June 17, 2013

Veterans support plan to protect Gold Butte

For America’s veterans, public lands and outdoor recreational areas play a pivotal role in the emotional and spiritual recovery of men and women who return home from war. No one can doubt the healing connection that exists between nature and those seeking solace.

That’s why veterans support legislation recently introduced by Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Steven Horsford that would protect and preserve one of Southern Nevada’s most prized treasures — Gold Butte, Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon.

Gold Butte lies northeast of Las Vegas and south of Mesquite, between the northern arm of Lake Mead and the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona. Recently, I joined Vet Voice Foundation and other veterans on a tour of the area’s majestic beauty and to partner in the effort to protect Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area for future generations.

Gold Butte is 350,000 acres of rugged mountains and canyons, forests filled with Joshua trees, one-of-a-kind petroglyphs, outcroppings of sandstone, and stands of towering ponderosa pine and white fir in the high peaks of the Virgin Mountain range. Some of the favorite areas are the “pygmy forests” of piñon and juniper on Billy Goat Peak, as well as adventurous spots with intriguing names such as “Hells Kitchen” and “Rattlesnake Peak.”

Our nation’s public lands are a vital national resource and were a part of what I swore to defend when I gave my oath to my country. The values of service and integrity drive our military veterans to conserve these great national treasures, the lands we love.

The healing nature that our public lands offer for veterans cannot be understated. Without the ability to use our national parks, forests and conservation lands, the transition back to civilian life for many veterans after coming home from Afghanistan or Iraq would have been much more difficult. Whether it’s reconnecting with family and friends or hunting, fishing, hiking and exploring back roads, or finding peace and solitude, our public lands provide opportunities for it all.

Nevada is home to a proud military tradition that includes Nellis and Creech Air Force bases, the Hawthorne Army Depot, and Fallon Naval Air Station, as well as being the home to one of the largest veteran populations in the country per capita. Nevada contains some of the most breathtaking wilderness in the country and, for many, the defense of the nation and the defense of its public lands go hand in hand. Indeed, protection and conservation of lands for public use and enjoyment is a proud military tradition going back for generations.

This is why I have joined with the Vet Voice Foundation and other local veterans in the call to permanently protect Gold Butte and in expressing thanks to Reid and Horsford for leading the way. Establishing the Gold Butte National Conservation Area would be a real benefit to veterans. It’s part of why we served to begin with.


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