“We’re proud to stand beside the thousands of Nevadans and Americans alike who recognized the rich, 3,000-year-old history of Gold Butte,” says Casey Sheahan, KEEN President. “It is humbling to know it will forever be a place of wonder, of secrets, of recreation, and of refuge for dozens of species who call it home.”
About 1.5 hours northeast of Las Vegas is a golden landscape filled with secrets, desert tortoise, slot canyons, Joshua trees, peaks that beg to be hiked, red rocks, white rocks, pocketed rocks, rocks formed by the earth’s elements over eras and eras, big horn sheep, stars so bright you can almost read by them, and a humbling, peaceful, sacred aura. This place – from today forward – will be known as Gold Butte National Monument.
Today is a day for celebration! Coalitions, elected officials, nonprofit partners, tribes, Nevadans, recreationalists, and friends across the country have worked for decades to ensure Gold Butte receives the protection it so deserves. Thanks to the leadership of many – including President Obama, who has protected more land and water than any president before him, former Nevada Senator Harry Reid, and Representative Dina Titus – Gold Butte will be a place for future generations to go to feel inspired by the rich beauty and culture sites that make Gold Butte so incredible.
My first experience in Gold Butte’s wonder was by the guidance of the moon, at midnight, in the middle of the summer. The darkness made for a manageable 100-degree hiking experience and moonlight guided us around Whitney Pockets and eventually to Newspaper Rock where a powerful display of petroglyphs – even if just illuminated by moonlight and headlamps – nearly knocks you to the ground.
Experiencing Gold Butte in the darkness meant an immediate and intimate relationship with the place. Because sight was only allowed as far as the moonlight could cast, I was acutely aware of how full all of my other senses were. Gold Butte smelled of rock, cacti and sand. It sounded like solitude, it felt safe and warm and mysterious. It tasted like a cool, sage-filled breeze. It was an incredible introduction to a place I knew I would return to.
Six months later I saw it from a different perspective, and it was awe-inspiring. Driving up to Gold Butte in the crisp early morning, and with 30 less Fahrenheit degrees, allowed the giant mountains in the horizon to be seen. A fast and fiery rain dramatically contrasted colors – creating deep reds, vibrant greens, even purples – and heightened smells. We ran, we hiked, we sat and watched the desert do its thing.
With uncertainty and frustrations filling the airwaves these days, the designation of Gold Butte creates a sense of balance.
Three thousand years ago, agave was being roasted and petroglyphs were being carved in the rock formations within the Gold Butte area. Today, these agave pits, petroglyphs and the secrets, inspiration, and rich cultural history that define them – have been protected. This landscape will remain the way it is now, forever.