Tribal Leaders, Advocates, Local Municipalities Call fo National Monument Designation in New Clark County Resolution
Las Vegas, NV – During today’s meeting of the Clark County Board of Commissioners, a resolution was introduced (Item #60) supporting the designation of the land known as Avi Kwa Ame in Southern Nevada as a National Monument. Avi Kwa Ame is comprised of federal public lands, and the resolution recognizes the importance and public benefit of protecting this region. The Monument proposal fits with the County’s $2.7 million investment in conservation near and around the proposed Avi Kwa Ame site, and its plans to invest another $3.8 million in 2022 for habitat restoration and mitigation. In addition, the resolution supports the opportunity for promoting responsible recreational use of the land, specifically for off-highway vehicles (OHV) on designated routes. Supporters with the Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition spoke in support during the public comment period. The Commission took no action and is expected to bring the resolution up for a vote at a later date.
Tribal leaders, local municipalities, and conservation groups have supported the establishment of the National Monument over the past several years. Since the launch of the Biden Interior Department’s ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative, a new opportunity has arisen for these communities to stress the importance of protecting these public lands. Avi Kwa Ame is of significant importance to more than ten local tribes and harbors immense biodiversity as home to numerous unique plant and wildlife species. The land affords opportunities for outdoor recreation as well, a significant economic contributor to nearby municipalities including Searchlight, Laughlin, and Boulder City.
“The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, a federally recognized tribe and sovereign nation, and resident of Clark County, has been working for decades to protect the sacred Avi Kwa Ame landscape, which we have stewarded since time immemorial. We strongly support the resolution to support the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument,” said Chairman Timothy Williams of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. “The lands of the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument are very important to the Mojave people and the nine other Yuman tribes whose creation story begins in this sacred area. Avi Kwa Ame is where we come from, it is where we were created and placed here to protect, it is our Ancestral homelands. The immense significance of this Avi Kwa Ame landscape, and our connection to it, is not explained by simply artifacts or petroglyphs. Rather, this is a cultural landscape that is connected back to the creation of the universe and our heritage, passed down from generation to generation through oral history, song, ritual, and religious practices which we continue to this day. This unique significance has been acknowledged and recognized by the federal government through decades of engagement and consultation with tribal governments… It is of the utmost importance to us that the national monument as proposed be established and that no further harm, now or into the future, will come. We have seen enough of our ancestral lands desecrated and destroyed. We thank the many organizations, local communities and supporters who are here with us for all their efforts, outreach, and ongoing work to make Avi Kwa Ame National Monument a reality.”
“Thank you Board of Clark County Commissioners for hearing from residents about the importance of protecting the Avi Kwa Ame landscape and Commissioner Naft for introducing the resolution,” Jocelyn Torres, Senior Field Director of Conservation Lands Foundation, said. “Clark County has time after time proven that conservation and economic development can coexist for the benefit of people and the planet. We encourage the Commission to continue that important legacy and unanimously support the designation of Avi Kwa Ame as a National Monument.”
“Protecting Avi Kwa Ame preserves a cultural corridor that has been utilized by the Indigenous People of the Southwest since time immemorial,” said Taylor Patterson, Executive Director of Native Voters Alliance Nevada. “The life cycle of the Yuman-speaking tribes and the Southern Paiute exist within Avi Kwa Ame. Preserving this space means preserving cultural traditions that have been passed down from Tribal Elders for generations. Indigenous peoples’ sacred land has been desecrated piece by piece leaving the cultural health of our Tribes in jeopardy. We now have the unique opportunity to push back against the destruction of our culture.”
“In March 2021, the Boulder City Council was proud to pass a resolution supporting the National Monument designation for Avi Kwa Ame,” said Boulder City Councilmember James Howard Adams. “This landscape in the southernmost part of Clark County, just south of Boulder City, is worthy of permanent protection that the designation would bring and aligns with Boulder City’s consistent efforts to protect the desert landscape surrounding Boulder City from wanton development. The National Monument designation would protect the incredible flora and fauna found in the region and protect cultural sites and artifacts sacred to many Tribes, while still allowing for recreation in the area. In fact, having a national monument designation would attract more of the right kind of attention and bring economic benefits to communities near the protected area, Boulder City being one of them, along with Laughlin and Searchlight. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Avi Kwa Ame land and can tell you that being surrounded by tall, ancient Joshua trees and mountain ranges made it clear to me how incredible the area is, and how we as Nevadans would do right to support and call for its preservation to allow future generations of Nevadans to enjoy and treasure the area as it is today.”
“We’ve been doing our homework for the last couple of years on this national monument proposal,” said Kim Garrison Means, Searchlight resident and owner of Mystery Ranch. “I’ve been door to door in Searchlight, CalNevAri, Nelson and Cottonwood Cove, and I have been amazed at how united our residents are on this subject – we love our public lands and we want to keep them the way they are, so future generations can enjoy them as we do. That means we support this proposal, because it offers better protections for the land, and our community can have a seat at the table with its management. We also feel that a monument designation will bring us some gentle economic growth, and I want to explain to you just what that means to us. It means that besides Mc Donald’s and Dennys, there might be a third option of a place to eat dinner in town. And it means we might be able to get some groceries at more than just a gas station. And it means so much more to us, like our young people having more opportunities, and more outdoor economy-related jobs for our working families. And last, but not least, a national monument designation might mean no more articles describing us as a ghost town.”
“Protected public lands promote long-term sustainability of earth’s ecosystems on which human life depends,” said Paulette Stauffer Henriod, Environment and Sustainability Specialist with Mormon Women for Ethical Government, Nevada. “Natural habitats such as the Mojave desert absorb carbon and other greenhouse gases. In fact, a study done in the Mojave Desert by the Desert Research Institute and other scientists found that arid landscapes absorb an “unexpectedly large amount of carbon as levels of carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere. This vast area, in its natural state, has the potential to help our climate crisis. We are also experiencing a biodiversity crisis driven in part by fragmentation of habitats.This crisis affects the well-being of humans too. The proposed monument would provide an unbroken chain of protection for a unique and critical ecosystem. This is why scientists have warned that we must protect 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. We are grateful to the commission for unanimously supporting a 30 by 30 resolution last year. This monument designation will contribute to this goal making Clark County a leader in this movement.”
“The Avi Kwa Ame monument is a treasure to us as a community,” said Ashley Lee, Member of the OHV Community. “The designation would protect roughly 500 miles of back country roads that are enjoyed by hundreds of visitors to the area. Any industrial development, including new infrastructure, widening of roads, and removal of plants and animals, would disfigure the land and devastate trails that myself and others have enjoyed for decades. The coalition has been on the trails with these communities to listen and learn from them and why recreating in the monument is crucial to designating the area a national monument. From the start of the process, the coalition has made it clear that they value and use the existing backroad infrastructure and wish to see it used into the future. The coalition’s continued outreach to the off-road communities has included open invitations for recreational visits into the site where participants can learn more about the history, ecology and opportunities to explore within the Avi Kwa Ame monument proposal.”
“I am sharing my experience to underscore that the importance of this landscape has been recognized for a long time, and I am so thankful that Clark County is in a position to support this and help us cross the finish line,” said Alan O’Neill, Retired Superintendent of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. “It means so much to me given my personal involvement on this. Over the past 2 years, I made countless trips to meetings in Searchlight, Laughlin and Boulder City to discuss the monument, the boundary and the future of this region. And I am so grateful to the work by all involved to come together as one to secure agreements on the boundary and the support from all the gateway communities. I’d like to close by sharing an additional thought informed by my years as Superintendent of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The boundary for the Monument would connect existing protected areas in the eastern Mojave Desert and include critical migratory routes and elevational and transitional zones and niches. Through the Monument, you are also essentially connecting the East Mojave Desert to the Colorado Plateau, providing an even larger connected landscape and a more resilient one as we face changes in rainfall and temperatures regimes in the future. This benefits nature like our Joshua trees to bighorn sheep, but it also benefits all the people who want to recreate in a beautiful, thriving ecosystem, which in turn benefits all the local gateway communities and tourism economies.”
About Avi Kwa Ame (Pronunciation: Ah-VEE kwa-meh): Sacred to 12 tribes, the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument is at the center of Yuman creation stories and spiritual ideology and deserves permanent protection. Located between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Nevada/California border, Avi Kwa Ame, the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain, could be Nevada’s 4th national monument. Covering more than 380,000 acres in southwestern Nevada, it is rich in both history and beauty. The proposed national monument includes petroglyphs; historic mining- and pioneer-era artifacts; rare and threatened wildlife such as the Mojave Desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep.