|Like both earlier resolutions, Resolution 669 recognized a need for the preservation of the vast Gold Butte complex. But it placed more emphasis on local input to the process and retained access to the land.
A main difference of Resolution 669 from the earlier city version was a recommendation to form a “permanent standing committee…to ensure public involvement in the development and implementation of an effective and acceptable management plan for this NCA.”
The committee would be composed as follows: \
- Two citizens appointed by each of the four northeast Clark County communities: Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa and Moapa Valley.
- An appointee from Clark County as well as from the Cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City,
- One representative each from Partners in Conservation, Friends of Gold Butte and the Moapa Band of Paiutes
- One representative living in Clark County each from the motorized recreational community and non-motorized recreation community and a historical organization or museum.
The Clark County Resolution had also provided for a similar committee.
Mayor Susan Holecheck worked with Mesquite residents Ron Dodd and Kraig Hafen to pen the new resolution. In an interview Holecheck explained that the two men had come to her with concerns after the County resolution had been approved. “They said that they would like to see some changes and additional elements in there,” Holecheck said. “We sat down for a couple of hours and worked through these things and came to a solution.”
In the long run, Holecheck said, there wasn’t really very much difference between the new resolution and the County’s resolution. “Both say that preservation of Gold Butte is a priority,” she said. “But people want to be able to hunt, camp, fish and hike out there. It is important to keep that multi-use tradition. If we can keep all these things intact and accomplish preservation, everybody wins.”
But others felt that the subtle differences in the various resolutions added up to something much more substantial.
The specific requests dealing with Wilderness in the County Resolution was a key factor for some Mesquite City Council members. Councilman Randy Ence pointed out that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had only identified 27,000 acres in the area as suitable for Wilderness. But the County resolution had proposed 133,000 acres. Ence observed that this proposal was based solely on requests from the Friends of Gold Butte organization. “It is excessive because it comes from one point of view,” Ence said. “One-third of it (Gold Butte) would be wilderness.”
In an interview, Councilman Dave Bennett said that he also had trouble getting past the Wilderness proposal in the County Resolution. Bennett recalled, in a Council work session held on April 27, that he had asked Friends of Gold Butte President Nancy Hall where the 133,000 acre number had come from. “She said that they had kind of just decided on it,” Bennett said. “They had spent a lot of time out there and had looked at the map and taken sections where no roads were running through it. No real studies had been done to base these decisions on. So they were proposing the most restrictive land designation possible on large areas for no other reason than just because they wanted it. I couldn’t go along with that.”
Resolution 669 does not set aside any specific areas for Wilderness. But it requests that the new standing committee be tasked with reviewing and recommending any Wilderness designations within the Gold Butte complex.
While the Clark County Resolution requested an advisory committee, Mesquite Resolution 669 went a step further. It stated that the “standing committee shall be immediately tasked with…assisting with the drafting of legislative language for the NCA”.
This provision was viewed as a positive element for many multi-use advocates. “A lot of people don’t understand that unless the things that are important to us are a part of the NCA legislation, we have no guarantees,” said Partners in Conservation (PIC) Chairman Lindsey Dalley. “Once the legislation is passed, the game is probably up. That is why giving the committee input into drafting the legislation is such a big deal.”
Resolution 669 was also very specific on the matter of roads in the Gold Butte area. It recommended that the NCA incorporate the recently completed BLM Route Designation Environmental Assessment document in its entirety.
Finally, for the first time in the Gold Butte NCA discussion, the new resolution addressed provisions for tapping existing water rights in the area. Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) hydrologist Michael Johnson explained that the district was the senior water rights holder in the lower Virgin River basin and that certain areas which were proposed to fall within the new NCA might be important for providing future water resources to the community. The VVWD currently has permitted water rights of 12,300 acre feet in the areas at the base of the Virgin Mountains which might be affected by a new NCA. Resolution 669 requested that site type right-of-ways for things like wells, reservoirs and communication structures would not be excluded from the NCA without input from the VVWD.
During public input period some Mesquite residents felt that the earlier, more general, resolution should stay in force and that the City should support the County resolution. They felt that time was running out on Gold Butte and that the matter should be quickly sent to Congress to deal with the details.
But Mesquite resident Kraig Hafen was adamant that the City should have its own voice. “Just because the County adopted something doesn’t mean we have to sign on to it,” he said. “We incorporated as a city to make our own decisions. If we are going to let Clark County make our decisions for us, we might as well go back to those earlier days.”
Bennett made the motion to adopt Resolution 669. It was seconded by Councilwoman Donna Fairchild and it passed with a 4-1 vote (Councilman Karl Gustaveson dissenting).
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