Monday, November 26, 2012

Gold Butte: Nevada's Hidden Treasure

Think about the amazing treasures of Nevada. No, really. What comes to mind?

Sure, we have the Fabulous Las Vegas Strip. Where else can one find some of the world's best gaming, dining, lodging, and live entertainment along a roughly 4 mile stretch of road? And yes, there is even more excitement to be found in Las Vegas, in Reno, and elsewhere. However, there's more to our fine state than just the glitz and glamour of our mega-casinos.

Beyond the bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard and Virginia Street, one encounters another side of Nevada, a side that's simply breathtaking. Lake Tahoe. Mount Charleston. Pyramid Lake. Red Rock Canyon. There's just so much natural beauty to experience here in Nevada. And there's yet another natural wonder just 90 minutes from The Strip.

Of course, we're talking about Gold Butte. You know, there's a reason why it's been called "Nevada's Piece of The Grand Canyon". Just look at this!

And of course, it will be great to see more people take a look at this and appreciate this hidden treasure of Southern Nevada. There's just one problem right now: As of now, Gold Butte has no protected status. And as such, the area has been subject to not just plenty of use... But also plenty of abuse. Much of what's loved about this area, from the stunning muticolored rocks to the captivating Native American petroglyphs to the unique wildlife, is in grave danger. And it would be a terrible waste to lose any of it to pure stupidity.

This morning, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and National Council of La Raza Nevada Director Fernando Romero penned a letter to The Las Vegas Sun highlighting the reason why Gold Butte deserves federal protection and care.

The time has come to provide permanent protection for Gold Butte, Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon. There are many reasons why this 350,000-acre region deserves protection.

One of the most important is that we know national monuments and parks attract tourism. As the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Clark County Commission, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Mesquite City Council have noted, providing an incredible outdoor recreational experience will bring more visitors to Southern Nevada and encourage visitors to stay longer. Businesses will benefit, and for a region coming out of a long and difficult recession, that is very important.

Gold Butte is rich in human history and prehistory. Visitors find evidence of Native Americans going back eons before European settlement. Gold Butte has abundant archaeological resources, including rock art, caves, agave roasting pits and camp sites dating back at least 3,000 years.

The area has astonishing geological features. Gold Butte is where four uniquely American regions meet: The Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, the Sonoran Desert and the Colorado Plateau.

The confluence of distinct geographic regions makes it also ecologically unique, home to at least 78 rare and fragile plant and animal species, including the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, the banded Gila monster, great horned owls and others that would benefit from national monument protections.

The time has come for Gold Butte to be recognized as the natural treasure it truly is. Yet we've been waiting far too long for the likes of Joe Heck to act. Since Gold Butte has been moved to the new NV-04, Steven Horsford will have a chance to actually advocate for the best interests of everyone at Gold Butte.

But if Congress still doesn't act, it's time for the President to do so. Through executive order, President Obama can declare Gold Butte a National Monument. As Giunchigliani and Romero mentioned above, this can be a win-win for our environment and our economy by encouraging more ecotourism to Southern Nevada. And with widespread bipartisan support for protecting Gold Butte, it's hard to understand why it still hasn't happened yet.

Gold Butte truly is an amazing hidden treasure of Nevada. Now, it's time for Gold Butte to be treated like one.

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