In response to the letter published in last week’s edition of the PROGRESS (Zinke Did Not Meet With Tribal Members: PROGRESS, Aug. 9, 2017), I feel some things need to be clarified.
First of all, to my understanding, none of the meetings Zinke had with local residents had anything to do with any “burn and pillage policies” regarding Gold Butte. Non-tribal residents have no desire whatsoever to see any harm or damage done to any part of the Gold Butte area; not even the “descendants of manifest destiny frontiersman in Bunkerville” to whom the letter refers.
The environmentalist lobby, and its followers, love to make the doomsday claims that, without a national monument designation, Gold Butte would suddenly be open to horrible evils like oil and gas exploration, open pit mining, logging and other environmental fates worse than death. But just to set everyone at ease, no one; and I do mean NO ONE; is talking about opening Gold Butte up to any of those things. It is not even on the table! All of those uses were restricted from the area years ago under the current ACEC designations. That’s already a done deal and no one is advocating to change it back. To use rhetorical terms like “burn and pillage” is just misleading and inflammatory.
As I can surmise it, the recent meetings with Zinke seemed to be quite simple. First off, they involved legitimate local concerns about access to water rights held by the Virgin Valley Water District; rights that are vitally important to the future of a growing community. Those concerns are absolutely warranted. Access to those rights would be in jeopardy should the monument boundaries remain what they are. So the circumstances definitely warrant a change there.
The other concerns expressed to Zinke appeared to be about keeping access to historic pioneer sites that are important to the heritage of many community members in the area. The fear of losing access to these treasured sites is not just paranoia. Similar losses have been experienced before all across the west; hence the concern.
In the end, no one is disputing the deep ancestral attachment that the Paiute community has to these areas. No one is underrating the tremendous value that these ancient Native American cultural sites hold. These magnificent treasures must be protected and preserved. The Paiute people must be able to continue to connect with their sacred past by keeping these sites unspoiled. No one is arguing against any of that.
But there is so much more in this vast Gold Butte complex than just the Native American cultural sites. And there is truly no reason to lock up 300,000 acres to protect native objects, artifacts and treasures that are easily contained within the space of far less than 1,000 acres.
Protecting the sacred Native American sites is imperative. But it cannot be done at the expense of other cultural groups. Preserving these areas so that tribal members can connect with their heritage should not, and need not, restrict the descendants of miners, ranchers and pioneers in connect ing with theirs.