GUEST COLUMN:

In fight to protect wildlife refuge, Nevada voices won’t be ignored

Nevada has been united in the cause to protect and preserve its public lands.

Environmentalists, Native American communities, veterans groups and entrepreneurs alike have expressed their strong position to conserve our precious wildlife and natural areas. Despite our state’s collective agreement, out-of-state federal lawmakers have ignored our voices and actively endanger our natural environment.

From conflict over creating a nuclear waste repository in Nevada’s backyard to risking the safety of our treasured desert habitat, Congress has continually attempted to undermine Nevada interests. These are direct threats to the people and land in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, and I will not let that happen.

This month, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to allow the U.S. Air Force to manage the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. This amendment would guarantee the management of 840,000 acres of the refuge to the Air Force and exclude the Fish and Wildlife Service’s primary jurisdiction over the land it should control. An expansion of the Air Force’s training range would amount to a land grab detrimental to our state’s environmental and conservation efforts, and restrict access to the public.

I am proud that my district is home to Nevada’s four military installations, and I understand the critical role our brave service members play in protecting our national security. However, there must be a balance of conservation and a strong national defense.

I recently introduced an amendment to the NDAA that gives the Department of the Interior primary jurisdiction over the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, increases access for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tribal communities, and allows the military to conduct critical missions necessary to protect our national security. Horsford Amendment 342 also establishes an intergovernmental committee to improve range management and ensures that Nevada interests are consulted throughout the entire process.

I’m pleased to report that Monday, the full House approved a version of the NDAA that contained my amendment.

Bishop’s amendment was wrong for Nevada and wrong for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The community I represent will not allow outside forces to decide the future of their home, and I will continue to work on my constituents’ behalf. That is why I secured passage of my measure to guarantee full protection for the refuge and ensure Nevadans are consulted and prioritized.

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., was reelected in 2018 to the state’s 4th Congressional District seat, which he had held from 2013 to 2015.