The issue of Gold Butte is in the hands of the U. S. Government. In fact, it always has been regardless of what has been said by Mr. Bundy or anyone else. Mesquite’s contribution has been a series of resolutions offering support in some fashion for a Federal designation of an NCA with Wilderness. I’ll explain later what this means.
Gold Butte for those not totally familiar with it is a large, mostly unexplored piece of desert with mountains, around the size of Rhode Island, or somewhere near 350,000 acres depending on whom you listen to.
Gold Butte was actually a town in Clark County established in 1908 with mining pre-dating it by several years. Little remains today. By the way, no significant amount of gold was ever found there. The area does have interesting geology, history, prehistory, and wildlife typical of the area and climate.
Currently a part of Gold Butte is designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern which means there are areas where special management attention is needed to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historical, cultural, and scenic values, fish or wildlife resources, or other natural systems or processes. An ACEC designation is an administrative one made by the B.L.M. To go into detail about this designation with take another full article, so we will leave it at that for now.
Lets define an NCA or National Conservation Area. This designation is different from ACEC’s in that Congress, not the B.L.M., designates them however, they are administrated by B.L.M. There are sixteen of them in the nine western states and Alaska. They go from eighteen acres to 1.2 million acres in size. You are probably familiar with Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas and Sloan Canyon in Henderson.
To add further to the ACEC’s, and the NCA, is the Wilderness designation. The Wilderness Act of 1964 is a general legal authority for congress to designate and agencies to manage wilderness. It is designed to provide long-term protection and conservation of Federal Public Lands. It covers land largely inaccessible with no permanent improvements and only altered by the forces of nature. To summarize, it must be designated by Congress only, but can also be undesignated or changed as to boundaries by Congress. This is a key point in understanding the ramifications of Wilderness designations. Wilderness is managed by four Federal agencies, B.L.M., Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and the national parks Service. Within the Wilderness designation are numerous rules and regulations to define what can and cannot be done. It covers water rights, search and rescue, hunting and fishing, roads, mineral exploration, vehicles, livestock grazing and much more.
This article is the first in a series that I hope will lay the groundwork for a discussion of where our Federal Government may be going and what options may be in our future. I wrote this, not to take a stand or position on Gold Butte, but to hopefully better bring about an understanding of our area and what might lie ahead.