Kate Marshall guest col: Find the happy medium between conservation and development

Nevadans have always identified with wide open spaces, stark desert mountains, and the vast public lands that provide us with abundant wildlife, and recreational opportunities that most states only wish they had. From Reno or Carson City, it takes mere minutes to escape the sidewalks and strip malls and experience the great outdoors. Our connection to those scenic vistas and endless horizons are worth promoting and conserving for the benefit of our heritage, our local economy, and our quality of life.

The BLM’s Carson City District, which encompasses the public lands across most of west-central Nevada, is currently making decisions about what lands will be open to development and what lands will remain accessible in their natural state for the next 20 years or more. As a person who moved to Nevada in part because of its access to the outdoors, I believe the decisions the agency makes and the areas it conserves will affect the quality of life we have, here, in Northern Nevada. Fortunately, public land management plans such as the one for the Carson City District come with a number of opportunities for the public to provide input on how our shared public lands should be managed.

Late last year, BLM released a draft management plan for the district’s public lands and we know that in the near future they will issue a final plan based on, in part, the comments of our community. Key decisions will be made about where new solar farms may be built, what lands will be managed for open space and primitive recreation, and where new future mining can take place. While BLM supports intensive development in limited places, what is often overlooked is the economic value of leaving portions of our public lands accessible for all to enjoy.

It is well documented that preserving public lands benefits tourism and outdoor recreation businesses, which in turn benefit all of us. According to a 2012 report by the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Nevada produced $14.9 billion in revenue annually and is responsible for 148,000 jobs. Backing up the Outdoor Industry numbers, the Small Business Majority pointed out in a report released earlier this year that public lands are especially important to creating jobs for new small businesses.

It’s important for us — and the BLM — to recognize the value of open spaces for our economic prosperity, as well as for our quality of life. While it’s difficult to put a price tag on the beauty of a sunset at Petersen Mountain, the silhouette of bighorn sheep in the Excelsior Range, or the flutter of sage grouse in the Clan Alpine Range, these experiences are free for all of us and should be cherished as a unique part of Nevada’s heritage. It is for these reasons that I urge the BLM to provide management protections to the remaining wild places of Nevada. We must keep these unique landscapes free from the bulldozer blades that may mark progress elsewhere. By contrast, in these special places, progress will be measured by how we protect our land for future generations.

The BLM has the tools at its disposal to do what is right for our wild places. In places that provide outstanding opportunities for recreation, solitude, and backcountry experiences, the BLM should ensure that no power-line, no mine, no tracking or wind farm sullies what we can enjoy today and what our children should be able to enjoy tomorrow. We don’t need to choose between conservation and development—there is plenty of room to accommodate both needs in Nevada. Let’s come together to protect our Western way of life.

Kate Marshall is a former state Treasurer. She can be reached at Kate@KateforNevada.com.


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