We're on fire. Literally, the West is burning. Years of tree and brush growth, coupled with a prohibition on logging, generated plenty of fuel for the fires now raging. At last count over four million acres have been lost. Last year by contrast, 1.5 million acres were burned in Nevada alone!

Hot, dry and windy weather, along with frequent dry lightning, combined to create conditions perfect for fires. According to Lester Rosenkrance, a former Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official, he warned the agency months ago the Bureau was not prepared for a devastating fire season. "There is no doubt in my mind that we are placing the public and public property at greater risk," he wrote. Governor Racicot of Montana echoed the sentiment saying the present administration has neglected wildfire-warning signs and funding cuts have affected fire crew's ability to combat fires. All this follows on the heels of the Los Alamos fire disaster where the 'controlled burn' fire got out of hand and torched hundreds of homes and thousands of acres.

One wonders what the media response would be if it were a (shudder) mining company that caused the fires?

More than 20,000 firefighters are battling blazes, with 5,500 soldiers and National Guardsmen on the lines. Having assisted with fire fighting many years ago, I can only say these people braving the flames are built of stout stuff, and endure hardships unimaginable by most. Hats off to them. Already two have died in the line of duty.

Montana Governor Racicot declared the state a disaster area, and shut access to state and private land. The BLM is closing 1.3 million acres, and the Forest Service will follow suit. A swath from the Canadian border south to Utah may have to be closed to off-road access. Folks, in plain language no access means no exploration, no drilling. We in Nevada are watching the situation closely.

Soon to be decided is the fate of CARA. As you may recall, this provision allows the feds to lock up land, especially around existing public land, by condemnation. Some counties may not have completely considered long-term implications of their support for CARA. Their support arises in the form of a tax 'offer,' some would call arm-twisting, allowing money now for assisting the CARA process later. One other major provision of CARA is a significant amount of funding ($450 million per year) could be spent for land acquisition within the boundaries and adjacent to existing national forests, national parks, fish & wildlife preserves and national monuments or any new areas that may be created. Note the phrase, "that may be created!"

In addition, CARA provides an extra $100 million per year for conservation easements which will further erode the local property tax base. This is especially important for areas that have mines, because tax proceeds from mines are a windfall to many counties.

Effect on economic activities on the lands likely to be acquired is a most critical consideration, but one that has been ignored to date. Given federal land management over the last several years, and objections to economic and recreation activity in federal areas by environmental groups, it is safe to assume there would be little or no economic activity generated if private lands are federalized by CARA through land acquisition.

So, if private lands within or adjacent to boundaries of your national forest or other public land system are acquired, which businesses and how much employment activity will be lost? For example, the entire North Woods of Maine and the Northern Forests of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are land acquisition targets for the environmental community. And you thought the spotted owl was a problem! Effect on mining, ranching, and logging on previously accessible lands are lost to such activities. CARA is a furtherance of the federal land grab being orchestrated by certain 'green' members of society.

On to good news: this summer, with full support and encouragement of Nevada''s precious metal mining industry, the Nevada Environmental Commission adopted a new regulation to allow development of a trust for cleanup of bankrupt mine sites. The new regulation requires existing mines to make payments into the fund, with a target of $1 million by early next year. The money would be, in essence, a state mining 'superfund' account to be used by the state to protect the environment if a mine operator declares bankruptcy before a mine site is rehabilitated. Note carefully, this effort was spearheaded and paid for by the mining community, not the usual whiners and complainers. Seems like environmental leftists have something to learn from mining!

While I cannot tell you how to vote this year in the presidential elections, carefully consider the choices and the effect your candidate will have on drilling and mining activity. From water rights to active mining, this election will be a defining one for years to come.