June 16, 2021

At Senate Legislative Hearing, Cortez Masto Advocates for Passage of Critical Nevada Lands Bills

Washington, D.C. – While chairing today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee legislative hearing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) highlighted the urgent need to pass her legislation to protect and conserve public lands across Nevada and promote sustainable and responsible growth in Clark County. During the hearing, Cortez Masto called for the passage of her Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act to protect over 2 million acres of public land for conservation and recreation while allowing Clark County to develop affordable housing and responsibly plan for population growth. She also called for swift action on her Ruby Mountains Protection Act to prohibit oil and gas development in Nevada’s pristine Ruby Mountains. 

“Nevada is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, in large part because of the appeal of living, working in, and enjoying Nevada’s stunning landscapes,” said Cortez Masto. We need to make sure that as more people move to the region, we are able to grow in a way that prioritizes the conservation of our precious public lands while combating climate change and promoting affordable housing development. I’ll continue working on collaborative, locally-driven solutions that will keep Nevada welcoming to adventurers, entrepreneurs, and families and preserve the spaces and culture that make our state special.”

The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act would protect over 2 million acres of public land for conservation and recreation while allowing Clark County to develop affordable housing and responsibly plan for population growth projections. Southern Nevada is projected to add another 820,000 residents by 2060, and Cortez Masto is focused on making sure the region can grow responsibly while prioritizing conservation. This bipartisan legislation is the largest conservation bill in Nevada history and is cosponsored by the entire Nevada delegation, including Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Representatives Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.-02), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.-04), and Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03).

During the hearing, Cortez Masto questioned Marci Henson, Director of the Clark County Department of Environment and Sustainability, about the urgency of this legislation.

“Clark County would expect if this bill were not to pass that growth and development would be much more unpredictable and uncoordinated,” Henson responded. “We could expect to see land prices spike, our housing crisis would be exacerbated, out economy would hit another wall, and lands that should have been protected would have been left exposed and further degraded. And so why we need this bill, is because our lands use and planning goals here in Southern Nevada surpass what can even be done in an updated resource management plan, and require federal legislation.”

Cortez Masto went on to ask Jocelyn Torres, Senior Field Director at the Conservation Lands Foundation, about how critical this legislation would be to conservation advancements in the region. 

“I think we all know we’re facing a climate and biodiversity crisis, and that our region is still recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic. We see this bill as providing the balanced approach to addressing the economic and conservation needs of the area. We know it’ll permanently protect close to two million acres of public land in Southern Nevada while addressing climate and the local economy. And these protections would create the connectivity that our sensitive species need to adapt to the changing climate,” said Torres.

The bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by the State of Nevada, Clark County, Moapa Band of Paiutes, City of Las Vegas, City of Henderson, City of Boulder City, City of Mesquite, Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Clark County Regional Flood Control District, Clark County Reclamation District, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nevada System of Higher Education, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Nevada State College, College of Southern Nevada, Battle Born Progress, Conservation Lands Foundation, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, Get Outdoors Nevada, Nevada Conservation League, Nevada Wildlife Federation, Old Spanish Trail Association, Pew Charitable Trusts, Protectors of Tule Springs, Save Red Rock, National Wildlife Refuge Association, The Wilderness Society, Nevada Housing Coalition, Nevada HAND, Inc., AFL-CIO (Nevada State), Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, Latin Chamber of Commerce – Las Vegas, Mormon Women for Ethical Government, NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association of Southern Nevada, National Association of Home Builders, Native Voters Alliance of Nevada, Nevada Subcontractors Association, Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, and Urban Chamber of Commerce. A full list of major stakeholder endorsements can be found here.

The Ruby Mountains Protection Act, which is cosponsored by Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), would withdraw approximately 450,000 acres of National Forest System land, comprising the Ruby Mountain Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, from any eligibility for oil and gas leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act. The bill would also expand this same protection to the 39,926 acre Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.