During an interview with the Mesquite Citizen Journal, Mayor Mark Wier discussed a wide range of issues that he and the Mesquite City Council have tackled over his first year in office, including the city's budget, business licensing and fees, the downtown corridor, the proposed indoor sports/event center, personnel, and other issues.
"I believe that the entire Las Vegas valley is now ringed by land that has some sort of [environmental] designation on it. So Vegas is land-locked, if you will, by these areas," Mayor Wier said as he began a discussion about the Gold Butte desert area southwest of Mesquite. The area is currently designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) with few usage restrictions. Environmental groups want the land designated as a National Conservation Area (NCA) with Wilderness which will place restrictions on how it can be used.
He mentioned that some of the environmental designations were borne from the requirement to provide mitigation for the desert tortoise while allowing land development in other areas. He also said he didn't want to speak for Bunkerville because "they are a major stakeholder in what will happen in that area because [Gold Butte] is their backyard."
"I'm not sure how the trade-offs would work. We haven't gotten to that point yet. We'll have to wait to see how the management plans are written and what the legislation says. That's the sixty-four thousand dollar question."
He was referring to the legislation that would have to wind its way through Congress which would establish Gold Butte as an NCA with or without Wilderness. "We can talk about it all we want but it will end up in the court of federal representatives. The final decision will be made by them. What I want to make sure of is that this is a completely open, public process. We need to bring in all sides, not necessarily just one side that has this belief or one side that has that belief. Everyone needs to be involved in this," Wier explained.
He added, "this will affect everyone in this area. It will affect people in Clark County. Unfortunately, a lot of it [discussion] is driven by emotion at this point."
Part of the Resolution calls for "legislative authority to put together a group of stakeholders to actually create the NCA. Then it was to negotiate the Wilderness areas. And then it would put together a standing committee of all the stakeholders to develop the Management Plan. That committee would be permanent," Wier explained.
Without hesitation, he said he
still supported his vote during the April Council meeting. He went on to say that "part of our resolution is just not workable." He was referring to the resolution's requirement for the standing committee saying, "that won't happen. The Federal government won't do that. We need to revisit that."
A large part of the argument for designating Gold Butte as a NCA with Wilderness is to help protect the area and preserve it. "When you designate something, does that really protect it? You're talking about 344 square miles of land that has one BLM Ranger. Does the NCA designation automatically guarantee protection? No," Wier remarked.
"The only thing that's really going to guarantee protection is to have 'boots on the ground.' You have to have people there. I don't think the Federal government has the money to do it."
"I don't care what you designate it as," he continued. "I want to know what the end game is. How are we planning to protect it? We all talk that we want to protect it. But how will that take place?"
As the discussion turned to how Gold Butte, as a tourist destination, could best generate economic activity for Mesquite, Wier suggested building a boat ramp on the eastern shore of Lake Mead. "If we're going to use this as an economic development tool, we have to make it available for the largest amount of people we can. If we're going to restrict it to one certain group, you're going to cut off any other taxable income or revenue streams from the other groups."
Designating large swaths of Gold Butte as Wilderness prohibits mechanized and motorized activity and basically only allows hikers in the area.
"Making it all inclusive makes economic sense to me. We have seven million people visiting Lake Mead every year. You can get to Lake Mead from the Gold Butte side of the lake. If we put the boat ramp in, that would have a gigantic [economic] impact. Those are numbers that would really impact Mesquite. People use the lake in the summer," he explained.
"If economic development is part of this process, we certainly need to find a way to include as many of those areas as possible in the Gold Butte area. Everything needs to be on the table. I will negotiate Wilderness. But the biggest caveat for me is to have public meetings, and a lot of them," Wier said as he continued.
Putting the difficulty of managing and patrolling such a vast geographical area like Gold Butte into perspective, he explained that "you can take the city of Henderson, the entire city of Las Vegas, and throw in North Las Vegas for giggles, it still fits inside that area. And you're talking one ranger? How on earth can you protect that? There's no way. That's my concern."
"Diversifying and making it as much multi-use as we can is an important thing to investigate."
Wier concluded the discussion by saying, "Am I on board with an NCA designation? Yes, but with a caveat. I want to make sure all these issues have been addressed. That everybody gets to the table. That everybody gets a say."
Posted Date: 07/13/2012 Mark, what you didn't address is what are the conditions of use of Gold Butte area today, now. One Ranger is patroling it now and there is wide spead use. What would prevent the City of Mesquite from promoting Gold Butte now, any of the existing or future plans disignation changes would not prevent the present use. Putting in a ramp would be just great to give access to Land Mead but it is a great attraction now.
Townhall meetings are the way to go to get all sides together Mark, it has always worked as the essence of good open democratic government. Try it with the a plan for the Blighted area.
You didn't identify or address how Gold Butte could be used as a way to redevelop the blighted area of the City and get rid of this great embarrassment to the Real Estate Industry is bring Senior Citizens to Mesquite.
Don Muse By: Don Muse