Fall 2008 Nevada Wilderness Project Newsletter

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Fall 2008 Nevada Wilderness Project Newsletter

  1. 1. Fall 2008 Newsletter Gold Butte: In the News In recent months Gold Butte has been prominently featured in local and national news as we’ve ratcheted up efforts to Because the Time is NOW protect the area. Opposition to these efforts is limited to local communities who believe there is too much federal interference and that protection can happen without a National Conservation Area and wilderness. We believe that the financial resources to manage Gold Butte are essential to providing interpretive signage, educational materials and a law enforcement presence that can stop the destruction. by John Wallin We are encouraged by what we learned from a poll of Clark CountyGold Butte is an incredible landscape of biological and geological residents that the Nevada Wilderness Coalition and Friends ofwonder. Located due south of Mesquite in northeastern Clark Gold Butte commissioned last May. The results confirmed whatCounty, the area represents one of southern Nevada’s most you already know--Gold Butte is a top priority for protectionthreatened habitats. Fire, the spread of invasive weeds, cultural among Clark County residents. Some key findings include:vandalism and irresponsible off-road vehicle use have conspired • 66% of Clark County residents favor protecting in the last decade to severely deteriorate this special landscape. additional lands as wilderness. • 89% agree that “given the current rate of population Members of the Nevada Wilderness Project and our coalition growth and development in southern Nevada it is important thatpartners will remember that we proposed roughly 350,000 acres we do everything we can tofor wilderness protection in the 2002 Clark County public lands protect our natural, culturalbill. That bill became law in October 2002, with a mere 28,000 and archeological resources.”acres designated as wilderness. While the total area protected • 65% agree that was a disappointment to conservationists and archaeology buffs, “irresponsible off-road vehiclethere emerged a sense—within the BLM, Park Service and among use is a major problem incitizens throughout Nevada—that Gold Butte would require southern Nevada and ismore protection in the not too distant future. damaging important natural resources and importantThe “not too distant future” is here. St. George and Mesquite wildlife habitat.”have boomed, and the unfettered growth of Las Vegas hasdriven more recreationists into Gold Butte than ever before. This The rest of this newsletter isis inevitable, and even good. The more people who see the area devoted to the splendors ofand understand what’s happening, the better. Gold Butte—its history, hiking opportunities and ecologicalBut Gold Butte does not have the management direction and wonders. Read on andfunding mechanisms that accompany a National Conservation enjoy. And please take timeArea (NCA) with wilderness, and the BLM is simply overwhelmed to visit our website at www.by on-the-ground conditions. They daily fight a losing battle with wildnevada.org. You canthe off-roaders and archaeo-looters who pillage the landscape in read more about the Goldthe absence of strong management and law enforcement. Butte proposal submitted to Nevada’s CongressionalThis year, conditions have worsened so dramatically that the delegation, browse throughNevada Wilderness Coalition (NWP, Campaign for America’s the recent media coverage ofWilderness, The Wilderness Society, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Gold Butte and find contactSierra Club and Red Rock Audubon Society) has teamed up with information for members ofMesquite-based stewardship group Friends of Gold Butte to Congress. Contact them andpropose a National Conservation Area with wilderness. We have tell them that Gold Buttesubmitted a proposal to the Congressional delegation, and we deserves protection. The timehave hopes that we can still see protection pass in Congress this is now. John Wallin is NWP’syear. Director.
  2. 2. Human History in Gold Butte by Nancy HallImagine surviving off the land of the harsh Mojave Desert – 75, Gold Butte is named for a mining town established in the early150 or even 2,000 years ago. A visit to Gold Butte can take 1900s. It was once a bustling tent city of 1,000 people, complete you back to these eras and leave you with an unforgettable with mail delivery three times a week. Sure enough, the areaappreciation of how human beings have interacted with this went bust, and Gold Butte was reduced to housing the legendsastounding landscape. A diversity of artifacts, sandstone etchings of a few colorful characters such as Bill Garrett, Art Coleman andand abandoned home sites are scattered across the Gold Butte “Crazy Eddie” Bounsall. Left behind at the old town site are thelandscape, intermixed with remnants left by pioneers as well as platforms of a few tents, old mining equipment and colorful localmodern people. stories.The Gold Butte complex is considered a Traditional Lifeway by The opportunity to step back in the past—into many pasts—is anthe Moapa Band of Paiutes and recognized by the Bureau of Land incredible gift. Gold Butte belongs to all Americans, and everyManagement for its special cultural resources. Archaeologists visitor must take responsibility for ensuring it is left intact for comingspeculate that Gold Butte contains some 2,000 cultural sites. generations. Always follow Leave No Trace practices; for moreCross-country hikes, like those described in the article on the next information on desert etiquette, visit www.friendsofgoldbutte.org.page over, easily lead to such sites. Nancy Hall is NWP’s Gold Butte Organizer.For example, while hiking you’ll come across rock shelters usedlong ago, yet they look just recently abandoned. Surrounding Join Friends of Gold Butte for a presentation of thethese habitation sites, you may see a garbage pile known as a area’s mining history, with local historian John Lear.midden. Middens are filled with chips from stone tool making, The presentation is Tue., Oct. 21, 7 pm, (6-7 pm social hour)ash from fires, pottery and bone. Close by, you may find a large at the Falcon Ridge Realty Showcase, Mesquite; with a follow-ring of white rock surrounding an indentation in the earth. These up field trip to Gold Butte on Oct. 25. For more information,are roasting pits, or agave ovens, used to cook the base of the contact Nancy Hall at friendsofgoldbutte@gmail.org, orcarbohydrate-rich agave plant and other staple foods. Smooth 702-346-3723.grinding stones, a metate, and a hand tool, the mano, may alsobe found if the site has been left undisturbed by earlier visitors.Many historic sites are found on top of prehistoric sites. WhitneyPockets--an area of beautiful sandstone formations--is the mostpopular picnicking and camping spot in Gold Butte. Within thesandstone formations sits a dam built by the Civilian ConservationCorps during the depression era. The dam formed a “pocket” tocontain water for cattle and a water line runs to a nearby stonetrough. There are also storage areas built into the sandstone alcoves.However, if you look closely, you’ll also see much earlier rockshelters, petroglyphs, middens and roasting pits left by the NativeAmericans who lived there long before European settlement. Over the summer, CBS Channel 8’s news show Las Vegas Now reported on the problem of ancient sites—like those at Gold Butte--being destroyed by vandals. The story mentioned destruction of petroglyphs by people defacing the rock walls and damage caused by people on off-road ve- hicles who either intentionally or accidently drive over burial sites. The story also provided information for people wanting to help by becoming site stewards for important sites. To volunteer, contact the Nevada Histori- cal Preservation Office at 702-895-4862. You can watch the news story on our blog: http://weethump.wordpress.com/
  3. 3. Gold Butte at Dawn by Mackenzie BantaG rowing up a third-generation Nevadan on my family’s My initial love and respect for the region of Gold Butte has onlyranch in northwest Nevada, I never knew that a place like grown as I have visited the region with others. It is a joy to seeGold Butte even existed in my home state. I was fortunate the area through the lens of new visitors who I bring out there.enough to discover the area -- in southern Nevada outside I’ve heard their sharp intake of breath as they view the plants andof Mesquite -- over the last few years through my work with petroglyphs for the first time, or find a particular bird or lizard onNWP. I have escorted volunteers and supporters to the area the rocks. Growing up in Nevada, I understand how it takes timeto explore and camp. for people to appreciate the beauty of the state; it does not take folks long to fall in love with Gold Butte.My first visit to Gold Butte was in the dark of night. Wearrived late after driving nine hours from Reno, and I pitched The Nevada Wilderness Project staff knows how important it ismy tent as quickly as I could as a desert storm descended to introduce spectacular parts of the state to people, what weon the area. The next morning is one I won’t forget. I awoke call “faces to places.” By experiencing the region, others canat dawn, poked my head out of the tent and smelled the also understand why the area is worthy of protection. Future scent of recent rain on the dry Mojave landscape. I generations of Nevadans deserve to make the same wonderful looked out to see the discoveries at Gold Butte as we have. Mackenzie Banta is NWP’s undulating lines and Development Director. wonderful colors of the rock formations at Whitney Pockets, colors I knew from my childhood Crayola box of crayons: melon, salmon, goldenrod, carnation pink and burnt sienna. I was immediately struck by the pure beauty of the area – mysterious pocketed rock outcroppings, Joshua trees that are larger than life even though they grow just one-half Please help us speak up for Gold Butte by calling inch a year, mesquite or writing to Nevada’s Congressional Delegation and trees, an abundance of telling them that you want to see Gold Butte protected. wildflowers and the petroglyphs Another powerful voice for protection is writing a letter to – ah, the array of ancient carvings by the editor of your local newspaper describing your wish to the people who had walked the same protect this magnificent area. area thousands of years before me. It Learn more on our website: www.wildnevada.org is such a splendid feeling to be walking around and discover Gold Butte’s carvings Congressman John Porter Senator Reid like children discovering eggs at Easter. 2470 St. Rose Pkwy, Ste 204, 333 Las Vegas Blvd South, Ste 8016, Henderson, NV 89074 (702)387-4941 Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702)388-5020 Congresswoman Berkley Senator Ensign 2340 Paseo del Prado, Ste D-106, 333 Las Vegas Blvd South, Ste 8203, Las Vegas, NV 89102 (702)220-9823 Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702)388-6605 Congressman Heller 600 Las Vegas Blvd, Ste 680, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702)255-1651
  4. 4. Gila Monsters: Giants of Gold Butte by John TullIn Gold Butte, an area comprised of approximately 500,000 acres in a single sitting. They are known for their unusual posturingin extreme southeastern Nevada, at least 17 species of lizards while drinking; they will lap water for a few moments then liftcan be found living in the region’s varied landscape. One of the their head and shoulders quite high in an upward pointingmost fascinating lizards there—or anywhere in the world—is the position for another moment before returning to a prone positionGila monster. for drinking.The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) is the largest lizard in The Gila monster is listed as “Near Threatened” by the Internationalthe U.S., weighing up to four pounds and reaching 22 inches in Union for Conservation of Nature. This status is due to likelylength. It is one of only two venomous lizards in the world, and significant decline for the species because of habitat lossits bite can prove fatal to humans. The other, a close relative throughout much of its range. The population and building boomcalled the beaded lizard, is found in Mexico. In Nevada, Gila in the desert southwest has had huge negative impacts on the Gilamonsters are found only in the extreme southern part of the state, monster, to the point that conservation efforts are underway toand Gold Butte is an area with exceptional habitat where this help successfully relocate animals that are considered nuisanceanimal prospers. wildlife in urban areas, such as Phoenix, AZ.This lizard is visually stunning and quite unusual. Surprisingly, The strange and incredible Gila monster is one of the many uniquetheir reddish-orange blotchy pattern on a black background and wonderful animals and plants to be found in the Gold Buttemakes them well camouflaged against the gorgeous red rock region. Unfortunately, the Gila monster’s existence is under threatoutcroppings scattered throughout the Gold Butte region. In fact, from a lack of public lands oversight in the Gold Butte area, alongyou might walk right by one among the red sands and rocks of with all the other plants, wildlife, historical, and cultural resourcesthe area, especially if it remains stationary. that make this place so special. Gold Butte desperately needs, and deserves, stronger conservation protection than it currentlyIf you were looking for a Gila monster in Gold Butte, you would has so things like Gila monsters will be there for people to enjoywant to concentrate your search during the spring or when the in perpetuity. Conservation of Gold Butte will bring conservationsummer monsoon rains arrive. In the hottest months, they tend to the Gila monster. John Tull is NWP’s Conservation Directorto be active at night, which makes them much harder to see.Gila monsters take advantage of spring and monsoonalshowers that leave them with plenty of available water.Spring is also when these lizards mate and do themajority of their feeding for the year. As carnivores, Gilamonsters are adept at finding bird and rodent nests, andthey feed on eggs, newly hatched birds or newbornrodents. They have been known to feed on newborncottontails, reportedly eating four of them in one sitting.Because these food resources in the Gold Butte regioncome during a brief pulse in the year, Gila monsters haveevolved to thrive by exerting the majority of their effortstoward survival during this time.Another interesting adaptation of this lizard is its abilityto survive long periods with no food, and it does thisby storing surplus fat in its tail. During the colder wintermonths when feeding opportunities are scarce, the Gilamonster will draw on this fat storage to provide energyfor survival. A healthy Gila monster is one with a pudgytail, and the volume of its tail is a good measure of theanimal’s overall condition.In Gold Butte, you might expect to find a Gila monster inany of the beautifully colored rock areas, although theyalso wander extensively within about a 100-acre “homerange.” After rains, they may be found in drainages or neartenajas–water holes found in rock outcrops and canyonsthroughout Gold Butte–where they will sit for minutes at atime drinking as much as 15 percent of their body weight
  5. 5. Explore Gold Butte on Your Own Two Feet by Nick DobricThe best way to fully experience the marvels of Gold Butte is on foot. The area’s quiet valleys, rich cultural resources andhigh peaks all offer outstanding wilderness experiences. Below is a sampling of hiking in Gold Butte – descriptions of threehikes we hope will inspire you to get out there and see for yourself why Gold Butte is worth protecting. The area has nofacilities for visitors, so come prepared. The weather is similar to that of Mesquite or Las Vegas, but can vary depending onelevation.Falling Man Site ~ Easy HikeBrace yourself for awe. When people say, “Gold Butteis rich in cultural resources,” the Falling Man site makesthis sentence a drastic understatement. Paths lead youup and over sandstone formations that seem to befrom another world. Trails are scattered throughoutthe area but there is no one right route. Let curios-ity be your guide and you’ll discover Native Americanrock art, or petroglyphs, around every corner. Follow“Leave No Trace” rules and do not touch the petro-glyphs; oils from your hands will damage the art thathas existed for thousands of years. (Another optionfor an easy hike is to explore the historic mining townsite of Gold Butte.)Paradise Valley ~ Moderate HikeSimply put, Paradise Valley lives up to its name. Whilehiking in the dry wash, you’ll see vibrantly coloredlimestone and sandstone formations, spring wildflow-ers and -- since this is paradise -- a vivid blue ski withhawks soaring overhead. The beautiful wildflowersare today’s silver lining to the 2005 Tramp Wildfire thatburned part of the valley. Much of the ground is cov-ered by a living crust known as cryptobiotic soil, andit is important to stay in the dry washes, ridges andexisting trails to keep this sensitive crust intact. You canleave another vehicle or bike at one end of the trail tomake this a seven-mile, one-way hike. Or for a longerday, make a loop out of it by climbing up and back onTramp Ridge. (Another moderate hike option is LimeCanyon.)Virgin Peak ~ Hard Hike For more information and detailedGold Butte’s most viewed and impressive forma- directions, contact Nick Dobric,tions are the Virgin Mountains. You can summit Virgin NWP’s Southern Nevada OutreachPeak at 8,000 feet by hiking five miles one way on the Director, at 702-369-1871 orsoutheast ridge. You’ll gain 3,500 feet, enter the re- nick.dobric@wildnevada.org.freshing mountain environment and, while huffing for Check the calendar on our website,oxygen on the way up, see a change in vegetation. At www.wildnevada.org to learn aboutthe peak, enjoy the panoramic view of the surround- opportunities to go on free guideding landscapes. And if you’re game for an adventure, hikes, or read about past trips at ourlook for a secret aspen grove on the northeast side of blog, www.weethump.wordpress.comthe mountain. (For another summit option, check outBilly Goat Peak.)
  6. 6. Please Join UsThe Nevada Wilderness I would like to make a contribution of (please check one): • $35Project is committed • $50 Name • $100 Addressto saving spectacular, • $250 • $500rugged and imperiled • Other: City Please make checks payable to: Nevada Wilderness Projectpublic lands in Nevada as State Send your contribution and information to: Zippermanent wilderness, Nevada Wilderness Project 8550 White Fir Street E-mail Reno, NV 89523the strongest protection Phone Or you may donate securely online at www.wildnevada.orgpossible. Thank you. The 2009 Wild Men of Wild Nevada calendar is here! 12 months, 12 wilderness areas, 12 wild men. Need we say more? You can buy the calendar for $20 on our website at www.wildnevada.org. Proceeds benefit NWP. Contact Us NEVADA WILDERNESS PROJECT www.wildnevada.org Reno Office: Las Vegas Office: 8550 White Fir Street 4220 S. Maryland Pkwy., Ste. 213-A Reno, NV 89523 Las Vegas, NV 89119 Tel: 775.746.7850 Tel: 702.369.1871

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