Designated National Monument
Year Designated: 2016
Act or Law: Presidential Proclamation, December 28, 2016
State Region: Southern Nevada
County Region: Clark
Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Local District: Southern Nevada District Office
Contact Info: (702) 515-5000
4701 N. Torrey Pines Dr., Las Vegas, NV 89130
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Traveling from Interstate 15 from Las Vegas, take Exit 112 (Riverside/Bunkerville) and go south; cross the bridge over the Virgin River and turn west on the first road past the bridge.
CAUTION: Most roads in Gold Butte require a 4 wheel drive vehicle with high clearance. Make sure you have spare tires, extra gas, a detailed map, and extra food and water in case you break down. There is no cell phone service in the area. Always be prepared for changing conditions, stay on designated routes, and practice leave no trace principles. The Gold Butte area is a highly sensitive and culturally rich area - follow all rules and regulations! Removing, touching, or vandalizing cultural, historical, and natural sites is illegal.
Gold Butte National Monument covers nearly 300,000 acres of remote and rugged desert landscape in southeastern Nevada, where dramatically chiseled red sandstone, twisting canyons, and tree-clad mountains punctuate desolate stretches of the Mojave Desert. The brightly hued sandstone provides a stunning canvas for the area’s famously beautiful rock art, and the desert provides critical habitat. The area is popular for outdoor recreation, and visitors to the monument can hike to rock art sites, drive the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway to the area’s namesake mining ghost town, hunt desert bighorn sheep, or tour the area’s peaks and canyons on horseback. The Gold Butte National Monument offers over 500 miles of motorized recreation trails.
The area is sacred to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe and includes thousands of petroglyphs, and traces of human habitation, such as agave roasting pits and shelters, dating back over 12,000 years. While individual petroglyphs sites are important individually, they derive their sacred nature from their relationships to other sites — through physical and spiritual trails and histories that connect them. Gold Butte National Monument recognizes this landscape of interconnections.
The Gold Butte National Monument also provides important connectivity of unfragmented habitat adjacent to the 600,000 acre Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument and reflects a unique landscape combining Great Basin, Mojave, Sonoran, and Colorado Plateau desert life zones. Biological diversity ranges from Douglas fir and white fir in the higher elevations, and cholla and Joshua trees at lower elevations. The only pocket of Arizona cypress in Nevada can be found in Gold Butte.
Jumbo Springs Wilderness in Gold Butte National Monument by Jose Witt
Wilderness Within the National Monument
Click on each to learn more:
Wilderness and Instant Study Areas
Bitter Ridge North
Lime Canyon Additions
Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mojave Desert Tortoise, banded Gila Monster, Bald and Golden Eagles, Cooper's hawks, mountain lions, sidewinders, desert kangaroo rats, Allen's big-eared bats, and much more.
Economics of National Monuments
Artist Rendition of Newspaper Rock, Gold Butte by Jeremy Collins
Studies have repeatedly shown that national monuments support local economic growth. Counties in the West with protected lands, like national monuments, have a competitive advantage in attracting new businesses and fast-growing economic sectors like tourism and recreation. For example, from 1996 to 2008, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Region population grew by 8%, jobs grew by 38%, real personal income grew by 40%, and real per capita income grew by 30%. More than 100 economists recently urged the president to protect public lands to assist with our economic recovery.
Protecting special places like Gold Butte encourages tourism, increases expenditures at local businesses, and creates a desirable place for people to live and work.
Nevadans have a lot to gain by protecting our public lands. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation economy is responsible for $14.9 billion in consumer spending and 147,600 direct jobs in Nevada.
An economic study by Applied Analysis found that if just 10% of new visitors to Gold Butte decided to spend the night in Mesquite, the total economic impact for the community would be $2.7 million per year.
The journey to achieve protection started with the administrative designation of Gold Butte as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management in 1998, recognizing the nationally significant historic, cultural, wildlife and scenic values of the area. In 2002, Gold Butte received two designated Wilderness areas - Jumbo Springs and Lime Canyon. Wilderness was a great first step but did not address management issues like preventing the accelerated destruction of important biological and cultural resources that make up Gold Butte.
The legislative history for protecting Gold Butte dates back to 2008 when Nevada representatives including Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (H.R. 7132), Congressman Steven Horsford (H.R. 2276), Congresswoman Titus (H.R. 856), and Senator Harry Reid (S. 1054 & 199) introduced legislation to permanently protect Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area with wilderness.
Since then, hundreds of activists in Nevada joined by local businesses, legislators, and city officials have strongly advocated for permanent protection of Gold Butte.
In 2015, KEEN Footwear launched their national Live Monumental campaign, designed to advocate for the permanent protection of places like Gold Butte.
In February of 2015, a public meeting was held to discuss Southern Nevada public lands issues and Congresswoman Titus stood for hours listening to more than 300 constituents talk about their support for protecting Gold Butte. In July 2015, hundreds of Nevadans joined with elected officials and national business leaders for a public rally at Zappos.com in downtown Las Vegas in support of protecting Gold Butte as a National Monument. Speakers included Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow, North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron, Brad Tomm from Zappos and Kirsten Blackburn from KEEN.
In the November of 2015, Congresswoman Titus hosted a tele-town hall where hundreds of community members listened to the result of and asked question about the Applied Analysis’ research, illustrating the economic benefits to Southern Nevada if Gold Butte was permanently protected.
Senator Reid in 2016 cited a strong desire to protect Gold Butte during the last year of his term and strongly advocated the Obama administration to protect Gold Butte via the Antiquities Act. This point was accentuated by a passionate floor speech delivered on April 7th highlighting recent damage at Gold Butte and the need for executive action and his August 18th press conference.
Also in April, the Moapa Band of Pauites staged a culture walk in Gold Butte to advocate for permanent protection of the area.
On December 28, 2016, President Obama heeded the call by designating Gold Butte as a National Monument through the Antiquities Act. Read the Presidential Proclamation here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a national monument?
A national monument is a land or historical place that's been protected by Congress through legislation or by the president through the use of the Antiquities Act.
National monuments can be managed by any of the several federal land management agencies, including the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the Bureau of Land Management.
What can you do in a national monument?
Most public and commercial activities continue after national monuments are established. These “existing rights” include previously-existing oil and gas leases; access to private property; valid mining claims; rights of way for roads and utility infrastructure. Additionally, the following recreational activities are almost always allowed in national monuments:
- Hunting and fishing
- Rafting and boating
- Horseback riding
- Camping, Backpacking, Hiking and Biking
- Riding motorized vehicles on designated routes
The Gold Butte designation preserves public access, such as for hunting and fishing, which continue to be managed by the state of Nevada. Traditional tribal collection of certain natural materials will still be allowed in the monument, as will access for other cultural uses. Visitors may continue to use motorized vehicles and nonmotorized mechanized vehicles (e.g. mountain bikes) on roads and trails designated as open for their use.
What is the Antiquities Act?
Signed into law by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, the Antiquities Act has since been used by 16 presidents (8 Republicans and 8 Democrats) to create more than 140 national monuments. Places such as the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty are an irreplaceable and integral part of our country’s heritage and were initially protected using Antiquities Act authority.
The Antiquities Act is a bedrock conservation law for our nation and vital for protecting our nation’s natural, cultural, and historic heritage. Friends of Nevada Wilderness is working with Nevada’s Members of Congress and advocates around the nation to defend this Act. Learn more here.