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WSF: Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, Stay Vigilant

March 29, 2023

As the nation rightfully celebrates the designation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada, the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) remains hopeful that provisions for public recreation, including hunting and fishing, and allowances for access for wildlife management, stay at the forefront.

“We appreciate the White House’s willingness to engage us as hunter-conservationists on this issue,” said WSF President and CEO Gray N. Thornton. “However, we will remain vigilant to ensure successful wildlife management in this desert ecosystem continues. We are encouraged that President Biden has directed the Department of Interior to collaborate with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for managing this area,” added Thornton.

National Monument proclamations designate federal lands for their cultural, scientific, or historical value. Since 1906, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law, 131 National Monuments have been proclaimed. Nearly every president since has used this power, and President Biden is no different. The Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, Nevada’s fourth, covers more than 500,000 acres of federal public lands that will continue to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This land is prime habitat for Nevada’s state mammal, the desert bighorn sheep, and is a sacred place to 12 Native American Tribes.

Thanks to input from WSF, the Fraternity for the Desert Bighorn, and other partners, hunting will still be allowed in the borders of Avi Kwa Ame…. unlike the Castle Mountains National Monument on the other side of the Nevada-California border. Regular and necessary maintenance of water catchment guzzlers for desert bighorn sheep and other desert-dwelling wildlife, including using helicopters in inaccessible areas for this maintenance, as well as for other wildlife management actions, should continue.

Accessible water is critical for wildlife, especially in a predominantly arid state like Nevada. Aerial surveys are one thing, but the ability to land a helicopter to service water catchments or capture, GPS collar, and conduct health assessments on bighorn sheep are what have brought these animals back to sustainable populations. The final language of the proclamation and accompanying Fact Sheets direct that existing guzzlers may be expanded, new ones may be built, and helicopters may be used for aerial surveys.

“The allowance for public hunting to continue is a huge win, but when it comes to legislation, “may” isn’t a very reassuring word,” said Thornton. “We’ve seen in the past when these points aren’t explicitly spelled out; they are subject to interpretations and court rulings where “may” also means “may not.”

The proclamation also directs the Department of Interior to ‘expeditiously explore’ an MOU between the BLM and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW). However, WSF understands that the development of such an MOU has already been underway for several years. The hope is that this proclamation will expedite this process.

“Hopefully, the details of these conservation actions can be worked out in this MOU process,” Thornton explained. “WSF and our partners in Nevada will continue to stay involved in the Monument planning process to ensure this new National Monument fully encompasses the national treasure it is and the wildlife dwelling there.”

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