When people talk about eco-tourism, it most likely calls to mind
visions of lush forests or dense jungles. While verdant landscapes may
get the most attention from environmentally conscious travellers,
starker wilderness can still be the subject of green travel. Nevada
hopes to capture some of the benefits of an eco-tourism boost by
designating a sprawling desert as a new national monument, The
Associated Press reported.
Piece of prehistory
Nevada's new monument, known as the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, is a more than 90-square-kilometer area of the desert that's a major source of fossils. Jill DeStefano, head of Protectors of Tule Springs, told the source that paleontologists have been interested in the site since the early 20th century. Fossils found in Tule Springs include ancient camels, giant sloths, bison and American lions. In the 1950s, archaeologists found possible evidence of human habitation dating from 28,000 years ago.
The site was designated as a national monument in a spending bill passed by Congress and a few weeks later, a ceremony was held to recognize the new site. At the ceremony, Senator Harry Reid and Representatives Dina Titus and Steven Horsford received plaster replicas of a foot-long mammoth tooth once found in the area. The original was dated to be around 16,000 years old.
A long time coming
For some in Nevada, the struggle to designate the national monument must have felt like it took nearly as long.
"Like a snail, this moved so slowly," Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Along with government officials, paleontologists and local business groups had also been pushing for the designation for years. For paleontologists, the move offers a chance to preserve important artifacts from prehistory and keep interest in further expeditions high, while for businesses it provides a chance to tap into revenue from new tourists. Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce President Kristin McMillan said that the site could boost United States travel from visitors around the globe interested in environmental tourism, according to the Sun. That money could help keep scientists in the area at work, leading the area to make even more important discoveries.
The Bureau of Land Management, which currently controls the site, is expected to turn ownership over to the National Park Service. No definite plans have been announced for what shape the monument will take or when the new site will be open to visitors.