The creation of a national conservation area on public lands around the Gold Butte region south of Mesquite earned strong support among Clark County residents contacted in a recent poll.
The poll, initiated by the Friends of Gold Butte and financed by the Nevada Wilderness Coalition, showed that 66 percent of respondents favored the idea of protecting the wilderness area around Gold Butte, an old mining town 65 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The Gold Butte area, which includes a 32,000-acre swath of wild lands known as Mud Hills, is culturally rich with artifacts such as turn-of-the-century gold mining remnants and ancient rock art etchings in sandstone by Anasazi and Paiute Indians.
“This shows the support is high for the area to be preserved and the area needs to get protection,” Friends of Gold Butte President Nancy Hall said.
The poll results released Thursday were based on the responses of 400 likely voters. A telephone survey was conducted from April 29 to May 1 by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican political affairs research firm headquartered in Alexandria, Va.
The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Support for the proposal was particularly high among those who identified themselves as politically independent, voters younger than 45, women under age 55, and somewhat conservative voters who use public lands for recreational activities.
Hall said she intends to present the survey to elected officials to bolster the group’s call for a national conservation area while leaving open 480 miles of area roads, as proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.
John Wallin, director of the Nevada Wilderness Project, said his concern is the rate and acceleration of growth in the Gold Butte region.
“The whole smart growth or lack of smart growth in the region has become a bigger issue than it was five years ago,” Wallin said.
Environmental advocates fear that damage caused by off-road vehicles and population growth around Mesquite will take a toll on cultural and natural resources, including species habitat, if the area is not given more federal protection.
Don Wall, president of Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts, said that Gold Butte and many public lands areas in Nevada have historically been used for off-highway vehicle recreation. He understands the need for preservation, but Wall said there needs to be balance.
“I appreciate wilderness and there should be land set aside, but there are millions and millions of acres already set aside,” Wall said.
The poll question dealing with the national conservation area informed those surveyed that nonwilderness lands “would be managed primarily for conservation but would allow for a wider range of uses such as mountain biking and continued off-road vehicle use.”
The respondents included 184 who identified themselves as Democrats, 148 who said they were Republicans and 53 who said they were independents. The rest weren’t assigned a political affiliation.
Some 64 percent of survey participants said they either frequently or sometimes use public lands in Nevada. Twenty percent listed their primary use as off-road vehicle riding and 54 percent said they use public lands for hiking or camping.