Nevada’s Public Lands – Rare, Endangered and Worth Protecting
By Bill Huggins, Member At-Large, Nevada Green Party Executive Committee
Protecting Nevada’s public lands is essential to our future. In the Green Party Platform’s Ecology Section III, Under G, 12 – 18, the party position on public lands management is laid out: repeal outdated mining laws; oppose sales of National Parks, National Forests, public coastlines; ensure public ownership of remaining natural resources; restore damaged ecosystems; abolish Wildlife Services, especially the predator control division. Anyone aware of the current and coming ecological crisis should be able to get on board with these principles.
Nevada Green Party Support
The Nevada Green Party fully supports protecting Nevada’s public lands and beyond. In a rapidly developing world, open space is disappearing at a frightening rate. The Center for American Progress reported that “every two and a half minutes the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development.” In a warming world, we will need these open spaces to rebuild habitat and repair the damage poor economic policies and fossil fuels have done to the planet. Our future has to be one of wiser development. We need these remaining areas to stay open and wild.
Every two and a half minutes the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development.”
Wilderness areas are perfect carbon sinks. Whether grasslands, taiga, or dense forest, any undeveloped area benefits the world by pulling CO2 from the air. Grasslands respond actively to increased carbon in the atmosphere: microbes in the soil pull in and sequester CO2in the ground. While most people realize that trees and larger plants can pull much carbon from the air, the idea that open grasslands can also actively remove carbon from the air comes as a surprise to some people. But it proves the point of the value of setting aside large landscapes not only for wildlife and primitive recreational purposes. This form of carbon sequestration is a scientifically proven method.
We have been very good at setting aside beautiful mountain scenery, less good at keeping the connectivity of plains and basins between ranges. Besides the added benefit of helping draw down atmospheric CO2, allowing animals to move across those spaces to keep genetic variety should be a primary concern. Scientists believe a minimum of 160 animals of a species is the absolute minimum to maintain genetic diversity—without these linkages to ensure diversity, a species will inbreed and die out. 50% of wildlife has disappeared from the planet over the last 40 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund, primarily due to habitat loss. Protecting what little remains of open space would help keep the wild animals we have alive and on the ground and provide future opportunities for restoration of endangered and threatened species. This should include restoring predators to their niches. The example of wolves in Yellowstone National Park stands as a seminal example of what predators can do to help a landscape heal.
We should also oppose energy developments on Nevada’s public lands, both renewable and fossil fuels. The era of fossil fuels must come to an end. We need a nationwide ban on fracking and fossil fuel extraction, especially on public lands. Yet we should also oppose photo-voltaic development. Solar fields, beneficial as they are at keeping extra carbon from the atmosphere, take up vast tracts of open space and deplete aquifers, especially in arid landscapes like our desert southwest. Solar farms disrupt wildlife and are fatal for many species, including birds. We could power entire cities with rooftop solar. We need to change the culture of how our energy system works, modernize our grid, and make our public utilities truly public—not just beneficial to the public but publicly owned. Creating energy for profit must become a thing of the past.
We in Nevada are lucky to live in a state with so much open space. We should respect, protect, and expand it. Allowing it to be privatized, for whatever reason, can only diminish our wild legacy, up to and including being denied access from areas that are owned by all Nevadans and Americans alike. Privatization only benefits a small few who already have more than enough. We need to protect these places for all of us—human and nonhuman alike.