As published on News 3 LV on August 12, 2020
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Several conservation groups and native tribes are trying to get thousands of acres of sacred land in Southern Nevada designated as the state’s fourth national monument.
They say it’s especially important now that so many people are flocking to the area for biking and hiking to get away from crowds during the pandemic.
Companies have tried to build industrial projects on the 380,00 acres that make up Avi Kwa Ame, the Mojave name for Spirit Mountain.
The coalition looking for a national monument designation believes it would help protect its cultural and recreational significance.
“We were fighting for eight years, two really bad wind projects,” said Alan O’Neill, adviser for the National Parks Conservation Association. “You know the Searchlight wind project and the Crescent Peak wind project.”
O’Neill says this has been a constant battle for conservation groups to protect Bureau of Land Management public lands that are rural and undeveloped.
“We realized that development of those creates this industrial island surrounded by probably some of the most important ecological and cultural landscape we have anywhere in the whole Mojave Desert,” he said.
So they’ve started an online petition.
Part of the importance of the land is that it’s used for recreational purposes like hiking and biking, especially popular now during COVID.
“A place in which they can escape and COVID, I was out three or four times a week,” said O’Neill.
On top of that, he says recreation brings in money for the state.
“Last year if I remember a statistic of like $14.6 billion of consumer spending just related to the outdoor recreation business,” said O’Neill. “And that was like 87,000 jobs.”
Spirit Mountain is also sacred to 12 Native American tribes in the area.
“It’s a place of energy,” said Linda Otero, director of the Aha Makav Cultural Society. “It’s our where our God lives.”
They are constantly concerned about efforts of energy developers.
“It”s a place of our origin, and no other place can replace- no other location can replace that,” said Otero. “So we’ve got to take that serious.”
She says this effort will need the help of multiple groups.
“Government entities, park service, Bureau of Land Management, and now extending it out to government officials and possibly making it a Congressional Act,” said Otero. “That is, you know, moving that forward, that’s a positive.