In 1998, the Las Vegas Field Office, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), finalized the Resource Management Plan for the district. This Plan designated several Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). The BLM defines an ACEC as an area within the public land where special management attention is needed to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historical, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources, or other natural systems or process, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards. The Gold Butte Complex has seven ACEC’s and includes all of the above named resources.
The designation of ACEC includes:
- Gold Butte, Part A 186,909 acres for critical desert tortoise
- Gold Butte, Part B 119,097 acres for cultural resources, scenic, wildlife habitat, and sensitive species
- Gold Butte, Part C (Virgin Mountains) 38,431 acres for wildlife habitat, scenic and botanical
The BLM recognizes several landscapes in Gold Butte as Traditional Lifeway Areas identified by the Moapa Band of Paiutes. These areas are used to gather traditional plants for medicinal purposes and as basket making materials. The petroglyphs in the area are claimed as a vital part of Paiute religious heritage and culture. They view these sensitive areas as necessary to continue ceremonial and religious traditions and the lifestyle of the Paiutes.
In 1998, Clark County and the US Fish and Wildlife Service entered into an agreement called the Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) to protect 78 species including the federally listed threatened desert tortoise. This commitment designated four areas known as Desert Wildlife Management Areas (DWMA). The Gold Butte DWMA is unique in providing a primary link with Clark County and conservation lands in Utah and Arizona. The purpose of the MSHCP was to ensure “no net unmitigated loss” of habitat for the 78 species. This permit allows development to continue in Clark County; this is a legally binding agreement that, if not implemented properly, could have a severe negative effect on development in Clark County.
In the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 Gold Butte received only a fraction of the wilderness proposed by citizens. While Wilderness is an important component of the preservation of the Gold Butte complex, National Conservation Area designation would address needed management of the entire 350,000 acres.
There are two designated Wilderness areas in the Gold Butte Complex: Jumbo Springs Wilderness (4,631 acres) and Lime Canyon Wilderness (23,233 acres). These areas have permanent protection as a part of the Wilderness Preservation System. Million Hills Wilderness Study Area (21,296 acres) has been identified by the BLM as wilderness quality and is managed as such until Congress gives it permanent status as wilderness. The Virgin Mountain Instant Study Area (6,560 acres) is identified as a natural or primitive area that will be managed for its wilderness qualities until permanent designation is directed.
After the Clark County Act passed in 2002, the lack of protection for Gold Butte was a major concern for preservationists in southern Nevada. Increased visitation to the area resulted in accelerated destruction of important biological and cultural resources that the ACECs were established to protect. In early 2003, the committee Friends of Gold Butte was formed to educate the public about Gold Butte and engage the public in conservation solutions for the area. In the fall of 2008, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley introduced the Gold Butte National Conservation Area and Wilderness Act. This legislation is available for review with the Congressional Map. here