming year.