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It's Official: We're Friends of Nevada Wilderness
"The most amazing part about volunteering with this passionate group? They not only brought us to this amazing area of Nevada, but shared so many stories with us that I felt like we really learned something tangible. It was not a volunteer experience where I showed up, handed out some papers and got a free t-shirt. I felt like a necessary part of the process. We got our hands dirty, learned some Nevada history and ecological practices and they made me feel truly appreciated. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is spending a couple of days in Vegas to break away from the strip and make a difference. Las Vegas is meant to be a 'pleasure land,' but I clearly saw the true pleasure land of Nevada at Gold Butte last weekend. " Corinne Shaw
My, what big hearts you have! This past September, we ran a contest in our shops across North America: nominate a local grass roots charity for a $1000 prize and be entered to win a volunteer trip with one of our Charity Pot partners. We asked, and you answered! You gave us 3,800 answers, to be exact. We were absolutely overwhelmed with the response! Well done, you. Next came the fun part: randomly drawing ten lucky winners to join us on a volunteer trip with Friends of Nevada Wilderness to Gold Butte, Nevada. Our winners came from Ohio, New York, Manitoba, Florida, Ontario, Alberta, Maryland and Pennsylvania- all over the map! On the weekend of November 16-18th, we all arrived in beautiful Nevada, ready to get our hands dirty planting native species in the expansive Gold Butte region of the Mojave Desert.
Located approximately two hours Northeast of Las Vegas, Gold Butte is a 350,000 acre region of the Mojave Desert filled with rolling mountains, sandstone outcroppings, and numerous historical and archeological sites. A broad landscape of rugged terrain, Gold Butte is also home to the desert tortoise, burrowing owl, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, golden eagle, and countless species of reptiles. Our Charity Pot partners, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, are "dedicated to preserving all qualified Nevada public lands as wilderness, protecting all present and potential wilderness from ongoing threats, educating the public about the values of and need for wilderness, and improving the management and restoration of wild lands." Since 1984, Friends of Nevada Wilderness has successfully protected over 3 million acres of wilderness. Only 4.8% of Nevada currently holds "wilderness status", leaving the vast majority of its beautiful and fragile lands susceptible to human damage. Excessive and uncontrolled off-road vehicle use and other disrespectful human activities, like burning Joshua Trees for firewood, are not currently regulated or monitored.
"I think the one thing I will remember the most about the volunteer day with Nevada Wilderness was the pure excitement of knowing that we were making a tangible difference for the gorgeous environment only a few hours from the one and only Las Vegas. You would never expect wilderness so close by and all I want to do now is go back and do more work! Digging holes is so much fun!" Nicole Campbell
Brian Beffort, Associate Director at Friends of Nevada Wilderness, has been committed to protecting Gold Butte and educating the public for the last 12 years; "In the last decade, I have seen what happens when fragile landscapes are left to those who don’t understand or appreciate the land’s values and beauty. I have seen ancient rock art destroyed by vandalism, and fragile desert soils damaged by thoughtless off-road vehicle use. I feel a commitment to do what I can so I can protect what is left of Gold Butte’s fragile beauty, so everyone can enjoy it." Friends of Nevada Wilderness have been campaigning for Gold Butte's recognition as a national conservation area for over a decade, the completion of which would permanently ensure protection from further damage or destruction. Knowing the threat Gold Butte is under threat made our volunteer day there ever more meaningful.
Early Saturday morning, we were met by our gracious hosts; Jose, Kurt, and Brian from Friends of Nevada Wilderness (and two lovely volunteers, Darren and Katie), before being whisked off into the wilderness. The raw beauty of the Mojave Desert is breathtaking. After a two-hour car ride on an extremely bumpy road, many of us were feeling tired and cramped- but every complaint instantly disappeared as we arrived at Gold Butte. It took us a few moments to fully absorb the massive primal landscape; gigantic rock formations peppered with the art of peoples past, the hills and valleys burnt orange by the blazing sun, the Joshua Trees standing defiantly against their harsh environment. But the most striking feature of the Mojave did not lie within our sight. It's completely, and totally, silent. The silence has a distinctive, peaceful quality; one that makes it easy to imagine the lives lived there by Native American cultures and early settlers. We could see nothing but desert and open sky. The bright sunlight illuminated the many shades of red, orange and tan of the hills and valleys, making each formation more unique than the last. Being fortunate enough to visit an area so untouched by modern development was grounding and awe inspiring. It was an incredible way to start our day of volunteer work!
"The desert was more beautiful than I ever thought a "barren wasteland" could be. Working with Friends of Nevada Wilderness showed me how intricate ecosystems are; how everything is alive and connected, right down to the dirt. It was astonishing to think that mere minutes away from the harmonious natural rustling we were making is Las Vegas." Karis Tindell
Jose from Friends of Nevada Wilderness took the time to explain each plant to us, including the traditional Native American uses for each one, its role in the desert ecosystem, and how to ensure its longstanding survival in such a harsh environment. After a few safety demonstrations, we suited up in hard hats and work gloves. The compacted and incredibly dry soil was difficult to break. We used shovels, pick axes- any large metal objects we could get our hands on! Once we were able to get the plants in the ground, we installed small plastic pipes so the water could reach the plants' roots. The earth was so dry that it was impossible to tell whether a plant had recently been watered. Gold Butte receives less than 13 inches of rain annually and can reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or 49 degrees Celsius), so it was crucial to the plant's survival that we give it a head start. Each plant was then surrounded by a small metal cage to protect it from predators during its infancy, (the desert tortoise in particular has been known to take a big, juicy bite out of the beavertail cactus!) Volunteers from Friends of Nevada Wilderness were on hand to support us in our planting and answer our many questions about Gold Butte.
After a short (and much needed) lunch break, we were back at it for the afternoon! Despite the sun exposure and physical labor involved, everyone was in great spirits. Our contest winners in particular planted each cactus with more enthusiasm than the last, eager to see the project through. Many of them expressed their disbelief about the experience, and joked around about what they'd be doing at home instead. Netflix marathon! Kid's soccer game! Cleaning the bathroom! Needless to say, everyone was grateful to see and contribute to such a deserving cause. When all was said and done, our team of ten volunteers had planted over 100 native plants! Looking out across the land that we had helped restore was a proud and joyous moment for all the volunteers.
"I really enjoyed working with the passionate and like-minded ladies out in the desert wilderness and in such an amazing environment. I can't wait to bring my daughter and husband out to the desert to see these plants in a few years' time!" Sophia Gin
Next up? A sunset hike! Brian and Kurt have such a genuine love for Gold Butte and preserving the landscape that it was hard not to be thrilled about hiking after a long day of planting. We were led along an unmarked path through the rock formations while Kurt excitedly told us about the history of Gold Butte and the petroglyphs, some almost 3000 years old, left by the original inhabitants of the land. The way Kurt and Brian swiftly navigated through the area without any markers or maps was nothing short of amazing. It was a clear testament to their many years hiking, photographing and volunteering in Gold Butte. We scrambled up and down the rocky terrain, stopping to debate what each petroglyph could have meant to the people living here so many years ago. Kurt led us to an opening in large rock face and encouraged us to squeeze through, saying, "It's like being reborn". What was waiting on the other side? A magnificent view of the endless Mojave Desert. We more or less just made sounds at the sight; words seemed too small.
As the sun sank below the mountains, we came together for hot chocolate and a few final words. Tricia, Erika and Pearl of the LUSH Charity Pot Team extended thanks to Friends of Nevada before Kurt addressed the group. Even though Kurt has led countless groups through the area, he was still clearly touched by the effort everyone made that day. I feel confident I can speak for the entire group when I say that Gold Butte and Friends of Nevada Wilderness left an indelible imprint on our hearts. If you're ever in the Las Vegas area, your visit would simply be incomplete without seeing one of the most beautiful and majestic places on earth; Gold Butte.
"If I could sum up my experience in one word it would be eye-opening (okay, more like two words!) I got to learn not just about plants but about the issues and goals other states and wildlife organizations work towards. It really made me see that work still needs to be done in my home state. I am very appreciative of this experience and opportunity from LUSH." Amber Warren
To find out how you can help protect Gold Butte, visit www.nevadawilderness.org