A majority of Southern Nevada voters support a federal National Conservation Area designation for Gold Butte, according to a recent survey.
The results of the poll were released Wednesday (May 23) by a group of conservationists, outdoor recreationists, tourism and businesses leaders at a press conference in Las Vegas. It indicates that 66 percent of the registered voters polled in Southern Nevada were in favor and only 20 percent opposed.
“By a two-to-one margin, voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a proposal to designate the Gold Butte area as a national conservation area with wilderness,” said Kelly Middendorff, vice president of Moore Information, a national polling and research firm involved in the study.
The telephone survey was conducted April 21-22 among 325 randomly selected Clark County voters with a sampling error of plus or minus 5.5 percent with a 95 percent confidence level
“Protecting Gold Butte is not just good for wildlife and the environment, it’s also good for the Southern Nevada economy,” Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said. ”Nevada’s public lands are valuable resources that offer outstanding recreation. Studies have shown that Western counties with protected public lands have greater success at attracting new business, new residents and tourists than regions without conservation areas or national monuments.”
Tom Warden, board chairman of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation and senior vice president for community and government affairs for The Howard Hughes Corporation was another speaker at the press conference.
“Gold Butte is an extraordinary desert location that supports our region’s burgeoning ecotourism industry,” Warden added. “BLM lands in Nevada host millions of visitors every year, generating almost $300 million in economic return. Nature lovers, bird watchers, hikers, amateur anthropologists and a host of other outdoor enthusiasts have already discovered Gold Butte, and if we want to maintain and grow this economic opportunity, we must protect it.”
A written statement signed by more than 40 local businesses in Clark County that strongly encouraged the National Conservation Area designation also was presented. It said:
“Tourism is big business in southern Nevada, so it is important that visitors not only have the best possible experience, but that they have multiple options for recreational adventure. That’s why we support designating Gold Butte as a national conservation area with opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, hunting, off-roading and scenic exploration. Located just 70 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Gold Butte is a natural wonder just waiting to be discovered.
“Visitors know and love our hotels and casinos, our restaurants and shopping, and we need to elevate places like Gold Butte—a fascinating side trip, a beautiful change of pace—to attract eco tourists, to keep existing tourists here a little longer and to keep them all coming back for more.
“Gold Butte is a scenic treasure that deserves the greater visibility that an NCA designation will ensure. Making Gold Butte more accessible will draw visitors to southern Nevada, provide additional recreational amenities for our own residents and boost the bottom line of hundreds of southern Nevada businesses. Now is the time to put Gold Butte on the map, to make it a natural destination that residents, visitors and businesses can count on for generations to come.
Among the 40 businesses and organizations were seven from the Mesquite area, including the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce. Ann Miranda, chamber director, was at the gathering and praised the other Mesquite businesses and groups that signed the statement: 7 Pink Diamonds, Eureka Casino Resort, Farmers Insurance, Bill Mitchell, League of Women Voters Mesquite, Quality 1 Reality and Ready Golf and Gear.
Other groups supporting the NCA designation that were identified included the Clark County Commission, the City of Mesquite, the Paiute tribe, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority and the Nevada Resort Association.
The release noted, “The Gold Butte area is almost 350,000 acres of rugged mountains, Joshua tree and Mojave yucca forests, sandstone outcroppings, and braided washes that turn into slot canyons. The ancient remnants of Native American rock art fill the sandstone surfaces with stories from the past. In addition to cultural and historical distinction, Gold Butte offers a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities, such as camping, wildlife viewing, hiking, hunting, bird watching, biking and off-roading on 500 miles of designated routes.
Gold Butte is located between the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument in Arizona, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, just south of Mesquite. Nevada’s Congressional leaders are evaluating potential legislation that would designate Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area with wilderness.