Friday, May 24, 2013

Finally, Save Gold Butte?

We've been waiting for this for some time. We've been waiting for Congressional action on Gold Butte for months. And after several months of waiting, something finally looks to be happening to preserve "Nevada's Piece of The Grand Canyon".

Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid (D) announced he will be introducing legislation to designate Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area.

“Gold Butte is Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon,” Reid said in a statement. “As more and more people discover this remarkable place, we must protect these resources for future generations while continuing to allow recreational opportunities we enjoy today.”

Gold Butte’s attraction lies largely in its history. The site is home to historic mines, ancient Native American petroglyphs, wild sandstone formations and is a habitat for critical wildlife species, including the desert tortoise.

A coalition of conservation, community and business organizations applauded Reid’s action Thursday. Businesspeople who operate tour companies say the designation would turn Gold Butte into a go-to destination. [...]

“We are thrilled that Sen. Reid recognizes all the amazing things about Gold Butte,” said Nancy Hall of Friends of Gold Butte. “This diverse landscape represents our cultural history with petroglyphs dating back centuries, it is home to threatened species and it provides top-notch recreational opportunities including hiking, photography and bicycle and off-road vehicle riding.”

Some outdoors enthusiasts say the designation could lead to Mesquite becoming the “gateway to Gold Butte.”

“The addition of Gold Butte to our map of destinations in Southern Nevada will be important for businesses like mine to grow, creating more jobs and more opportunities for all Nevadans,” said Jared Fisher, president of Escape Adventures, a Las Vegas-based tour company with a second tour center in Moab, Utah.

We've discussed before the potential for Gold Butte to create more jobs in Southern Nevada, especially in areas like Mesquite that need this economic boost the most. But really, preserving Gold Butte can only help the entire region. Tourists come to the Las Vegas area for many reasons today. Some love the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip, while others want to escape the bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard and experience the natural wonder of the Mojave Desert. Saving Gold Butte makes a win-win situation for all.

Yet while many in the community have been applauding Senator Reid's big announcement and encouraging Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) to introduce a companion House bill, Senator Dean Heller (R) refuses to cooperate. Why? Oh, "he has issues".

Never mind that Gold Butte is one of Southern Nevada's greatest natural treasures. Never mind that this special place has Native American petroglyphs, rare wildlife, multicolored rocks, and even more natural beauty. And never mind that this place can boost the local economy if properly protected. Nope, Senator Heller prefers to play petty politics with serious policy.

So it's unclear as to what the future holds for Senator Reid's bill. But at least now, someone in Congress is ready to act.

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