Nevada needs the Public Lands Rule

Originally published in Las Vegas Sun May 21, 2024

By Mandi Elliott

Several weeks ago, the Bureau of Land Management released its long-awaited Public Lands Rule: After 40 years of prioritizing extractive industries, the agency can now put conservation, cultural resources protection, wildlife, and climate change mitigation on equal footing with energy extraction.

This rule has come at a critical time for Nevada, and I want to thank the agency, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the Biden administration, and folks who provided feedback that made the rule work for their communities. Nevada families are experiencing firsthand the impacts of climate change: longer and more severe droughts, a growing water shortage, and bigger wildfires. We need to safeguard the lands and waters that can mitigate this crisis and invest in renewable energy solutions where it makes sense for our water and wildlife.

While the Public Lands Rule can help reduce this boiling point, at the same time, it can also contribute to the outdoor recreation growth our state is experiencing. Two-thirds of Nevada’s land — 48 million acres — are managed by the BLM, and some of these areas offer the best places for people to hike, climb, mountain bike and ride OHVs, and other activities.

In fact, it was Nevada’s public lands that drew me here. Before moving, I lived in an area with virtually zero acres of public land. My family relocated to Nevada specifically for its outdoor access and diverse recreation opportunities, and our quality of life has skyrocketed as a result. I attribute this improvement almost entirely to outdoor recreation on public lands, a sentiment shared by many Nevadans. In Nevada, our lands influence every aspect of our communities — from our government to our businesses and, most importantly, the health and well-being of our residents.

This sentiment is seen time and time again when Nevadans are asked about how they feel about public land. According to a recent survey, 68% of Nevada voters would rather protect water, air, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities over drilling and mining. Additionally, after a 90-day comment period in which more than 150,000 people participated, 92% of public comments were in support.

And with that love for BLM lands comes economic benefits that pay us back in dividends. Businesses across the state depend on BLM lands for their livelihoods. This ranges from outfitters who help visitors near and far experience all that our great outdoors have to offer, local breweries and mom-and-pop shops, hotels and grocery stores, and others all understand that public lands are an integral part of their business model.

But don’t just take my word for it. In 2022, the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that outdoor recreation contributed $6.1 billion to the state’s economy, supporting 53,835 jobs. And now, thanks to the Public Lands Rule, Nevada can continue to harness the economic advantages that come from outdoor recreation.

Not only would the Public Lands Rule bolster our outdoor recreation economy, it would also safeguard Nevadans’ way of life. Many rural communities and renewable energy projects rely on BLM lands. And the rule would ensure that these folks can work hand-in-hand with their local BLM field offices to rebalance conservation and recreation with resource extraction and development.

I want to specifically thank Haaland and the Biden administration for working with Nevadans to craft a Public Lands Rule that works for Nevada. Now is the time for the BLM to implement it. Thankfully, the agency has a partner in our elected officials, like Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, who have long worked with the Interior Department to preserve some of Nevada’s most beloved places, like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Black Rock Desert. I look forward to seeing a more balanced BLM, so we can continue to explore and enjoy all that Nevada has to offer.

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