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U.S. Senator Harry Reid helps
wilderness radicals screw rural Nevada.
By Tim Findley
To the millions of acres of the West gobbled up by federal decrees in 2000, add another 1.2 million acres of Nevadas Black Rock/High Rock Desert, snatched at the very last moment by one of the oldest tricks in the political swamp.
Nevadas senior U.S. Senator and Minority Whip, Harry Reid (D-NV),
made it possible to preserve the legacy of his retiring junior
colleague, Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV), by including Bryans
bill for a National Conservation Area (NCA) as a rider in the
final Senate Appropriations Bill of the 106th Congress.
That meant that at least 600,000 acres of the desert will be set
aside as a National Conservation Area and another 757,000 acres
as a wilderness administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
It comes without a single hearing in Congress and despite the
formal written protests of the Governor of Nevada and the elected
commissions of all but one of the states 17 counties. It instantly
doubled the size of officiated wilderness in the Silver State,
long known for its resistance to further federal control over
the 87 percent of its land mass already held as public property.
Opponents to the measure quickly branded Reids maneuver as a
blatant land grab, but conservationists, ecstatic over the unexpected
victory, joined Marge Sill of the Sierra Club in proclaiming that
Nevada is no longer the black hole of the Wilderness Movement.
Bryan, who was considered by many to have been seeking the bill
as a personal tribute to friends in the early campaigns to preserve
immigrant trails, insisted that multiple use, including grazing
and recreation, will continue to be permitted in the area. Opponents,
who always doubted any need for additional layers of federal control
over a region already almost entirely in BLM hands, questioned
whether such promises will last for long.
Senator Reid was considered by inside observers to have negotiated
the bill onto the essential appropriations measure by making a
deal with Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) to support Murkowski
on another Alaska lands issue.
Kevin Mack, a coordinator with the until-now struggling Nevada
Wilderness Project, pushed aside the nearly unanimous opposition
of the states counties as well as other members of its congressional
delegation to claim that the success was the result of new urbanization
in Las Vegas and Reno.
We represent the new face of Nevada, he boasted. We didnt
create the demand for these things. We just know there are more
and more people moving in here who want to protect the land.
Thanks to Reid, that question was never taken up either in congressional
hearings or by state ballot.
Last-minute-man Harry Reid is known for such tricks. His Public Law 101-618, stripping parts of Nevada of irrigation water, slipped by with the margin of a single vote at the worn-out end of the congressional session in 1990. It trades farms for wetlands. Without carrying a single rural county in his home state, Reid was narrowly re-elected in 1998 by a margin of some 500 votes. His advantage was in the blistering growth of Las Vegas.
For a more complete description of the Black Rock/High Rock region, see RANGE Fall 2000.
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