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October 22, 2014

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OTHER VOICES:

Protecting Gold Butte would help tourism

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President Barack Obama recently dedicated the nation’s newest unit of our National Park system to the memory of farm labor activist and organizer Cesar E. Chavez. The 187-acre site is in Keene, Calif., where Chavez lived the last two decades of his life.

Chavez is a noble and appropriate person to honor with this new national monument, which Obama created through the federal Antiquities Act. Chavez’s work from the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America, in the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains, built a powerful movement for justice and civil rights.

The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument is the 389th unit of the National Park Service. Now we optimistically ask Obama to turn his attention to Nevada. We have an ideal selection for the 390th site right here in Clark County.

The time has come to provide permanent protection for Gold Butte, Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon. There are many reasons why this 350,000-acre region deserves protection.

One of the most important is that we know national monuments and parks attract tourism. As the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Clark County Commission, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Mesquite City Council have noted, providing an incredible outdoor recreational experience will bring more visitors to Southern Nevada and encourage visitors to stay longer. Businesses will benefit, and for a region coming out of a long and difficult recession, that is very important.

Gold Butte is rich in human history and prehistory. Visitors find evidence of Native Americans going back eons before European settlement. Gold Butte has abundant archaeological resources, including rock art, caves, agave roasting pits and camp sites dating back at least 3,000 years.

The area has astonishing geological features. Gold Butte is where four uniquely American regions meet: The Great Basin, the Mojave Desert, the Sonoran Desert and the Colorado Plateau.

The confluence of distinct geographic regions makes it also ecologically unique, home to at least 78 rare and fragile plant and animal species, including the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, the banded Gila monster, great horned owls and others that would benefit from national monument protections.

Obama has, through the Antiquities Act, the ability to protect all this for residents and visitors. The Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and it was specifically designed to protect threatened areas that, like Gold Butte, include historic, scientific or cultural importance. It has been used more than 100 times since to preserve, protect and conserve places of extraordinary natural, historical and cultural value. Gold Butte can and should be one of those places.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is a Clark County commissioner. Fernando Romero is the Nevada state director of the National Council of La Raza.

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