As executive director of Friends of Gold Butte, Nancy Hall scored big this summer when U.S. Senator Harry Reid and U.S. Representative Steven Horsford of Nevada proposed bills to protect the culturally and ecologically rich area between Lake Mead and Mesquite. Here is Hall’s overview of the protections, which would designate a 350,000-acre national conservation area, including 130,000 acres set aside as wilderness.
How do the conservation and wilderness areas differ?
The national conservation area has scenic and cultural sites that need further protection by the Bureau of Land Management. Wilderness is a roadless area with no motorized recreation; it’s protected for its wild characteristics and solitude.
Why does the area need these protections?
First, we want people 20 years from now to be able to see it the way we see it today—so pristine. Second is the incredible Native American and historical resources, such as the petroglyphs. The third thing is the habitat—the wildlife, the plants that make up this area. It’s 8,000 feet at the top of the Virgin Mountains, with their ponderosa pines, all the way down to the Virgin River. We need more fluent management of these diverse landscapes.
What would you say to ATV enthusiasts concerned about the bills?
Both bills include a transportation plan with 500 miles of trails through the conservation area. This guarantees access to do things they like to do out there now. … We made a compromise, and it was decided that if we were to designate the wilderness, we would not close any other roads.