THE SPECTRUM- There has been much speculation about the fate of Gold Butte in recent weeks.
The newly-designated monument is one of 27 nationally under review by the Department of Interior. But here in Southern Nevada and Utah, protecting this special place is an old conversation. As our community once again contemplates Gold Butte’s future, we find it useful to reflect on the discourse of the past.
Gold Butte is truly a spectacular landscape. Rocks of all different ages are revealed here. They offer glimpses into worlds of the far distant past, when the land was covered by ancient seas or towering sand dunes. And, the human story is continuous across this landscape, dating from 12,000 years ago until the present time. Local communities have always cherished and connected with the history and natural wonders found in Gold Butte.
Protecting the antiquities in Gold Butte has been a topic of public conversation in the City of Mesquite for well over a decade. Beginning in 2003, citizens joined together to express concern about the increasing threat of unmanaged visitation to the natural and cultural treasures in Gold Butte.
In 2009 and 2010, during our service in city government, the Mesquite City Council passed two resolutions supporting preservation of the natural and cultural resources in Gold Butte. The Clark County Commission, Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and Moapa Band of Paiutes also approved resolutions of support in 2010. More than 25 local community organizations and several Mesquite businesses wrote letters to their congressional delegation with pleas to protect our heritage in Gold Butte.
In 2010, Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes held a public meeting in Gold Butte. Many local citizens attended. Mr. Hayes answered tough questions about water rights, grazing and motorized access to roads and trails.
In the end, most people agreed that Gold Butte needed and deserved protection.
Gold Butte continued to be a topic of public discussion for the next seven years. Legislation to establish a National Conservation Area was introduced in Congress five times between 2008 and 2015. Each time, the proposed bills reflected community negotiations and compromise. In February 2015, a second public hearing for Gold Butte was held in Las Vegas, with some 300 Southern Nevadans in attendance.
In 2015 and 2016, two reports documenting damage in Gold Butte prompted a response from thousands of Southern Nevadans who stated support for protection through petitions and letters.
In addition to protecting priceless antiquities, Gold Butte National Monument is an economic development opportunity for Mesquite. A 2015 analysis of the potential economic benefits found that if only 10 percent of new visitors attracted to Gold Butte stay in Mesquite, the total economic gain for the city would be $2.7 million per year and lead to the creation of 28 full-time jobs.
The monument designation is an assurance that these antiquities (and the economic benefits that result from people visiting them) will always be there for us to enjoy, so long as we have the foresight to keep the protections in place.
Susan Holecheck served on the Mesquite City Council from 2005-07 and was mayor of Mesquite from 2007-11; Karl Gustaveson served on the Mesquite City Council from 2007-13.