Make no bones about it: Nevada is getting a national monument at the northern edge of the Las Vegas Valley.
President Barack Obama made it official Friday when he signed a massive package of legislation that included the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.
The 22,650-acre tract bordered by the cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, unincorporated Clark County, the Las Vegas Paiute Indian Reservation and the Desert National Wildlife Refuge now falls under the government’s preservation umbrella as a unit of the national park system.
It is Nevada’s only national monument, though not its first. Lehman Caves in White Pine County was protected as a national monument from 1922 until 1986, when the caves became part of the newly designated Great Basin National Park.
The Tule Springs area is prized by scientists for its wealth of fossils from a vast cross-section of time, which allows researchers to study climate change and its impact on ice age animals through the past quarter million years or so. Already the chalky hills along the upper Las Vegas wash have yielded evidence of extinct mammoths, horses, camels, bison, llamas, lions and ground sloths the size of grizzly bears.
The legislation was rolled into the annual defense authorization bill and passed by Congress last week. The wide-ranging package signed Friday by the president also creates new wilderness areas in Lyon and Humboldt counties, carves out land for a new UNLV campus in North Las Vegas and opens thousands of acres for economic development around the state.
The Tule Springs portion of the bill had bipartisan backing from Nevada’s congressional delegation and enthusiastic support from a broad coalition of state and local government entities, conservationists and business leaders.
Contact Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350. Find him on Twitter: @RefriedBrean.