Guest column:

Preserving public land is imperative for Nevada


Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau

People enjoy the snow near entrance to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Thursday, February 21, 2019.

Editor’s note: The following column is a collaboration between Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, and Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford. It was submitted by Battle Born Progress, a nonprofit political advocacy organization based in Southern Nevada.

In Nevada, our public lands are a source of pride and joy. As representatives of our great Silver State, we share a deep appreciation for Nevada’s outdoor spaces, from the vermillion cliffs of Red Rock Canyon, to the world’s longest-living trees at Great Basin National Park, to the gleaming shores of Lake Tahoe.

Nevadans treasure our public lands and know they must be protected for future generations to enjoy.

We proudly voted for the historic Natural Resources Management Act, the most comprehensive and consequential public lands agreement in the past decade. After years of negotiation and compromise, the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support: It passed 92-8 in the Senate and 363-62 in the House, drawing support from 84 percent of the U.S. Congress. Together, we sent a clear signal that Congress understands the importance of finding common ground to preserve our natural wonders.

The Natural Resources Management Act includes several important provisions for the management and conservation of federal lands. It designates 1.3 million acres of wilderness, 600 miles of new national trails and 367 miles of wild and scenic rivers for protection. It provides increased technologies to more effectively and safely combat wildfires. It also includes two bills that will resolve land management issues in Storey and Lincoln counties, both sponsored by Sen. Cortez Masto and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Most important, this legislation includes the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a successful and integral conservation program. Since 1965, it has funded projects in national parks, wildlife refuges, historic sites, forests, neighborhood parks, recreational centers and sports fields in every county in the country. Nevada has received more than $100 million to support local parks and our federal public lands through the fund. Just last year, Nevada was awarded nearly $1 million in grants to fund improvement projects at five state and local parks.

The LWCF is not funded through taxpayer dollars, but through revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling leases. Yet while this bill provided permanent reauthorization, Congress must now work to fully fund the program. For Nevada, this is crucial: LWCF could bring millions more to our state and help grow our booming outdoor recreation industry.

Nevada’s outdoor recreation industry is a vibrant and vital component of our economy. In 2017, it supported nearly 90,000 direct jobs, spurred $12.6 billion in consumer spending and contributed $4 billion in wages and salaries along with $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenue in Nevada.

The passage of the Natural Resources Management Act was a victory for Nevada, our public lands and our state’s economy. It also provides a great blueprint for achieving important conservation goals.

We will continue to be strong advocates for Nevada’s land, water and wildlife, and will work with our colleagues across the aisle to expand and improve access to outdoor recreation opportunities. We also look forward to fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and strengthening this crucial program for Nevada’s parks and playgrounds.