DOWNLOAD THE 2016 GOLD BUTTE DAMAGE REPORT HERE. The report has been redacted to protect archaeological artifact and cultural site locations so as not to drive additional visitation to sensitive yet unprotected areas.

The second Gold Butte Damage Report details damage to historical sites and fragile desert landscape, further illustrating need for permanent protection of Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon

LAS VEGAS, NV – Friends of Gold Butte, a local group working to protect Gold Butte as a national monument, released a report detailing damage to cultural sites and natural resources in the area. The group was joined at a press conference on August 18, 2016 by Senator Harry Reid, Congresswoman Dina Titus, and a coalition of community organizations working to permanently protect the natural, cultural, and historic treasures in Gold Butte.

“The Friends of Gold Butte put together this report to bring attention to the damage that we observe in Gold Butte,” said Jaina Moan, executive director of Friends of Gold Butte. “We are pleased that our report has brought together our elected officials and industry leaders to call for a Gold Butte National Monument. Gold Butte needs and deserves this protection.”

Speakers at the press conference were as follows:

Senator Harry Reid

Congresswoman Dina Titus

William Anderson, Former Chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes

Rossi Ralenkotter, President/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

Virginia Valentine, President of the Nevada Resort Association

Frank Adams, Mesquite resident and former Executive Director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association

Jocelyn Torres, Nevada Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation

Friends of Gold Butte has witnessed increasing damage to historic and cultural sites, and sensitive desert areas. The organization released their first damage report in August of 2015. Data was gathered through field observations  by the organization and its volunteers in the affected areas. Some of the key findings of damage are:

  • Illegal water developments and 22 miles of trenching on the fragile desert floor protected for desert tortoise habitat

  • Vandalism of historic sites

  • Deliberate destruction to sensitive plant species and their habitat

  • Illegal vehicle incursions

  • Damage to signs and fencing erected to deter illegal trespassing

LINK TO THE DAMAGE REPORT

“I have worked in local, state, and federal law enforcement for 43 years and it upsets me when I see this destruction happening to Gold Butte, one of my treasured parts of Nevada,” said Frank Adams, Mesquite resident and former Executive Director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association. “It is important we preserve Gold Butte.”

The effort to protect Gold Butte spans over a decade and throughout those years increasing damage in this fragile area has been documented.

“Gold Butte is a vital piece of Nevada’s story and landscape, and I am committed to its permanent protection,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus. “Nevada cannot afford to have this cherished piece of the Mojave Desert tarnished by reckless behavior.”

Public lands like Gold Butte are also extremely beneficial to a local economy. Protecting Gold Butte would bring in $14.8 billion in economic benefit and 147,000 jobs to the area.

“Every year, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation — on gear, vehicles, trips, travel-related expenses and more” said Virginia Valentine, President of the Nevada Resort Association. “This sector of our economy creates jobs, supports communities, and generates tax revenue. Nevadans recognize that outdoor recreation and open spaces attract and sustain families and businesses, create healthy communities and foster a high quality of life.”

“Among the diverse amenities that make our area popular is our proximity to some of the world’s greatest outdoor attractions,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, President/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “These outdoor recreation opportunities are especially attractive to our international visitors, who are a key market for continuing to grow our tourism industry. We are able to market Las Vegas as the hub for their visit to the Southwest, and we support continuing to protect our natural lands such as Gold Butte.”

Lack of permanent protection and damage at Gold Butte also has significant cultural impacts for Native people. Many of the damaged areas in Gold Butte are sacred to the indigenous Nuwuvi people in Nevada and this region. Gold Butte is home to 350,000 acres that were once part of the ancestral homeland of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. Now, many of the petroglyphs and cultural sites have been vandalized, damaged, or stolen.

“Gold Butte is home to thousands of petroglyphs rock stories detailing the knowledge of our people, ancient campsites, agave roasting pits, and ancient trails that date back thousands of years and hold special meaning to us,” said William Anderson, former chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes. “Our sacred spaces are being destroyed because we have failed to protect this part of our history and it will continue to be destroyed, leading to a cultural genocide for native people as long as Gold Butte is not protected.”

During the press conference, Senator Harry Reid called on President Obama to designate Gold Butte as a national monument.

“Threats to our public lands are threats to our economy, our environment, and our culture. When we preserve our lands, we preserve America. As we continue to see the damage and destruction of antiquities in Gold Butte, it is more important than ever that we protect this beautiful desert landscape,” said Senator Reid. “I have asked President Obama to build on the successful protection last year of the Basin and Range National Monument and use the Antiquities Act to protect Gold Butte because we have a duty to defend our environment and heritage for future generations. Nevada is known for its rich cultural heritage and we must do everything we can to preserve it.”

About the Author