Photo by Tyler Roemer, courtesy of Conservation Lands Foundation.
Southern Nevada’s Basin and Range area, a unique western landscape home to sage grouse and ancient Native American sites, will be permanently protected as a national monument.
President Barack Obama officially designated the monument on July 10, 2015 along with Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument (California) and Waco Mammoth National Monument (Texas). The president’s leadership will protect natural and cultural treasures as well as a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities just a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas.
“We thank President Obama for his work to permanently protect the Basin and Range National Monument” said Matt Keller, national monuments campaign director with The Wilderness Society. “This unique natural, historic and archeological treasure deserves the permanent protection bestowed by the president’s use of the Antiquities Act, and future generations will be thankful for the enduring resource it now provides,” We deeply appreciate the work done by Senator Harry Reid and Congresswoman Dina Titus to move protection for this important area forward legislatively.”
The presidential authority to designate national monuments falls under the Antiquities Act of 1906, a law used on a bipartisan basis for more than a century to protect landmarks as varied as the Grand Canyon and Statue of Liberty. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) previously introduced legislation to protect Basin and Range, and the idea enjoys support in Nevada.
A unique American landscape
The new Basin and Range National Monument comprises Garden Valley and Coal Valley, considered two of the most pristine valleys in the broader Great Basin region, which covers most of Nevada as well as parts of California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah. It will also protect corridors connecting the surrounding Timpahute, Pahroc, Worthington, Mt. Irish, Seaman, Golden Gate, Grant and Quinn Canyon mountain ranges, a series of rocky palisades running north-south that has been likened to “an army of caterpillars marching toward Mexico.” Among other things, Basin and Range’s rugged landscape is considered a monument to the awesome span of geological time itself.
It should come as no surprise that Basin and Range is beloved by Nevadans and visitors alike who crave opportunities to hike, camp, hunt, bike and rock-climb on its rugged contours—or simply get away for some peace and quiet.
Monument status will allow visitors to continue these and other activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking and riding off-highway vehicles on marked roads. Oil and gas drilling, mining, development and other damaging activities will be restricted in the monument.
Teeming with desert life
Basin and Range is renowned for its biodiversity as well, providing habitat for dozens of imperiled wildlife and plant species, including some endemic to the region. Wildlife whose habitat will be protected by the monument includes greater sage-grouse, the rare pygmy rabbit, bighorn sheep, mule deer, kit fox and a variety of bats. Plants in this vital ecosystem encompasses elements of Mojave Desert, Sonoran Desert and Great Basin vegetation, including ancient bristlecone and ponderosa pine and the White River catseye, a desert plant found only in Nevada.
Basin and Range boasts important traces of Nevada’s past—including both Native American and 19th century settlement culture.
Among the most famous sites in Basin and Range are numerous petrogylphs, rock shelters and other artifacts at the Mount Irish site and intricate rock art scenes at the White River Narrows Archaeological District, ranging from a few hundred to 8,000 years old.
The new monument also surrounds “City,” a gigantic earthen sculpture informed by pre-Columbian architecture that artist Michael Heizer has been working on for decades. The land surrounding the installation has been threatened with various development projects in the past, but protecting it allows public access to the monument itself for current and future generations of art-enthusiasts.
Designating Basin and Range as a national monument is a triumph for Nevada—a guarantee that its natural and cultural values will be protected for future generations.
Check out these photos to get an idea of what makes Basin and Range so special.
All photos by Tyler Roemer, courtesy of Conservation Lands Foundation.