Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made a flash visit to southern Nevada on Sunday, wrapping up what was a much broader, week-long tour of the west...Dalley made a point to highlight the cultural connection between Gold Butte and the surrounding communities through historic St. Thomas, which was once the hub of commerce in and out of the area. He said that he related concerns to Zinke about the monument limiting the ability for locals to access heritage sites. “We told him that our concern with a national monument designation is that it will dilute the local capacity to maintain our culture and our living history, due to restrictions placed on the land,” Dalley said. McAllister said that she emphasized to Zinke that most of the historic features at Gold Butte don’t really fall under the realm of national interest. Rather they are of interest more on the local or regional scale. She pointed out that the state legislature had already passed a resolution in 2013 confirming the heritage connections between the Gold Butte area and the surrounding communities. “These sites can be managed through a regional or local interest,” McAllister said. “There is no compelling national interest in them. Maybe if there are some of the Native American cultural sites that need protection, those could retain a designation on a much smaller footprint, just to cover and protect those objects. But that could be done with a much smaller area than the current designation.” Dalley also talked to Zinke about vital water rights held by Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD), which were drawn within the monument’s boundaries. Zinke told the group that lands set aside as a national monument had to meet certain criteria to be eligible, Dalley said. “He said that he had seen countless beautiful landscapes all across the west during his visits,” Dalley said. “But that they couldn’t all receive a designation. He said that just because it is a beautiful vista, doesn’t always qualify it as a national monument.” During the press conference, Zinke said that the monument review process had brought about a “healthy dialog” about what the limits are to executive authority in relation to the Antiquities Act of 1906. One example is the question of whether a monument can be designated over the top of a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) already set aside by Congress, When asked what the criteria was for determining whether the size of a national monument was appropriate or should be downsized, Zinke responded by referencing language directly from the Antiquities Act. “It should be the ‘smallest area compatible with the protection of the object’,” Zinke said. “Of course, that definition is fairly loose, so we’re going through and evaluating, again, what is the object? Is the extent of the designation incompatible with protection of that object?” Zinke also acknowledged that with a national monument designation comes added visitors to the area. Thus infrastructure becomes an important factor to managing the resource, he said. “If we are going to protect those objects that the monument is intended to do, then you have to have things like a bathroom out there, so people hiking up a trail can use the restroom before they look at the petroglyphs,” he said. “Also, if you are in law enforcement and have to run ambulances out there, that becomes a problem too. Who pays for it? So, on my side, I have to make sure that the infrastructure piece is there and we don’t end up destroying the very things that I am charged with protecting.”...more
Moapa Velley Progress provides a more thorough and professional coverage of this press conference than any of the larger media covering the same event.
Many in the West will also find these comments by Zinke to be of interest:
Zinke also addressed a question regarding his views on whether BLM personnel should be a heavily armed force in the course of their jobs on the public lands. He said that this was an area where he felt a “change of culture” was needed. “As I am now in charge of BLM and the Park Service, I think that we should be the happy department,” Zinke said. “When you see a BLM truck you should think land manager and not law enforcement. We should work in coordination more with local sheriffs on law enforcement issues.”