August 24, 2020

Cortez Masto Hosts Virtual Legislative Briefing on Bills to Ban Oil and Gas Drilling on the Ruby Mountains, Prohibit Oil and Gas Speculation on Low Potential Lands

Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today hosted a virtual legislative briefing with national and Nevada stakeholders on the status of her End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act and Ruby Mountains Protection Act. During the legislative briefing, Senator Cortez Masto heard from large retailers like Patagonia, Nevada outdoor guides and other small business owners, local government officials, Tribal leaders, representatives from state agencies and advocates on the importance of managing public lands and protecting natural treasures like the Ruby Mountains from oil and gas leasing. Senator Cortez Masto’s legislation prohibits oil and gas leasing on public lands that are determined by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have low or no potential for development and bans drilling on 450,000 acres of the National Forest System district land comprising the Ruby Mountain Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

“In Nevada, our outdoor recreation and tourism industries are the bedrock of our economy,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Now more than ever, we should be doing everything we can to protect our public lands and natural spaces so Nevadans can get outdoors safely and responsibly. I’d like to thank the folks that came together today to discuss with me the urgency of passing the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing and Ruby Mountains Protection Acts. These bills would not only help protect Nevada’s already fragile economy, they would also save taxpayers money by ensuring that BLM isn’t wasting effort on trying to lease lands with no or low potential for oil and gas drilling. I’ll continue fighting alongside these dedicated community members and businesses to make sure these bills become law.”

“Oil and gas leasing is drawing closer and closer to landscapes cherished by our Tribe like the Ruby Mountains, threatening our irreplaceable cultural heritage and the lands we love,” said Joseph Holley, Te-Moak Tribal Chairman and Battle Mountain Band Council Member. “I applaud Senator Cortez Masto for her efforts to safeguard Nevada’s public lands through bills like the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act and the Ruby Mountains Protection Act. We need better protections like these if we want future generations to inherit and appreciate the landscapes we hold dear the way they are meant to be, without permanent scars from unchecked oil and gas development.”

“The Bureau of Land Management should be ensuring our public lands are accessible for multiple uses like hunting and fishing,” said Pam Harrington, Nevada Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The proposed expansion of oil and gas drilling near the Ruby Mountains was a reckless plan that would have harmed Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy and threatened precious fish and wildlife habitats. This is especially reckless during the COVID-19 pandemic when access to public lands is more important than ever before. Thankfully, Senator Cortez Masto has proposed two straightforward bills that would put an end to speculative leasing, prioritize public lands for their multiple uses, and keep our most critical conservation areas near the Ruby Mountains accessible to all.” 

“Outdoor recreation is the lifeblood of Nevada’s communities, which generates more than $12 billion in consumer spending every year and supports 87,000 jobs across the state. And these days we know that people are turning to outdoor recreation in even greater numbers,” said Meghan Wolf, Environmental Activism Manager at Patagonia. “The Trump administration's push to lease any and every acre of public lands to oil and gas companies, regardless of their energy potential, fundamentally undermines outdoor recreation and local economies across the state. Thankfully, Senator Cortez Masto’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2020 would level the playing field and put an end to this reckless practice. Public lands in Nevada, with low potential for development, shouldn’t sit idle for years in the hands of the oil and gas industry, with Senator Cortez Masto’s bill they will remain open and accessible for Nevadans to continue to live, work, and play on for years to come.”

“Outdoor recreation in Nevada fuels businesses like mine and generates billions of dollars a year in consumer spending in the state. The Ruby Mountains, and the local recreation economy they help support should never have been put on the chopping block in the first place, but we can make sure that doesn’t happen again here or anywhere else by supporting Senator Cortez Masto’s Ruby Mountains Protection Act and the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act,” Joe Doucette, Elko Fly Shop Owner. “These bills would ensure Nevada’s irreplaceable landscapes and our public lands across the country are managed for conservation and recreation and keep oil and gas leasing where resources can actually be produced.” 

BACKGROUND:

In November 2019, the Senator urged the BLM to reconsider plans to open up 500,000 acres of land to oil and gas leasing in Southern Nevada, citing potential damage and disruption of critical water sources, along with the general lack of interest and low demand from the oil and gas industry. Much of the proposed parcels were ultimately withdrawn from the lease sale offering. 

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