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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
July 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Opinion
by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
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Protecting Our Public Lands for Ourselves, and for Future Generations

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

Nevadans have good reason to be fiercely protective of our public lands. From the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe in the north to the striking red sandstone canyons in the south, Nevada’s natural beauty is unparalleled. When I first encountered the wonder of the outdoors, I was still a young child. As kids, my dad took me and my sister all over the state; hiking, camping, rock-climbing, and bird watching. He loved nature and wanted us to discover its magic. My love for Nevada’s open spaces has stayed with me throughout my life and it’s only grown as I’ve learned more and developed a deeper appreciation of the immense benefits our public lands have to offer. Nevada’s public lands fuel our economy. They create jobs, keep us healthy, and are living testaments to our Western heritage.

While tourists from around the world come to Nevada to participate in outdoor activities, adding millions of dollars to our economy each year, Northern Nevadans have year-round access to our state’s many and varied recreation sites. Hiking in the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area or fishing at Pyramid Lake are both perfect day trips. For seniors, hiking is a great way to improve heart health, muscle strength, flexibility and agility, and hiking trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete.

Nevada’s public lands are an important resource for all generations and must be preserved so our children and grandchildren can learn about conservation and our state’s rich history. Young Nevadans can view Nevada’s mining history up close by exploring Virginia City and the surrounding Comstock National Historic District, or by connecting with nature through day camps and junior ranger programs at the Galena Creek Recreation Area. Yet sadly, today’s children are spending less time outdoors than any generation in history.

I believe that we must return to our roots and promote the hands-on learning experiences that come from direct interactions with nature, which cannot be recreated in a classroom.

Unfortunately, the threat of losing our public lands looms large under the current Administration. Last year, President Trump directed the Department of the Interior to review all national monuments designated in the past 20 years—a list that includes Nevada’s Gold Butte and Basin and Range.

In response, the Trump administration has recommended large-scale reductions to the size of two national monuments in Utah, opening these once protected lands to oil and gas leasing. President Trump and Interior Secretary Zinke have also recommended extreme budget cuts to some of our nation’s most crucial conservation programs and to our National Parks system, all while proposing outrageous price hikes for National Park entrance fees.

I have fought against attempts to make our public lands less accessible, demanded that this Administration allow our kids to explore the great out-doors, and championed environmental protections for our public spaces. I have spoken out against proposed oil and gas leasing in the Ruby Mountains, budget cuts to the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, and I have cosponsored the Antiquities Act of 2018 to continue protecting the wild outdoor spaces we love.

As we celebrate Independence Day, we should honor our public lands and the important role they play in Nevada’s and our nation’s history. Our public lands were protected by President Theodore Roosevelt over a century ago out of a desire to preserve our natural history for centuries and generations to come. Our public lands belong to all of us. They belong to seniors who love calm, pristine places for hiking, biking and fishing, and they belong to our young children, who deserve the same experiences and connections to the land that generations before them have enjoyed.

In Nevada, “don’t fence me in” is a way of life. I will work tirelessly with my colleagues to preserve Nevada’s public lands. I honor my special responsibility to protect access to public lands for current and future Nevadans. To do otherwise would be a profound disservice to our country, our children, and our grandchildren. The public has shown overwhelming support for the protection of these public lands and national monuments, and I stand with Nevadans in defending our legacy.