Site Feature

Bird and Hike’s Jim Boone on exploring—and championing—Southern Nevada’s wilderness

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Jim Boone, birdandhike.com’s founder and writer
Photo: Bill Hughes

It’s inevitable that searching the Internet for Southern Nevada hikes, geology or birding will land you on Jim Boone’s birdandhike.com. The same can be said for online hunts regarding snakes in Nevada or bristlecone pine on Mount Charleston. Need to navigate Wilson’s Pimple Loop Trail at Red Rock? Bird and Hike can help with that, too. Boone is ubiquitous. A birder with a Ph.D. in ecology, he’s covered much of the region’s wilderness areas, studied its mammals, vegetation, geology and vistas, then shared his findings online, providing anything from GPS coordinates and access routes to bird species and trail levels of difficulty. Launching the site in 2002 to counter the lack of web-available public information, the former senior scientist with the Yucca Mountain Project comes with a background in biology, rock climbing and park rangering. Most recently, he’s assisted the Conservation Lands Foundation on informative tours to Basin and Range as part of the effort to promote conservation there.

You pretty much have this Valley covered. Is there any hike you haven’t done? All the places in between. There are an infinite number of places to hike. Every ridge, every canyon, every wash and every mountaintop.

What’s your favorite? There are so many ways to judge your favorite. If your favorite is the place you go back to the most, Goldstrike Hot Springs would probably fit. But I think the area I like the most is the Sheep Range. It’s wild and remote, and it’s well-managed, so you don’t have people driving their ATVs all over the desert. And it’s quiet. It’s the kind of the thing we would hope could happen at Gold Butte.

What is the status of Gold Butte? Gold Butte has been on the radar for conservation for quite some time. There are a lot of nice, wide-open spaces out there, but it’s a pretty heavily used area by off-roaders. While most off-roaders are responsible people, there are a few that will go out there and drive wild, run over the bushes and break up the soil crust, run over tortoises and damage rock art sites and other cultural sites.

Is it a matter of educating or enforcing? It’s both. Part of the goal of protecting Gold Butte is to get some small amount of monitoring out there by some land management agency people. There are vast, open spaces with grand scenery and tall mountains and broad valleys and wild erosional patterns in the rocks and world-class archeological sites with just amazing amounts of rock art. It’s just pristine.

Who are you trying to reach with your website? Those who have never gone out and have no idea what is out there. The way I write the descriptions is far more detailed than your average hiker might need, but I’m trying to demystify the outdoors for the people who haven’t been there before.

Do crowds at these geographic and prehistoric cultural sites concern you? It’s a conundrum that you’ve got to have people that get out and see it so they’ll fall in love with it and be willing to protect it. But on the other hand, huge crowds of people just by their simple presence degrade the area.

I’m guessing Basin and Range is too distant and remote to be adversely affected by recreation? That’s the same thing people said about Central Park. When Central Park was developed it was way out in the sticks, and who would ever go out there? It’s that really, really long-range vision. We’ve got to get out in these faraway places and set them up as conservation lands so they don’t just get whittled away over time.

How do visitors respond to Basin and Range? They stand in the basin, they look this way and see forever into the distance, they turn that way and see forever into the distance and they come away with, ‘Ya know, I never thought a basin could be so beautiful,’ because usually a basin is what you’re driving through to get somewhere else.

You’ve traveled extensively and lived all over the country. Why settle in Southern Nevada? I grew up in Los Angeles. Our family was lower middle class and so we were comfortable enough, but we never had money for family vacations and things like that, and so our vacations were camping in the desert—weekends at Joshua Tree and Anza-Borrego. The Southwestern deserts are really home to me, and that’s where I feel most comfortable.

Why do this? I want to give back to the environment—to the land that I love and help protect these places. I might not have started had I realized that it would take over my life, but it really brings a sense of giving back and fulfillment

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