By Dave Maxwell
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was in Nevada last weekend with the intent to visit both the Gold Butte Monument and the Basin and Range Monument. The question he faced is whether the designation of some or all of the lands should be changed.
In mid-July the U.S. Interior Department had received thousands of comments about whether President Trump should keep the scenic, geologically fragile and artifact-rich Gold Butte area near Las Vegas protected as a national monument. Most were in favor of keeping it as is.
Zinke had planned to make a multi-day trip last week to meet with BLM staff, local, state and federal leaders, including U.S. Senator Dean Heller, state attorney general Adam Laxalt, members of the Friends of Basin and Range, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Conservation Lands Foundation and Lincoln County ranchers.
He had said during his visit to Nevada earlier in July he wanted to visit both Gold Butte and Basin and Range on the ground, but he cut his planned two-day trip down to just one day and toured the monuments July 30 by air.
As ordered by President Trump he was looking to see if too much land, about a million acres in the case of the two monuments, is included in the designations made by President Obama.
His abrupt cancellation of planned meetings with monument supporters, many who had been invited to attend, left them quite upset. In published reports, Congresswoman Dina Titus, D-NV, said she thought the move was really motivated by wanting to leave Democrats and supporters out of the conversation. “It may open an area where they can put a train in to take waste to Yucca Mountain, we think that is part of the consideration, even though they don’t want to talk about it.”
Zinke is reviewing 22 national monuments and five marine national monuments created by presidential decree since 1996 to determine whether the designation should be left alone, scaled back or eliminated. His report to President Trump is due some time this month.