Guest Commentary by Nevada Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R-AD19)

What good is a landscape if there are no people to enjoy it? None. Welcome to Gold Butte…or rather, stay out!! The President’s designation of Gold Butte as a national monument does exactly that for everybody who has been enjoying it.

The Obama administration has been no friend of the US Constitution, our laws, traditions or Nevada. It has a consistent history of trampling the Constitution, ignoring our laws and arrogantly stepping on the states with disdain. Yet again, the administration demonstrates its arrogant hypocrisy by promising to be the most inclusive, transparent administration and then shutting the door on our communities and our federal representatives. This administration’s non-stop nauseating attack on America to the bitter end, is why Donald Trump will be our next President and it can’t come soon enough.

In similar anti-democratic, un-American fashion, the Friends of Gold Butte operated as if they were exempt from the law and should not have to wait for duly elected representatives to decide. When our Congressional representatives indicated their opposition to the national monument designation, the “Friends” decided that they were entitled to have it their way regardless. Its executive director was quoted as saying, “We just couldn’t wait for Congress…anymore.”

Who knew she and her band of extreme environmentalists were given the Constitutional authority to tell Congress “time’s up, we’re making the decision for you!” I can’t find that enumerated power anywhere in the US Constitution. They must be using Obama’s revised version of the Constitution. Thus, they were fine with the administration bypassing the proper, constitutional process and arrogantly designating a national monument against the wishes of the majority of Nevadans.

While the overwhelming majority of Nevadans want more control over more land in Nevada, the counter-culture Friends of Gold Butte are delighted to give the Feds even more control of more of our land. Their attitude is completely out of step with Nevada. Are they environmental transplants from California?

I had spoken to members of the “Friends” over the past few years. At first, they seemed to want reasonable protections but still provide maximum access to the land and artifacts. But, their attitude and approach has shifted from rational management and maximum access to more and more restrictions and less and less access. They seemed to take the newer approach that the people are the problem, rather than developing a smart use of the land. I have grown disappointed with their new attitude. They should not celebrate this designation.

What is also disturbing is that these elitist environmentalists exploited the Paiute tribe to further their cause in a shameful manner. They usurped the Paiute interest in small areas of these 300,00 acres to shut down the whole thing. Who knows how long the federal government will respect the tribes religious/spiritual sensitivities. The federal government doesn’t have a very good track record on caring about any native American sensitivities. But no matter, the “Friends” say it will be so, and soon we will see (how long that lasts).

The environmental extremists demonstrated just how insensitive they are by supporting the name “Gold Butte” for the national monument. Talk about a slap in the face to the native Americans! Your sacred sites will forever be known as the remnants of a ghost town that mined into the very earth you feel is sacred. That’s how thoughtless the Friends of Gold Butte and this administration are about Paiute tribal/spiritual sensitivities.

The “Friends” indicated that the situation was so dire that time was “of the essence” to protect the land and a few archeological sites. The BLM had a history of managing Gold Butte by closing off roads and access to the only economic and recreational activities that made it valuable to the public. But that wasn’t good enough for some. Gayle Marrs-Smith, Las Vegas BLM director bemoaned that her agency failed to close some roads for eight years. Perhaps Ms. Marrs-Smith didn’t appreciate the fact that the roads were being used and enjoyed by the public as they are supposed to be…which is why they weren’t closed! How’d she miss that? BLM finally did shut down the roads to the detriment of the very tourism the Feds say they will bring.

Rather than pressure the BLM to do their job of managing the lands and protecting such sites, the “Friends” opted for the extreme option to not just close down roads, but cordon off the entire area. Ta-da! Problem solved (in their minds). How ridiculous can they be? Their best solution to protecting and preserving 100 acres of artifacts and petroglyphs was to cordon off 300,000 acres of land…a bit excessive by any sane measure…but who’s talking sanity?

And if that wasn’t crazy enough, this little band of extreme environmentalists that blame the Feds for not managing the land previously, are now certain that the “other” Feds will do a better job. “Better” is a relative term and BLM didn’t exactly set that standard very high to stumble over!

And while we are on the subject of “better,” exactly what improvements does the public get out of this deal? What are the plans? Are there any protections for local water rights? Or, like Nancy Pelosi’s attitude, “You have to make the designation to find out what’s in it.” That hasn’t worked too well for healthcare, it will be similarly disastrous here.

America’s public lands are not supposed to be governed by arrogance, ignorance, a pen and a phone. They are supposed to be governed by the people through their elected representatives who are careful to protect the citizens’ rights and interests. Let’s face it, if the administration or the “Friends” truly believed that they had the support of the people on this, they would have made a proper decision prior to the election so the people could reaffirm their actions. Doing this at the last minute of a failed presidency shows political cowardice and tacit admission that it violates the true desires of the people. It does make one wonder if the administration had made the designation before the election, might the results have been different in Nevada?

Real damage is being done to our institutions of government that were dismissively denied their proper role; the disregard for local citizens who use the lands responsibly; and future economic development that may never happen because this will likely close off access to water. This little band of selfish environmentalists has set a bad example for our youth and a bad precedence for future federal government land grabs in Nevada.

Enough is already too much. This administration has used the Antiquities Act 29 times to shut down some 18 million acres of public lands! Obviously, their appetite for public lands is insatiable. The rest of us need to starve them of their vice.

I have already made queries with President-elect Trump’s team about reversing the designation and will continue to do so. I will also be working with our federal delegation to see what can be done to undo this, attain reasonable guarantees that our water rights will be protected and create a more equitable, inclusive process for the future. I already drafted a bill to introduce in the upcoming Nevada legislative session to require the federal government to release an equal amount of land to the state for every national monument it creates….acre for acre.

I want the communities affected by future land grabs and their representatives, including the Governor, to have a significant role in the process. We also need to have an agreed upon plan for any future parks and monuments to include maximum access for the public before such a designation is made. The resolution must go through Congress, but with the help of Sen. Heller, Congressman Amodei, and hopefully our other federal representatives, a much more transparent process will be adopted and a far more reasonable outcome will result.

Nevada Assemblyman Christ Edwards (R) represents Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa Valley and some parts of North Las Vegas.