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Avi Kwa Ame nat'l monument designation on hold

President Biden's formal designation of Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument has been delayed. The designation is planned for a later date. (Photo/Honor Avi Kwa Ame)

President Biden's formal designation of Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument has been delayed. The designation is planned for a later date. (Photo/Honor Avi Kwa Ame)

LAUGHLIN, Nev. — Official designation of a sprawling 450,000-acre national monument near Laughlin will have to wait.

A day after it was reported that President Joe Biden planned to make the promised designation official during an upcoming visit to Las Vegas, those reports were termed premature.

"President Joe Biden is no longer expected to designate Avi Kwa Ame as a national monument on his trip to Las Vegas next week," the Nevada Independent said March 8, a day after the publication was among the first to indicate that Biden would make the declaration — and perhaps visit the area of spiritual, cultural and social significance to many Native American tribes, including the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, which considers the 5,600-foot Spirit Mountain peak in the Newberry Mountains as their ancestral birthplace.

“The White House had indicated the Avi Kwa Ame designation would happen next week, then their plans changed,” the Independent said, quoting people familiar with the president’s plans.

KLAS-TV in Las Vegas reported that Biden still will travel to Las Vegas but the national monument declaration will not be part of his visit.

In mid-November, the Bureau of Land Management held a public comment session in Laughlin at the request of the U.S. Department of the Interior and heard from 47 speakers that included tribal representatives, outdoors enthusiasts, artists and area residents. Nearly all spoke in support of designation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which would provide certain protections for the land stretching from the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the California-Nevada border.

Two weeks later, at a Tribal Nations Summit in Washington, D.C., Biden vowed to make the designation and hinted that he wanted to see the area first-hand.

"When it comes to Spirit Mountain and the surrounding ridges and canyons in southern Nevada, I'm committed to protecting this sacred place that is central to the creation story of so many tribes that are here today," Biden said at the summit. "And I look forward to being able to visit Spirit Mountain and experience it with you as soon as I can."

That won't be next week, apparently.

Biden was last in Nevada in January, attending a memorial service for former Sen. Harry Reid. It's uncertain when he will make the official national monument designation and if he still plans to visit the area for that occasion.

National monument designation would limit some activities in the areas considered sacred, ecologically sensitive or of cultural significance. The designation would put the area public lands under federal management and would prohibit new mining claims, most development and road construction. Existing rights-of-way would be maintained and the area would remain open to a variety of recreational activities such as hiking, driving on designated roadways, mountain biking and horseback riding. It also would not impact existing renewable energy projects, highways, structures or transmission lines other than preventing their expansion.

"This is our home. This is our place," said FMIT elder Drusilla Burns at the November hearing in Laughlin.

FMIT members were part of the Honor Avi Kwa Ame coalition, which called the designation necessary because of the "culturally and ecologically significant proposal and the need to safeguard these resources for future generations."

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