No matter your politics, chances are you want to keep our public lands public. According to a December 2015 poll by Colorado College, 80 percent of Western state voters support preserving national monuments. Last month, President Trump ordered a review of some two dozen monuments that have been designated in the past 20 years. That puts Nevada’s Gold Butte and Basin and Range in danger.
But the lands have some fierce protectors. “People are ready to protest and protect our surroundings,” says Pam Stuckey of Renewable Envoy. “Most of my friends are active in politics; they know it matters.”
Along with traditional forms of political action—including co-chairing Friends of Basin and Range—artist and curator Checko Selgado is working to spread the word about Basin and Range through art. He has curated a group art show inspired by the region’s terrain that will open in June at the Winchester Cultural Center. Titled Valley of Faces: Pareidolia in the Basin & Range, it will be his seventh art exhibition relating to the monument.
Fawn Douglas—an artist, activist and member of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe—uses Gold Butte’s petroglyphs for inspiration. “The whole scenery inspires my landscape art, my spray paint art; it inspires everything I do,” she says. “It’s part of my cultural heritage.”
Douglas describes December 2016, when Gold Butte was given the National Monument designation, as a joyous time. “Indigenous voices were being heard. Finally, tribes, groups and government entities were working together to have this designation. When Trump put [the monuments] under review, it was a slap in the face.”
So what are the chances that we lose our natural treasures? A complete decommission seems unlikely. There’s no legal precedent, and any attempt would certainly result in a lawsuit. It is possible, however, to reduce the acreage of a national monument.
That’s what scares the Sierra Club’s Christian Gerlach: “There are great risks specifically to Basin and Range that we’re very concerned about.” He says that the possibility of oil being buried in those valleys makes them a potential target for extractive industry.
Help comes from the state level as well. Assemblywoman Heidi Swank has proposed a joint resolution (AJR13) that would express support for Nevada’s newest monuments. Expect a resolution on the resolution soon.