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Congressional Record, Volume 131, Number 32, March 20, 1985



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United Stale* tf America Congressional "Record tb PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 99 CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION Vol 131 WASHINGTON, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 1985 No. 32 Senate By Mr. LAXALT (for himself and Mr. Hecht): S. 722. A bill to designate certain national forest system lands in the State of Nevada for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. NEVADA WILDERNESS ACT ? Mr. HECHT. Mr. President, today I am privileged to join my senior colleague, Senator Laxalt, in introducing legislation to designate certain national forest lands in Nevada for inclusion in the National Wilderness System. A similar bill is being introduced in the House by Congress woman Vucano vich, and we hope this legislation will receive the prompt and favorable endorsement of Congress. The State of Nevada is one of the few remaining States to adopt a State Wilderness Act. The reasons for this are many, but foremost among them is the fact that most Nevadans are very suspicious and even hostile toward proposals aimed at restricting their access to Nevada's public lands. The citizens of Nevada are still reeling from the ill- conceived MX "racetrack" proposal of the late 1970's. We are now grappling with a number of controversial land use proposals, ranging from nuclear waste and military land withdrawals to several Federal wilderness proposals covering millions of acres of our State's land base. Mr. President, we are constantly reminded of our public land statistics and the resource compromise we must make in our daily decisions. Of Nevada's 70.2 million acre land base, only 18 percent is held in State or private ownership. The other 82 percent is owned by the Federal Government. And within this 82, there is a potential 10 percent of these lands withdrawn from mineral entry. The national forest wilderness designations we are proposing today represent only a small fraction of the acreage proposed by the Sierra Club and 'other national conservation groups. ! Let me say at the outset that our legislation is not a repudiation of these groups' views, but rather, it reflects our recognition that national forest wilderness must be viewed in the broader perspective of the other proposed restrictions?including National Wildlife Refuge and BLM wilderness areas?which must be dealt with in the near future. Today's legislation is, of necessity, a conservative wilderness bill. To the uninitiated, Nevada's Great Basin appears to be a barren, high elevation desert between the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain Ranges. This is a false Impression, and anyone who has ventured even a few miles from Nevada's cities or Interstate highways will quickly tell you that the beauty of our national forests is one of the best-kept secrets in the American West. 2 The dozens of discontinuous mountain ranges that ripple across our State, like so many waves in a sea, harbor some of the most unique alpine ecological zones in the world. Due to this alternating basin and range topog-' raphy, Nevada's mountains are home to numerous rare subspecies of plants and animals. One can also find pristine trout streams, desert bighorn sheep, and the majestic bristlecone pine, the oldest living organism on our entire planet. Today's legislation will ensure the preservation of a representatives grouping of these spectacular national forest areas. On the other hand, the Silver State is also richly endowed with an abundance of rare and precious minerals, many of which are known to occur in and adjacent to proposed wilderness areas. Since the 1850's, Nevada has been a leader in the domestic production of gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, molybdenum, tungsten, mercury, and flourspar. Mining is the backbone of Nevada's rural economy, and today we are experiencing an exploration "boom" which is unrivaled in the entire inter-mountain West. The future of Nevada's entire rural economy is dependent on the continued multiple-use of our Federal lands. With the public lands exempted from local property taxation, revenues for local schools, roads, and public services must come from the careful multiple-use development of our Federal lands. All of us in the Nevada congressional delegation believe strongly in the diversification of our State's economy. I dare say, however, that no one believes we should forsake our mining and ranching heritage in the indiscriminate rush to create wilderness preserves. Wilderness designation requires a careful balancing of these competing interests, and I believe that the introduction of today's legislation is a solid first step toward achieving such a balance. In closing, let me reiterate my belief that this legislation is right for the people of Nevada and our Nation. To quote the famous conservationist Aldo Leopold: At thing is right only when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the community; and the community includes the soil, water, fauna, and flora, as well as the people. As this legislation begin the long process of committee review, public hearings, markups, and floor action, I urge my colleagues not to forget the people of Nevada. They are the ones who must ultimately live with the decisions we make in this body.?