Transitions

Gold Butte National Monument

Gold Butte National Monument Entrance sign with the Virgin Mountains hidden by clouds in the distance (Photograph: Dominic Gentilcore

By Dominic Gentilcore

As I near Gold Butte National Monument, the radio station on the work truck begins to cut out. The dial fixed on 88.9 FM, the signal from National Public Radio coming out of Las Vegas, NV fades from competition with the contemporary Christian station out of Cedar City, UT. Like most things in nature, it is not a smooth boundary. As the road snakes around through twists and turns for miles, each hill offers a different melody on opposing aspects. On the ridges, it’s a mix of both. It seems like a perfect allegory this 300,000 acre expanse. The new monument created by President Obama on Dec. 28th, 2016 lies across many more boundaries than just radio stations; it is a transition area for culture, vegetation, and land use politics.

Winding Mariposa LilyThis spring, I started a floristic inventory of Gold Butte National Monument. I recently received grants from the Nevada Native Plant Society ($755), Garden Club of America ($4,000), and Bureau of Land Management National Landscape Conservation System ($24,768) and Southern Nevada District Office ($5,000) to explore the monument collecting and documenting all vascular plant species within the boundaries. The literature review I did for the proposals set a starting point at 499 known species. That number has been quickly rising as the field season progresses.

TortoisePetroglyphGold Butte National Monument is at the corner of four major vegetation regions: Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, Sonoran Desert, and Colorado Plateau. The Mojave type generally feels dominant across the majority of the monument. Creosote bush and Joshua tree are ubiquitous. However, the other ones are still there. Atop the Virgin Mountains, the desert below seems miles away. Here above 6,000 ft (roughly 20% of the area), the Pinyon-juniper pygmy woodlands have a distinct Great Basin character. Wingate Sandstone and Chinle gypsum host many Colorado Plateau endemics not found in other parts of Nevada. The lower elevations of the granitic southern portion of the monument exhibit significant Sonoran character including a small population of Ocotillos. The diversity of habitats heightens diversity of species.

If you would be interested be interested in volunteering with Dominic on the Gold Butte Floristic Inventory, please contact him at dominic.gentilcore@unlv.edu

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