Las Vegas Sun

September 3, 2015

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OTHER VOICES:

Working together, we can protect Gold Butte

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Gold Butte is an amazing place that you just have to see to believe. The red rocks against blue sky often look more like a painting than the real thing. It’s hard to believe that this landscape has yet to be protected. Protection status will bring even more people to town, driving the economic impact for surrounding communities.

South of Mesquite and with its close proximity to Las Vegas, Gold Butte has even more potential to add to our economy while also providing increased recreational opportunities for our residents and tourists. This 350,000-acre natural treasure of public lands has hiking, hunting, fishing and mountain biking, as well as more than 500 miles of dirt roads and trails that weave in and out of the simply unbelievable canyons and rock formations. The area also has precious Native American rock art sites and is a photographer’s paradise.

At the Outside Las Vegas Foundation, we are dedicated to connecting the people of Southern Nevada to the special outdoor places that surround us, and the protection of Gold Butte will bring one more incredible piece to our collection of outdoor treasures, enhancing our economy and increasing tourism opportunities in the process.

Just a few days ago, President Barack Obama protected another incredibly scenic treasure of the southwest, Rio Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico, as a national monument. This designation for 240,000 acres of public lands is the result of widespread support from businesses, sportsmen’s associations, elected officials, ranchers, veterans and others who worked with their congressional delegation to make this happen.

In addition to protecting existing public land uses and access, a 2012 study by BBC Research and Consulting projects that the new Rio Grande del Norte National Monument will generate more than $15 million in new economic activity in northern New Mexico, an 89 percent increase over that due to current visitation to this area, and will also create 279 jobs.

Why is this designation in New Mexico important to Nevada? Because right in our own backyard, we have natural public wonderlands that are similar in size and beauty, as well as in economic value, that diverse interests are working together to secure permanent protection for. One of these is Gold Butte, Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon.

Support for protecting Gold Butte is widespread. A recent poll by Moore Information showed that two-thirds of Southern Nevadans believe Gold Butte should be preserved as a national conservation area with wilderness. In addition, a wide variety of businesses, ranging from the resort industry to developers, outdoor adventure companies and local chambers of commerce have registered their support because of the economic potential that such a designation will bring.

All of us who support Gold Butte look forward to working with the Nevada congressional delegation and the Obama administration to see that the area receives a national designation that will expand public awareness, enhance access, increase visitorship and boost our region’s economy, as well as provide permanent protection so future generations can enjoy Gold Butte as we are able to today. We can make it happen.

Mauricia Baca is executive director and Tom Tait is chairman of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation.

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