Keep public lands in public hands

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Below is PLAN state director Bob Fulkerson’s statement in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 1. Today at 12:45pm in Carson City and Las Vegas, rallies will be held in support of public lands. At 3:30pm today you can testify against SJR1 and in support of our public lands in Senate Legislative Operations committee hearing. Click here for details for providing testimony from Carson City, Las Vegas, or Elko.

Public lands are the crown jewels of our Republic. Selling them off is like eating the seeds, consuming for our own immediate selfish ends what rightfully belongs to our grandchildren. There is nothing more American than public lands, and we in Nevada are blessed with the last of the best of what’s left. These great wide-open, unfenced swaths are the envy of the world. In most other places, if you want to hunt or fish, you’d better be a rich person with membership in a private club.

Testimony in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 1, March 2, 2015.

Thomas Jefferson said we hold the land “in usufruct.” It is a fundamentally American value to protect wild and natural areas from destruction so that our children can experience the “uncontaminated purity and value of nature”.

By taking away our public lands, we revert closer to pre-Revolutionary War European values, when hunting or fishing on the King’s land could be punishable by hanging. Today, these lands are open to and owned by all, rich or poor. And they remain out of cash-strapped Nevada’s reach to sell off for quick industrialization or to the 1% seeking to fashion themselves as new Lords of the Manor.

I’m a 5th-generation Nevadan. I have hiked, biked, fished, hunted, camped, and backpacked all over this big beautiful state. I love driving to the end of the dirt road, finding a trail, and going into wild and open places as far as my legs and food will allow.

I’ve also lived for several years on the east coast. I tried to get out on the land there whenever I could. But instead of trails and wild open places, here’s what you find in states without federal public lands:

“NO TRESSPSASSING!” It means you and I are fenced out. It is the victory sign of ALEC and the Sagebrush Rebellion. And these signs will be springing up like mushrooms if SJR 1 is implemented, as more corporations wring short-term profits our of our wild places.

If we convert federal public lands to state lands in places like the Pequop Mountains, they’ll be off limits to you and me quicker than you can say Newmont Mining Corporation.

In addition, Nevada has demonstrated it is incapable of safeguarding our precious water, land, wildlife and other resources without federal intervention. If no federal lands are impacted, there’s no need for the National Environmental Policy Act to mandate a thorough review prior to making decisions. That is a developer’s dream. It also helps grease the skids for unprecedented abuses like the Las Vegas Water Grab.

Since no federal agencies will be involved in managing state lands, it will fall on state agencies to do oversight. Let’s look at how well that’s working currently:

The Division of Minerals is run by a commission comprised of those who profit from extractive industries. According to their website, the agency “is responsible for administering programs and activities to promote, advance, and protect mining and the development and production of petroleum and geothermal resources in Nevada.” Guess which agency is also responsible for inspecting and regulating Nevada’s emerging fracking industry? The Division of Minerals.

The real impetus behind this effort is opening up more lands in Nevada for private plunder. Americans should never surrender the keys to the lockbox that holds our nation’s crown jewels.

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