Reckless off-road vehicle use leaves damage to the landscape in Gold Butte, as illustrated in a new report.
Credit: Friends of Gold Butte.
Released on Aug. 18, the report documents the most recent disturbances of sensitive wildlife habitat and historical and cultural sites in an area long in need of permanent protection.
According to the report, the Friends of Gold Butte, a local organization, has "witnessed an increasing level of damage near historic and cultural sites as well as disturbance to sensitive desert areas that are habitat for threatened and endangered species." Among recent damage, illustrated with photos, were dismantled historic corrals and fences, felled Joshua trees and petroglyphs peppered with bullet holes.
"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 in a statement.
A historic Civilian Conservation Corps storage cave marred by graffiti. Credit: Friends of Gold Butte.
Gold Butte is not as well-known as some other iconic landscapes of the Southwest, but in recent years, it has become a destination for more and more travelers and recreationists, enchanted by its craggy desert scenery and rich archaeological legacy.
Unfortunately, with that popularity has come more irresponsible off-road recreation, vandalism and other threats—increasing the need for protection.
Gold Butte is long overdue for permanent protection
Located between the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the stretch known as Gold Butte encompasses almost 350,000 acres of cultural, historic and natural wonders about 80 northeast of Las Vegas.
Joshua tree chopped down and left behind. Credit: Friends of Gold Butte.
Gold Butte is home to thousands of petroglyphs; historic mining- and pioneer-era artifacts; rare and threatened wildlife such as the Mojave desert tortoise and desert big horn sheep; dramatic rock formations; and fossil track-sites dating back 170 to 180 million years ago.
The Friends of Gold Butte has "witnessed an increasing level of damage near historic and cultural sites as well as disturbance to sensitive desert areas"
In addition, Gold Butte is an amazing place where people can experience the great outdoors through hiking, hunting, birding, camping, off-road vehicle use on designated trails and many other activities.
Bullet holes mark a rock face near a bighorn sheep petroglyph (just to the lower right of the center of the image). Credit: Friends of Gold Butte.
Two sections of Gold Butte are already designated federal wilderness, but most of the area is without permanent protection. This means ancient burial sites damaged, sensitive land torn up by recreational vehicles and Joshua trees toppled.
President could protect Gold Butte as a national monument
A number of legislative attempts to permanently protect Gold Butte have fallen short, but local support remains strong, with 71 percent of Nevadans supporting national monument status in a 2016 poll. In a situation like this, a president could use the Antiquities Act to make Gold Butte a national monument, which would, among other things, help it get the staff it needs to properly manage the area.
Passed in 1906, the Antiquities Act authorized all future presidents to protect historic landmarks or objects of “scientific interest” on public lands as national monuments. The bill grew out of a movement to preserve deteriorating archaeological resources, some of which had become targets of vandalism, like Gold Butte.
The new report underscores the urgency for permanent protection in Gold Butte. We call on President Obama to recognize that now is the time to protect Gold Butte as a national monument, before it’s too late.