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Group Steps Up Efforts To Preserve Gold Butte

Gold Butte, Nevada
Ken Lund/Flickr

Whitney Pockets is a sandstone outcrop in the Gold Butte area of Nevada. Conservationists are working to get the area preserved.

A new push to make the Gold Butte region a preservation site is taking place.

The Live Monumental campaign is part of a nationwide effort from non-profits and private industry to federally protect five different areas in the country, including Gold Butte.

Jaina Moan, the executive director of Friends of Gold Butte, told KNPR's State of Nevada that the area is a beautiful example of Nevada's Mojave Desert. 

"Gold butte is a treasure trove of cultural and natural wonders," she said "It is a very special place for many Southern Nevadans."

The area is about 350,00 acres between the Arizona border and Lake Mead National Recreation Area about two hours northeast of Las Vegas. It is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Moan said it is home to ancient petroglyphs, sandstone features, desert mountainscapes and sensitive plant and animal species.

Both Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV., and Rep. Dina Titus, D-NV., have introduced bills aimed at protecting the area but so far it hasn't happened. 

However, Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV., sent a letter to President Barack Obamaasking for it not to be designated as a national monument because of concerns it "would escalate anger and frustrations with the Department of the Interior government in a region of our state where tensions are already presently high."

READ: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewels response

Gold Butte is close to Bunkerville where rancher Cliven Bundy and supporters faced off with BLM agents in April 2014. The standoff was sparked by a dispute over Bundy's cattle and whether he had to pay grazing fees to the federal government. For many, the dispute centered on whether the federal government could manage lands in the state. 

Moan said the added attention the area has received as meant more people are going there and some visitors are doing more damage. 

"It's clear now that we must call on our congressional leaders and the administration to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that this area is permanently protected," she said.

However, Moan said protection would not mean an end to people using Gold Butte for recreational purposes, like ATV's. She said the bills introduced by Reid and Titus still allow people to use 500 miles of roads for ATV's and other vehicles.

The efforts of Moan's group have received national attention thanks to the Live Monumental campaign sponsored by Keen Footwear. 

The maker of sports-focused footwear is on a two-month tour of the country, looking to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition asking lawmakers to designate Gold Butte and five other areas as national monuments. 

Hundreds of people showed up for the tour stop last week at the headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. To Moan, those numbers show just how supportive the community is of the designation.

"I think that southern Nevadans want their public lands protected," Moan said. 

Jaina Moan, executive director, Friends of Gold Butte;  Linda Balfour, marketing director, KEEN Footwear

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)