) The proposed Avi Kwa Ame (pronounced Ah-VEE kwa-ah-may) National Monument, home to our country’s biggest Joshua tree forest, now boasts Nevada’s largest Joshua tree. The Nevada Division of Forestry recently documented the Joshua tree’s size at 118 points[i]; 87 inches in diameter, 24 feet tall, and 28 feet wide. There are only two Joshua trees in the United States that are larger, both located in California’s Mojave National Preserve. The Nevada tree is located about three miles west of State Highway 164 on the East Wee Thump Backcountry Rd. Nevada’s previous big tree champ was located in Las Vegas and checked in at only 94 points.
“Joshua trees are as symbolic of the Mojave Desert as the Saguaro is for Arizona’s Sonoran Desert,” explains local conservationist Alan O’Neill, former superintendent of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. O’Neill and fellow conservationist Lisa Ortega suggested that the tree be measured for consideration. O’Neill and Ortega are also part of an initiative to make Avi Kwa Ame Nevada’s fourth national monument.
Avi Kwa Ame, Mojave for Spirit Mountain, has been under threat of industrial development. The proposed monument area includes about 380,000 acres of land sacred to 12 Native American tribes. “This land is at the center of the tribes’ creation stories and spiritual ideology. It is currently used for ceremonial activities,” says O’Neill, now an advisor with the National Parks Conservation Association. “A national monument designation would preserve the area’s cultural value and other resources. It would be a big win for Nevada.”
Avi Kwa Ame contains biologically diverse and culturally significant land, along with outdoor recreation like hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, camping and stargazing, and more. It’s also home to the historic Walking Box Ranch. Local, state, and national conservation groups such as The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Conservation Lands Foundation, and Get Outdoor Nevada have partnered with local tribes to secure a national monument designation to protect the area’s future. People interested in protecting the area can sign a petition at www.honorspiritmountain.org.
[i] Points are given for each inch of circumference, foot of height, and a ¼ point for each foot of crown spread.