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Advocates Defend Size, Importance of NV National Monuments

Gold Butte National Monument was one of the last to be designated by President Obama before he left office. (Kurt Kuznicki)
Gold Butte National Monument was one of the last to be designated by President Obama before he left office. (Kurt Kuznicki)
August 17, 2017

LAS VEGAS -- Tribes and conservation groups are making a last-minute plea to keep Nevada's national monuments intact, one week before a federal review comes to an end.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to announce his recommendations for the fate of Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments next Thursday, August 24, when his report is due to President Donald Trump.

Fawn Douglas of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe said the monument designation is crucial to saving the historical and natural treasures at Gold Butte from vandals.

"There are bullet holes covering the petroglyphs and whole swatches of rock writing that have been torn out. Joshua trees have been knocked over for no reason at all,” Douglas said. "Gold Butte is special and sacred to the Southern Paiute people, and for everyone who visits here."

Many tribes were disappointed after Zinke cancelled a planned meeting with the Moapa Tribe in June and held a short phone conversation instead.

President Trump has said he ordered the review of more than 20 national monuments to ensure they received proper consultation with stakeholders, and with an eye to protecting the smallest area necessary. Millions of Americans, including more than 90,000 Nevadans, have made public comments in support of leaving the monuments intact.

Nada Culver, senior counsel at The Wilderness Society, said a wide array of groups are planning litigation if the President moves against the monuments.

"Any action to undercut the existence, size or protections of these monuments would give rise to legal action swiftly from the conservation community to some tribal interests, to potentially attorneys general,” Culver said.

The Antiquities Act gives the President the ability to create national monuments, but it does not explicitly permit the chief executive to revoke them.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV