Nevada Avi Kwa Ame Coalition Applauds Biden Announcement to Restore Protections to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments
Administration takes an important step forward for conservation and Tribal communities amidst campaign to establish Nevada’s fourth national monument
LAS VEGAS (October 8, 2021) — The Biden administration has announced the restoration of Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments, delivering on the administration’s promise to Indigenous communities led by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. Also included in the action is the restoration of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, located off the coast of New England. With this action, the Biden administration renews American leadership to steward lands, waters, and cultural resources. Following the announcement, Nevada environmental groups working to designate Nevada’s 4th national monument released a collection of statements applauding the administration’s decision to restore the three monuments.
The announcement is an important step forward for securing long-term protections of Indigenous cultural areas, wildlife habitats, and natural resources, especially as Nevadans work to establish the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument.
A statement from the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition can be found here.
“The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe honors the decision from President Biden in restoring the National Monuments. It is a great day to see the land of our Indigenous people be protected. We also have land deserving of Federal protection,” said Fort Mojave Chairman Timothy Williams. “Avi Kwa Ame, our place of creation, is continually threatened, and we remain steadfast in protecting our sacred land. Fort Mojave looks forward to a day like today when we can come together and proclaim the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument.”
“We applaud the Biden Administration for listening to the traditional stewards of these lands and restoring the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument as well as other unfairly shrunk monuments. It is essential that Indigenous voices and perspectives are continuously uplifted and prioritized in the conservation space,” said Taylor Patterson, Executive Director for Native Voters Alliance-Nevada. “During the time the newly restored monuments were reduced, valuable cultural landscapes were damaged. We cannot let other invaluable cultural sites be destroyed. We urge the Biden Administration to pursue the protection of other sacred spaces including the proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument. Avi Kwa Ame is vitally important to the cultural landscape of the Indigenous people of this area and must be protected.”
“I’m very pleased with the Biden administration’s decision to protect our beloved public lands by reinstating these areas back into Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. I hope this administration further affirms its commitment to future generations by creating new protections, like the establishment of Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in our beloved Southern Nevada, where local residents are also advocating to protect our public lands,” said Kim Garrison Means, a third-generation resident of Searchlight, a gateway community of Avi Kwa Ame, and Avi Kwa Ame organizer. “In Nevada especially, we are at a critical point in our land history, because we must address climate change by identifying our most cultural, historic, and ecologically important public lands, like Avi Kwa Ame, and take swift and decisive action to protect these areas now or we will lose them forever.”
“We are grateful and thrilled to see the restoration of Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monuments. We applaud President Joe Biden, Secretary Deb Haaland, the leadership of Tribal Nations, and the countless individuals and organizations who have tirelessly worked toward once again having these special places permanently protected.” Bertha Gutierrez, Nevada-based Associate Program Director for Conservation Lands Foundation.
“The proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument would carry forward a commitment made to the tribes back in 1999 to not only protect Spirit Mountain itself but the larger associated sacred Avi Kwa Ame landscape,” said Alan O’Neill, retired Superintendent of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
“Today’s action by the Biden administration to restore national monuments is righteous and inspirational, and it’s also the law. We’re reminded today that our work to protect our public lands is far from done,” said Neal Desai, senior program director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “In southern Nevada, generations have been working to safeguard Avi Kwa Ame, the place of creation for the Mojave people. The call to action today is clear: we must do all we can to protect these areas of immense cultural and spiritual importance before they are lost forever.”
“We are elated by the announcement by the Biden Administration to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to their original boundaries,” said Annette Magnus, Executive Director of Institute for a Progressive Nevada. The careless and disgusting action to carve up these outdoor spaces under the previous administration was a slap in the face of Indigenous peoples, as well as violation of the law. We’re glad to see that the Biden Administration has listened to Indigenous voices who spoke out and are taking steps to undo this disrespectful maneuver. Our outdoors are sacred places, and also home to vital plant and animal habitats and ecosystems. They should be preserved and protected, not vandalized or plundered for oil and gas development. The announcement today gives us optimism that the Interior Department, under the leadership of its first Indigenous cabinet member, Secretary Deb Haaland, will succeed in its efforts to conserve 30% of land and waters by 2030. We also hope the Biden Administration and Interior Department go further to establish Avi Kwa Ame in Southern Nevada as a National Monument, in order to afford that sacred space the protection it deserves as well.”
“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction as our country pursues bold conservation goals. We applaud President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland for their leadership in protecting our most ecologically important and culturally significant landscapes in a way that honors the visions of Indigenous communities for the stewardship of these resources,” said Paul Selberg, Executive Director for Nevada Conservation League. “Now, we continue to look to this administration to work with Tribes, elected officials, business owners, conservation advocates, and local community members to protect irreplaceable cultural places like Avi Kwa Ame (Spirit Mountain) in Southern Nevada.”
The announcement is significant for sovereign Tribal nations, scientists, businesses, surrounding communities, and millions of Americans who understand our stake in the conservation of natural resources and support safeguarding precious landscapes for future generations. The long-awaited decision reverses an illegal action by the Trump administration that stripped protections and reduced Bears Ears by 85 percent.
- During his first days in office, President Biden signed a 30 by 30 executive order committing the U.S. to conserving 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030. Following national leadership, the 2021 Nevada state legislature passed AJR 3, a resolution committing to the 30 by 30 initiative, making history as the first state house adopting legislation of its kind. The resolution includes suggestions on state and federal areas to be considered for conservation measures, including the proposed Avi Kwa Ame national monument.
- Avi Kwa Ame provides an abundance of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, hunting, birding, riding OHVs on designated routes, star-gazing and traditional tribal uses. Protected public lands create visibility for local communities and play a role in boosting local economies and supporting Nevada’s fast-growing outdoor recreation economy, which creates 87,000 jobs and generates $12.6 billion consumer spending.
- A September survey conducted by Data for Progress on Nevadans’ support for conservation and protecting public lands finds a majority of voters support designation Avi Kwa Ame as a National Monument. Supporters say its designation would safeguard wildlife and endangered species, invite more people to enjoy public lands, and act as a defense against climate change.
- Earlier this year, the local jurisdictions of Searchlight and Boulder City both committed their strong support for Avi Kwa Ame, as both towns’ councils voted unanimously to designate the area as a national monument.
- The proposed Avi Kwa Ame national monument covers more than 380,000 acres of culturally, historically, and ecologically significant lands and is located between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Nevada/California border. Avi Kwa Ame could be Nevada’s 4th national monument.
- The proposed national monument is home to petroglyphs, historic mining- and pioneer-era artifacts, rare and threatened wildlife such as the Mojave Desert tortoise, and desert bighorn sheep.
- The area is considered sacred to ten Yuman speaking tribes (the Mohave, Hualapai, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Maricopa. Pai Pai, and Kumeyaay) as well as the Hopi and Chemehuevi Paiute. The area is empirically tied to their creation, cosmology, and well-being.
For more information, please visit www.honoravikwaame.org.
About Honor Avi Kwa Ame: Honor Avi Kwa Ame (pronounced Ah-VEE kwa-meh) is a coalition of organizations supporting the permanent protection of the Avi Kwa Ame landscape as National Monument. The 380,000-acre area in Southern Nevada includes land sacred to 12 Native American tribes, including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Kumeyaay, Maricopa, Mojave, Pai Pai, Quechan, and Yavapai. Some of the most stunning, biologically diverse, and culturally significant land in the Mojave Desert is a habitat for plants and animals, like the desert tortoise and others, found nowhere else on Earth.
The proposed Avi Kwa Ame National Monument is supported by tribes, conservation and recreation groups, business leaders, and elected officials. Protecting this area preserves Native American ancestral lands, conserves important cultural sites and values, protects wildlife habitat, and benefits present and future generations, along with Nevada’s economy.