Activists upset after Secretary of the Interior's visit to Nevad - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Activists upset after Secretary of the Interior's visit to Nevada

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Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke toured Nevada monuments. Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke toured Nevada monuments.

A member of President Donald Trump's cabinet was in southern Nevada Sunday; Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke paid a visit to two Nevada National Monuments. 

In April, President Trump tasked the Department of the Interior to evaluate 27 national monuments across the country. That included two in the Nevada: Basin and Range and Gold Butte National Monuments. Zinke would make recommendations to Trump on the future of those monuments: whether they should keep their status, be downsized or lose their federal protection. 

On Sunday, Zinke visited Basin and Range and Gold Butte. 

"The view from the Potomac is a lot different from Virgin River," Zinke said, noting the river that runs through Gold Butte National Monument. 

Zinke took a helicopter tour over Basin and Range, met with locals at both sites and took a hike with Nevada republican leaders

"We had a fantastic hike with the secretary of the interior hiking up to the petroglyphs at Gold Butte," Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R) Dist. 19 said. Edwards also gave credit to Tim Williams, a Las Vegas native who works in Zinke's office, to help facilitate the trip. 

"He was interested in the fact there are 100 acres of items to be protected, but they shut off 300,000 acres of land," Edwards explained, shedding light on the Secretary's mindset during the trip. "This was an exceptionally rare opportunity."

But activists and politicians supporting Gold Butte's national monument status said it was an opportunity they did not get.

"Our advocates are definitely feeling left out of the conversation," Annette Magnus said. Magnus works for the liberal group Battle Born Progress. Zinke was supposed to meet with those advocates from the group, as well as some democratic politicians on Monday, but the meeting was scrapped on Friday night after Zinke was called back to Washington D.C. for a cabinet meeting. 

"It's just inappropriate and very disrespectful," Nevada Rep. Dina Titus (D) said. "I'm not talking disrespectful to me, I'm talking about to all the people who made this happen." Titus said she expected to meet with Zinke on Monday as well.  

While the National Monument review started in April, the debate over Gold Butte National Monument is nothing new. Activists and environmentalists worked for years to get federal protection for the area. In Dec. 2016, President Barack Obama declared the area a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

Advocates said the monument status helps prevent the area from becoming vandalized and falling into disrepair. Gold Butte boasts ancient rock art and areas sacred Paiute Native American tribe. 

Many people who live near Gold Butte National Monument said they are against the designation. They argued the federal status limits how they are able to use the land. The National Monument status means locals can't hunt, fish, or build things in the 300,000 acre area. 

So far, Zinke has suggested changes to at least one National Monument: Bears Ears in Utah. Zinke suggested the president downsize the monument.

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