Guy W. Farmer: A new national monument for Nevada
I don’t usually agree with my Reno friend Ty Cobb on anything related to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. Cobb thinks Yucca Mountain is good for Nevada. I think it’s a disaster. I’m making an exception today, however, by agreeing with Cobb and prolific Nevada author/historian Stanley Paher on creation of the new 704,000-acre Basin and Range National Monument in southeastern Nevada.
Cobb and Paher last Sunday co-authored an opinion piece for a Reno newspaper arguing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pushed Basin and Range legislation through Congress in a continuing effort to block the Yucca Mountain dump.
Although I applaud Reid for blocking the dump, I disagree with the high-handed way he created the new monument, which smacks of inside-Washington politics. His bill sailed through Congress and was signed by President Obama without any meaningful consultation with the state of Nevada.
“What the designation does is halt mining development and prevents construction of a proposed railroad to transport nuclear waste to the Yucca repository,” wrote Cobb and Paher, accusing Reid and state officials of creating “numerous budgetary and bureaucratic impediments to the transfer of spent nuclear fuel to Yucca.” Cobb and Paher went on to predict “the project will likely move forward once Reid leaves office” in January 2017. I hope not.
Nevertheless, I think Cobb and Paher made a valid point when they complained about the way Reid shoved this legislation through Congress. They were joined by Congressman Mark Amodei, a Carson City Republican, who wrote the Basin and Range Monument designation “was preceded not by a public, transparent democratic process, but by a conversation between Senator Reid and the president on Air Force One. . . . In order to bypass a proven, consensus-driven approach, the president used the Antiquities Act of 1906, which has been abused by presidents of both parties.”
I also agree with Amodei, even though he’s soft on Yucca Mountain.
Although Amodei, Cobb and Paher contend there’s “nothing special” about the new national monument, supporters claim it will be an ecologically significant area that will provide “a significant boost to Nevada’s economy” by attracting tourists. One supporter, venture capitalist Nancy Pfund, wrote “Basin and Range is home to thousands of archaeological sites and critical wildlife habitat for elk, mule deer, sage grouse and other species, and provides myriad outdoor recreation opportunities.” Well, maybe.
Amodei, Cobb and Paher downplay tourist prospects for the new monument, and the congressman commented as follows: “If Basin and Range is as wonderful as its proponents say, it could withstand public scrutiny as Pine Forest or Tule Springs did. But we don’t have answers to these questions because two political pals . . . decided they know better than the people who live there.” I’m with Amodei on this one because all too often Washington bureaucrats and politicians impose their will on sovereign states despite the Tenth Amendment, which clearly reserves all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government to the states.
This discussion revives the festering issue of federal ownership and management of more than 85 percent of Nevada’s land area. I’ve advocated federal-state negotiations to turn over some federal land to our state. Former Bureau of Land Management spokesman Bob Stewart recently reminded me these vast tracts were never “Nevada lands.” That’s true, but I still think it’s unconscionable for the Feds to control so much of our total land area. After all, this is a Republic, not a Washington, D.C.-based monarchy.
Bottom line: More Nevada officials and citizens should have been consulted before Basin and Range National Monument was created.
Guy W. Farmer has been an adopted Nevadan since 1962.