BLM to resume operations in Gold Butte 2 years after Bundy standoff

A rock formation in the Little Finland area of the Gold Butte region, Nevada, photo undated | Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons-John Fowler, St. George News
The Little Finland area of the Gold Butte region, Jan. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Don Mirjanian, St. George News
Little Finland in the Gold Butte region, Jan. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Don Mirjanian, St. George News

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. – The Bureau of Land Management is planning to resume work in the Gold Butte region in northeastern Clark County, Nevada, after two years of absence.

BLM employees have not been working in the field in Gold Butte since early 2014 because of safety concerns following an armed standoff with Cliven Bundy and others which triggered serious safety concerns for the BLM workers.

Cliven Bundy is now in jail along with several others on federal charges relating to the 2014 standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada.

Cliven Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy and others are facing charges for the armed takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016 in which Robert LaVoy Finicum was shot and killed.

Court documents accuse Cliven Bundy and others of leading more than 200 followers into an armed confrontation in Nevada that forced federal Bureau of Land Management agents and contract cowboys to abandon an effort to corral and remove Bundy cattle from federal lands where he was accused of letting them graze for decades without paying federal fees.

Read more: More Bundys indicted along with 11 others for 2014 standoff

The Little Finland area of the Gold Butte region, Jan. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Don Mirjanian, St. George News
Whitney Pockets in the Gold Butte region, Jan. 3, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Don Mirjanian, St. George News

BLM officials have now determined that the conditions are right to resume work, a press statement said. BLM archaeologists, law enforcement officers, and local agency leadership have all visited the area over the past month.

BLM Director Neil Kornze and BLM Nevada State Director John Ruhs toured Gold Butte last week, along with a Clark County commissioner and a captain of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

“We had an excellent visit to Gold Butte and we’ll be increasing our presence there in the months ahead,” Kornze said in the statement.

“This area is a real treasure. We look forward to working with our local partners to restart the many important efforts we had underway.”

Now that BLM Southern Nevada District Office employees will be getting back in the field in Gold Butte, they will be assessing damage to cultural heritage sites, repairing communications infrastructure, working with Clark County on road maintenance and establishing a route numbering system, the statement said.

The Gold Butte region is home to world-renowned rock art and other cultural sites and provides important habitat for desert tortoise and other species. The area is also popular with hikers, campers and others interested in exploring the area’s unique geology.

Kornze and others visited the Whitney Pockets area, which is popular with visitors who come to hike and view the unique geological features, rock art and other cultural resources.

Gold Butte map courtesy of Bureau of Land Management, St. George News
Gold Butte map courtesy of Bureau of Land Management, St. George News

Some of the area’s famous red sandstone formations have been impacted by vandals, the statement said, and a large Joshua tree has been illegally cut down and left onsite. 

The group found evidence that cattle have trammeled and overgrazed certain areas; a complete assessment of the condition of the Gold Butte region will take time.

The Gold Butte region is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, or ACEC; vehicles are limited to designated routes.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Friends of Gold Butte and the Nevada Wilderness Coalition have proposed permanent protection as a national monument for the 350,000-acre Gold Butte region.

The conservation groups believe the move would conserve wildlife habitat, historic and prehistoric resources, scenery, exploration and discovery that enhance the heritage and tourism economy of southern Nevada.

St. George News senior reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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