U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is set to return to Nevada later this month, as the Trump Administration continues its review of 24 National Monuments. In advance of Zinke’s return, Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) and Dina Titus (D-Paradise) joined several other Nevadans in making clear to the White House they want Nevada’s Monuments left alone.

The land at the center of it all

Gold Butte and Basin and Range are the two Nevada National Monuments included in Trump’s review. Both areas are rich in Native American cultural history, geologic significance, threatened wildlife, and natural beauty.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Early this morning, we joined in a flight over Gold Butte. From high above, we could see Virgin Peak, the Whitney Pockets and other red rock formations, the Devil’s Throat sinkhole, and nearby protected areas like Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Valley of Fire State Park. When looking at the larger region from above, one can better understand why Gold Butte has been called Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon.

Once we returned to the ground, we heard from more Nevadans on why they want Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments to remain protected.
Photo by Andrew Davey

“Get your hands off our national treasures. […] Get your hands off my business.”
– Eric Roberts, Las Vegas

The Center for Western Priorities holds a press conference with Reps. Dina Titus and Ruben Kihuen on the Trump Administration's National Monuments review.

Posted by Nevada Forward on Friday, July 21, 2017

At Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, public lands advocates joined Titus and Kihuen in demanding the Trump Administration listen to Nevadans in advance of Ryan Zinke returning to Nevada to tour Gold Butte. Local architect Eric Roberts had particularly choice words for the Trump Administration’s attitude towards public lands. He explained how Nevada’s landscapes serve as an identity he can other architects refer to when designing homes, offices, and public spaces.
Roberts also discussed Nevada’s diversifying economy, and specifically Nevada’s need to further develop beyond its traditional mainstays of gaming and mining. When Roberts recruits new talent, he takes them to public lands like Gold Butte. “We don’t take people to a casino. We take them to Gold Butte. We encourage them to take selfies at the petroglyphs and say, ‘This is Las Vegas’.”
That sentiment was echoed by Rep. Ruben Kihuen, whose district includes both Gold Butte and Basin and Range. Kihuen also stressed the economic value of protecting public lands. Kihuen then made a major revelation when asked whether the Trump Administration has reached out to him on the lands in his district.

Photo by Andrew Davey

“We were never given a heads-up that [Zinke] was going to be here.”
– Rep. Ruben Kihuen

Echoing the Justice Department’s exclusion of Democratic Members of Congress from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Las Vegas speech, Kihuen revealed that the Interior Department has not consulted his office on Gold Butte or Basin and Range. Kihuen added that his office has not even been kept in the loop on Zinke’s planned visits to Nevada.
Kihuen urged Zinke to listen to more Nevadans when he returns. “I encourage Zinke to reach out to me, to the Paiutes, to the people who are employed thanks to the outdoor recreation economy. I hope he listens to the American people, and that he makes the best decision possible on behalf of the public.”
Zinke is expected to return to Nevada at the end of this month to complete his review of Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monuments for the White House. He’s expected to stop in Mesquite, though it’s far less clear whether he will finally meet with Native American communities who have thus far been excluded from the process.