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Gold Butte Supporters Criticize Executive Order to Review National Monuments

Gold Butte National Monument, designated five months ago, is home to striking examples of ancient rock art. (Kurt Kuznicki)
Gold Butte National Monument, designated five months ago, is home to striking examples of ancient rock art. (Kurt Kuznicki)
April 27, 2017

LAS VEGAS -- Supporters of Gold Butte National Monument are criticizing an executive order signed Wednesday by President Trump mandating a review of all national monuments created over the last three administrations.

The order instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to re-examine all national monuments created since 1996, but it is unclear if the administration will try to revoke some designations or shrink some of the boundaries. Jaina Moan, executive director of the group Friends of Gold Butte, said many legal scholars think the Antiquities Act gives the president the ability to create a monument but not to get rid of one.

"The president doesn't have the legal authority to eliminate or significantly alter a national park or monument,” Moan said. “So just a review of them is insulting, really. A lot of people really support these national monuments."

Just before President Obama left office, he designated a national monument at Gold Butte and another at Bear's Ears in Utah, which Trump called a "massive federal land grab." Dozens of other monuments have been created since 1996, including Basin and Range in Nevada.

The creation of national monuments has brought increased tourism dollars to rural counties where they are located.

Moan said Gold Butte was debated for 15 years, and a poll done in January showed that 81 percent of respondents supported keeping existing national monuments in place.

"It really is truly one of America's treasures of antiquity,” she said. "It needed and deserved the national monument designation and the use of the Antiquities Act was appropriate for Gold Butte."

On Tuesday night the Nevada state Assembly passed a resolution supporting Gold Butte and other national monuments in the state. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to require all future national monuments to have the approval of the governor and Legislature of the state in which it is located.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV