Support for a fourth national monument in southern Nevada is strong, conservation groups say, and with the right message they think support will only grow.
These assumptions seem to reveal themselves in a poll of more than 400 likely voters across Nevada, led by Data for progress, a national progressive think tank.
The survey, commissioned by the Battle Born Collective, assessed voter support for the designation of Avi Kwa Ame in southern Clark County as a national monument, a proposal that would protect 380,000 acres of indigenous cultural sites and d ‘essential habitats for future energy and mining development.
While eight in ten Nevada voters have not heard of Avi Kwa Ame, 57% support its designation as a national monument, according to the group’s survey. That figure jumped to 62% after respondents received more information on the site.
Avi Kwa Ame, which means Spirit Mountain in Mojave, is considered culturally important and sacred to 10 Yuman speaking tribes of Mojave. The region is an important part of the spiritual ideology of the various tribes and features in the beliefs of the Mojave creation.
Over 80% of the land within the nominated monument is already protected by the federal government as critical habitat. However, the designation would connect the existing protected landscapes of the Eastern Mojave Desert with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and permanently protect the area from future energy development and mining.
The site is threatened by future energy development as the proposal of Crescent Peak Renewables – a subsidiary of the Swedish company Eolus North America – to build a 9,154 acre wind power project at the Nevada-California border.
Respondents to the survey read competing arguments for designating the area as a national monument. The supporting argument emphasized the protection of wildlife and species, and the site’s cultural significance to Indigenous peoples. The opposing argument described the designation as a “federal land grab” that would harm the economy and the energy and natural resource industries.
After hearing the opposing arguments, 73% of Democrats either “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the nomination, compared to 49% of Republicans.
Supporters of the monument say the designation would create “a critical corridor” between California’s Mojave National Preserve and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, creating a continuous block of habitat for the area’s wildlife and ecosystems.
Several tribes have reported strong support for the national monument. In 2019, the Fort Mojave Indian Council voted unanimously to officially support the protection of Avi Kwa Ame. The Chemehuevi Indian Tribe and the Nevada Intertribal Council passed resolutions in 2021 supporting the monument.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes also sent a letter of support for the monument to Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto earlier this year.
Tribe members strive to educate Nevadans about the importance of Avi Kwa Ame to indigenous peoples, including by participating in a multimedia story map highlighting Indigenous perspectives produced by the Conservation Lands Foundation in partnership with local conservation groups.
A majority of voters, 58%, said tribes and indigenous peoples should be consulted on new conservation sites. A larger majority, 71%, said “local residents” should be consulted.
“It is encouraging to see that many Nevadans recognize that the original stewards of this land, the Indigenous peoples, should be given priority over new conservation sites,” said Taylor Patterson, executive director of the Native Voters Alliance-Nevada, a group supporting the monument. . “However, it is important to go beyond the use of sacred spaces to advance conservation efforts. Indigenous people must be involved every step of the way, including in the creation of management plans once the land is protected.
“The results of this state investigation are very encouraging for us local residents who are fighting to protect our public lands and our unique plants and animals,” said Kim Garrison Means, a third generation Searchlight resident and organizer of Avi Kwa Ame.
So far, the organizers have focused their efforts at the local level, but are now expanding their campaign to state and national levels.
Part of those campaign efforts will be a touring series of art exhibitions and events in 2022, including an exhibit at the Barrick Museum of Art on the UNLV campus. The ‘Spirit of the Land’ exhibit will feature ‘new works on culture, history, ecology and current landscape issues Avi Kwa Ame, featuring over 30 artists from Nevada,’ said Garrison Means , one of the main organizers of the exhibition.
Land conservation emerged as a popular policy proposition in the poll.
When asked if they would be “more or less likely to vote for a candidate for the United States Senate from Nevada if they supported local conservation efforts, including the creation of new national monuments in Nevada,” 30% of Democratic respondents said they would be “much more” likely, compared to 20% of Republicans.
When “much more likely” was paired with “somewhat more likely,” 67% of Democrats said yes, as did 62% of Republican voters.
The Data for Progress poll also cites strong support for President Joe Biden’s land conservation plan which aims to protect 30% of America’s land and water by 2030. The plan has the support of Governor Steve Sisolak of the Nevada Legislature and Clark County Legislators.
The 30 by 30 conservation proposal has the support of 77% of voters – and 81% of voters believe the U.S. government needs to take action now to meet the goal.
“Protecting Avi Kwa Ame is not only the right thing to do, it’s also smart policy,” said Neal Desai, senior program director for the National Parks Conservation Association, a group that supports the monument. “This proposed national monument contains enormous values, from the largest forest of Joshua trees in the world to the creation story of many Native American tribes. The survey shows that residents want their elected officials to mobilize to protect this type of place for generations to come.
The poll was conducted from September 2-9, 2021 using a web panel to reach 407 probable voters in Nevada. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ± 5 percentage points.