Tribes encourage Zinke to visit Gold Butte


LAS VEGAS SUN LETTER TO THE EDITOR–Thank you for your editorial asking Rep. Ryan Zinke, if confirmed as secretary of the Interior, to uphold Gold Butte’s protected status (“Interior secretary, Congress should support Gold Butte,” Las Vegas Sun, Jan. 1).

We, too, were alarmed by Zinke’s comments that he might strip the national monument of its designation, especially after he said he would heavily weigh state opinion before making a decision.

Gold Butte’s designation did not happen overnight or unilaterally. It took decades of hard work, with the Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe collaborating with Sen. Harry Reid, Rep. Dina Titus and other leaders on potential legislation and various tools for protection. There was a thorough, inclusive public process with community meetings and public tours soliciting feedback from Nevada residents, ranchers, businesses and conservationists. Then-President Barack Obama consulted with Gov. Brian Sandoval and tribal leaders in outlining the area to be protected before issuing his proclamation.

Nevadans were included every step of the way, and through numerous polls and thousands of letters to the federal government, they made their views clear: They prefer public lands to stay in public hands, and for historic sites to be preserved for future generations.

We have explained this, as well as Gold Butte’s sacred significance to our ancestors, many times. Yet, some congressional leaders appear not to listen. Sadly, Sen. Dean Heller is among them. He misleadingly said the designation lacked “an open and public congressional process.” He claimed that not all voices and stakeholders were heard, despite evidence otherwise.

Heller has served in Congress for eight years, ample time to have sought safeguards for Gold Butte. When Reid introduced a bill in Congress asking for the land to be protected, Heller did not join his efforts. Despite pleading from our tribes and local community leaders to shield Gold Butte from further desecration, Heller did not act. Where was he while we were fighting for our lands?

If Zinke is confirmed, we welcome him to visit Nevada and learn about the deep support for Gold Butte National Monument from Nevadans who long fought for its protections, and who will continue to vigorously defend them.

Anderson is a former chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. Douglas is a Paiute artist and tribal council alum for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe.