After months-long study, changes could be coming to Gold Butte N - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

After months-long study, changes could be coming to Gold Butte National Monument

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Changes could be coming to Nevada's Gold Butte National Monument, according to a leaked memo published by the Washington Post.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump tasked the Department of the Interior with reviewing dozens of national monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke traveled to several monuments as part of the review. At the end of the process, Zinke gave his suggested changes to President Trump. 

Those suggestions weren't made public, but the recently-published memo shows that Zinke recommended changes to six national monuments, four of them on land, and two maritime monuments. Gold Butte was included in the six.

In the memo, Zinke writes, "the boundary should be revised..." and, "the proclamation should be protect objects and prioritize public access."

The document mentions allowing more "hunting and fishing rights," and earlier in the memo Zinke notes that grazing is rarely allowed on the national monuments. 

"He's being true to his word," Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R-District 19) said. Edwards' district includes the areas around Gold Butte.

"I was pretty happy with the fact Gold Butte is going to be worked on, it's going to hopefully sent down to the right size," Edwards said. "It looks like he's made some really good recommendations."

Edwards was with Zinke while the secretary toured Gold Butte, and said the list of suggestions shows Zinke listened to locals. 

"They spent a lot of time here talking to people that are closest to these monuments and they took what we said to heart," Edwards said. 

But not everybody shares that view.

"This entire review process has been a sham," Jaina Moan said. Moan is the executive director of Friends of Gold Butte, a group of activists supporting the 300-thousand acre area's monument designation. Moan said her voice was not heard during the review. 

"The secretary canceled a meeting that he had with us and our supporters and refused to reschedule it," she said. "A lot of Nevadans, a majority of Nevadans, have asked for this land to be protected for decades, and now they're proposing rejections to what was protected so we're angry."

Being designated as a monument gives the Gold Butte area protections that aren't given to other public lands. Supporters say it helps prevent vandalism, protects wildlife and preserves some of the unique aspects of the land, like '21 Goats' an area filled with ancient rock art and petroglyphs. The area also includes land sacred to Native American tribes. 

Opponents of the monument designation say the area is too big. Gold Butte is nearly 300-thousand acres large, and people who live in Bunkerville, near the boundaries of Gold Butte, say the protections prevent locals from using the land like they have for decades.

President Obama made the land a national monument toward the end of his eight years in office. 

While the 19-page memo gives a look at Gold Butte's possible future it doesn't have any specifics. The vague suggestions now leaving people on both sides of the debate wondering about the national monument's fate.

"There is a lot of frustration still, because we still don't know anything," Moan said.

"I look forward to the final report," Edwards said. "And hopefully it will be all that we expect."

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