By Keith Rogers Las Vegas Review-Journal July 30, 2017
BUNKERVILLE — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke to reporters Sunday evening in Bunkerville as he wrapped up a much-anticipated visit to Southern Nevada that included a hike at Gold Butte National Monument and a stop at Basin and Range National Monument to see American Indian rock art.
The interior secretary traveled to Nevada to visit the two monuments as part of President Donald Trump’s executive order mandating a review of 22 national monuments and five marine national monuments created by presidential decree since Jan. 1, 1996, to determine whether the designations should be scaled back or eliminated.
Zinke is expected to present Trump with his final recommendations by the end of August.
Speaking outside at a ranch not far from Gold Butte, Zinke offered some insights into criteria for downsizing.
Before Zinke arrived in Bunkerville, Russ Graves voiced concern about the size of the Gold Butte monument.
“I’d just like to see the size reduced,” said Graves. 73, who owns an orchard that is part of a 220-acre ranch.
Whitney Pocket, the Devil’s Throat sinkhole and a few other locations on Gold Butte should be part of the monument, but other parts don’t have antiquities value, he said.
Zinke had planned to stay in Mesquite through Monday to meet with U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and stakeholders there and in Overton on the fringe of Gold Butte on the last leg of a swing through the West. But he canceled those plans to return to Washington, D.C., for the first Cabinet meeting with new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
While the Monday meeting was shelved, Zinke was able to meet with some stakeholders Sunday and has scheduled phone meetings later this week with others, including the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, according to Interior Department staff.
The Riverside Road location where Zinke made his remarks is within 3 miles of the April 2014 armed standoff on the Virgin River between federal agents from his department and militia supporters of defiant rancher Cliven Bundy — the subject of a high-visibility trial in federal court in Las Vegas.
Bundy’s wife, Carol, said she was disappointed he didn’t meet with her on his way to Gold Butte even though she has reached out to him through emails, certified letters and phone calls to his staff.
“We have not received one phone call back,” she said, sitting in the living room of the Bundy ranch house Sunday. “We feel like we’re forgotten. Yet my husband and four of our sons, a total of 19 men, sit in prison under the guise of charges of the Department of Interior, which Mr. Zinke is in control over, and they have committed no crime.
“Why would you come to my front yard and not reach out to my family and hear our pleas so that I could hear his as well?” Carol Bundy said.
Asked later by a reporter about the possibilities of a future roundup of Bundy cattle, Zinke said he would not address the subject.
The interior secretary spent a long day traveling to parts of both monuments before his Bunkerville stop. He arrived in Nevada on a commercial flight that landed at McCarran International Airport at about 7:30 a.m., then flew by helicopter to Whitney Pockets, part of the Gold Butte, where he hiked with about five local officials at about 9:30 a.m.
Zinke’s next stop via helicopter was White River Narrows, a petroglyph site in Basin and Range.Zinke also paid a visit to artist Michael Heiser’s “City” project located in a rural desert area of Nevada. There, he met with Los Angeles County Museum of Art staff members, but did not meet with Heiser.
From there, Zinke traveled to the Mount Irish petrogylph site in Basin and Range and met with Friends of Gold Butte, and was to head to Bunkerville later in the day.
Earlier Sunday, U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., released a video of her support for the national monuments.
“Our outdoor recreation in Nevada is a boon to our economy, 148,000 jobs, billions of dollars in revenue to the economy,” she said in the video. “And that’s worth fighting for.”
Contact Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter.