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Conservationists, Native Americans fighting to protect land east of Mojave Desert

Posted at 6:55 AM, Aug 12, 2021

NEVADA (KTNV) — Conservationists and Native Americans are fighting to protect land east of the Mojave Desert in Southern Clark County.

Potential development in the area has alarmed Native Americans who consider the land sacred and environmentalists who view it as an important natural habitat. While others see it as land for recreation or development.

The groups say it’s not just for devastating ecological and climate impacts but to conserve the ancestral lands is important to the Native American tribes in the area.

Small trees and green shrubs dot the desert landscape that helps form a mountain the Fort Mojave Tribe calls Spirit Mountain.

“It's a historical tie for all humans and that should be respected,” said Taylor Patterson, Executive Director of Native Voters Alliance Nevada and member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe.

The mountain serves as the point of creation for the Fort Mojave Tribe and a cultural corridor for many surrounding tribes.

The groups say future generations will learn about their history, culture and significance in this protected space, but they worry about development destroying their connection and identity.

They also say they understand the importance of green energy, but don't believe this area is a good fit as there is space for that -- just not in sacred areas for tribal people.

“This current proposal is the same company that was rejected only three years ago. We would've thought they'd learn their lesson. This is not a place you develop,” said Neal Desai, senior program director for the National Parks Conservation Association.

And it’s not just land that is sacred for local tribes, conservationists say the land has a rich ecosystem worthy of saving.

“It's an important step to addressing the impact of climate change and the protection of biodiversity,” said Alan O'Neill, advisor to the National Parks Conservation Association.

That protection would protect the natural springs, the ancient Joshua tree forest, rock art and the habitat for the area's animals like the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep and golden and bald eagles.

Recently, the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition submitted a letter of support for the national monument.

Outdoor recreation has increased dramatically over the past year and the coalition says this will help with economic growth around the area.

“Nevadans love their public lands. We view our lands as our natural heritage. We are home to some of the most visually stunning, biologically diverse and frankly culturally significant landscapes. We are super thrilled that this may become one of the new national monuments in our state,” said Paul Selberg, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League.

After this several year-long fight, Native American tribes want the project to be a success.

“It never makes sense to me. As native people, we've had everything taken from us. We ask for these very small spaces and things that are so important to our people to keep. It seems like even that sometimes is impossible,” Patterson said.