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Supporters Rejoice at Gold Butte Monument Designation

Bullet holes mar the petroglyphs at Gold Butte. Supporters are praising President Obama's designation of the area as a national monument. (Justin McAfee/Friends of Gold Butte)
Bullet holes mar the petroglyphs at Gold Butte. Supporters are praising President Obama's designation of the area as a national monument. (Justin McAfee/Friends of Gold Butte)
December 30, 2016

GOLD BUTTE, Nev. - Native American leaders and other supporters are celebrating President Obama's declaration of a national monument at Gold Butte, sparking opposition from some conservative leaders who view the move as an eleventh-hour abuse of presidential power.

Supporters have been pressing for national-monument status for the 350,000-acre area outside of Las Vegas for many years, to protect the ancient rock wall art, artifacts and fossilized sand dunes from vandals. Fawn Douglas, a member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, said the area is considered sacred, so the designation comes as a big relief.

"I'm overjoyed, that's for sure, because it's been a long time coming," she said. "It's been the past 15 years that many people have been working on this. It is wonderful to see everybody's hard work and dedication finally pay off."

The area has long been steeped in controversy. In 2014, armed anti-government protesters upset about grazing fees forced a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, as the agency tried to remove illegal cattle belonging to the Bundy Ranch from federal land.

Opponents of the monument hope the Trump administration will move to undo the designation, but that would likely lead to a protracted court battle.

Frank Adams of Mesquite, a lifelong area resident and former executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said he hopes the Trump administration will see the benefits that monument status brings.

"This will add some resources and add a management plan to it," he said, "and perhaps we can protect those areas that are so important to our heritage here in Nevada."

Obama also declared a national monument at Bear's Ears in Utah, prompting Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes to threaten a lawsuit. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt didn't go that far, but called the move a "unilateral land grab" that will add another layer of federal control to the state.

The Gold Butte monument designation document is online at whitehouse.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV