Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid today made the following statement in advance of the 18th annual National Public Lands Day, which is being celebrated in Nevada and across the United States tomorrow, Saturday, September 24:
“Nevada boasts some of the most rugged and diverse landscapes in the United States and provides a consistently reliable source of natural resources that fuel our local, state and national economies. Throughout Nevada, the burgeoning renewable energy industry on public lands has provided a variety of new job-creating economic opportunities. Harnessing the solar, wind, and geothermal resources in Nevada and throughout the country will bolster our country’s economic and energy security, now and in the decades and centuries to come, while putting Nevadans back to work.”
Below is Senator Reid’s statement for the record as submitted:
Mr. President, I rise today in recognition of the 18th annual National Public Lands Day, which will be celebrated on Saturday, September 24. I am pleased to acknowledge the efforts of volunteers across our nation who will come together to improve and restore one of America’s most valuable treasures, our public lands.
National Public Lands Day started in 1994 with 700 volunteers working in just a few locations. This year more than 180,000 volunteers will come together to work at more than 2,000 locations across all 50 states. These people come from all walks of life, holding a shared interest in protecting our public lands for the enjoyment of future generations. National Public Lands Day provides an annual opportunity for the American public to devote a day to conservation and to give back to the public lands that give so much to us.
Our nation has a proud tradition of conservation. When Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, it was the world’s first national park. The idea of a national park was an American invention of historic proportions that led the way for global conservation efforts. President Teddy Roosevelt, one of our earliest and most energetic conservationists, dedicated 194 million acres of national parks and national preserves over the course of his presidency. As we look ahead to enhance our nation’s conservation agenda, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has enlisted Congress to identify the “crown jewels” of public lands that will be part of our legacy for future generations.
Public lands make up more than one third of our country, and are places of continuous discovery, where we go to find ourselves, to uncover our history, and to explore for resources that help improve our quality of life. Our public lands provide wide open spaces, deep forests, dramatic vistas, and opportunities for solitude that not only fulfill us individually, but form a fundamental part of the American character. Our public lands are part of who we are and the diversity of their uses, like the diversity of their landscapes, reflects our identity. In many areas, they provide timber, ore, and forage that are the economic bedrock of rural America. In other areas, Congress has designated them as wilderness, places “untrammeled by man, where man is a visitor who does not remain.”
Nevada boasts some of the most rugged and diverse landscapes in the United States. From the vast Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada, to the alpine peaks of Mt. Rose overlooking the shores of Lake Tahoe, to the imposing buttes and sagebrush plains of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and the Mojave Desert floor covered in Joshua trees and yucca plants. Over the past quarter century, home-grown conservation advocates have worked to protect and preserve 68 wilderness areas consisting of 3.4 million acres, an area approximately the size of Connecticut. These advocates continue to work towards protection of the most special places in the Silver State. Currently, there are strong grassroots efforts underway to protect the high alpine lakes and thick aspen groves of the Pine Forest Range in Humboldt County as well as the rich archeological resources and spectacular red rock formations in the Gold Butte area just a short drive from Las Vegas.
Our public lands also provide a consistently reliable source of natural resources that fuel our national economy. In northern Nevada, mining is a way of life. Although Nevada was well known for silver during the 19th Century, miners working in the Silver State now produce almost 80 percent of the gold in the United States, much of which comes from public lands. Nevada also has a rich history of ranching for both sheep and cattle and grazing on federal lands helps feed this family tradition. Throughout the state the burgeoning renewable energy industry on public lands has provided a variety of new job-creating economic opportunities. Harnessing the solar, wind, and geothermal resources in Nevada and throughout the country will bolster our country’s economic and energy security for decades and centuries to come.
I recognize and thank the thousands of federal employees who manage these lands year-round. The Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and other federal land management agencies ensure that public lands in Nevada and across the nation meet the changing needs of our communities. They provide a vital, though rarely reported, service to our nation.
Mr. President, I would also like to acknowledge and thank the many Nevadans that will spend September 24 improving our public lands undertaking 19 projects across the state from the Big Rocks Wilderness Area in Caliente to Daggett Summit Trail in Stateline. In northern Nevada, volunteers will be working to improve our public lands at the Mill Creek Campground. These people will spend their day installing new fire rings, barbeques and lantern hooks as well as cleaning the debris from the stream and placing rocks in parking and camping areas.
The focus of National Public Lands Day this year is highlighting the opportunities public lands offer young people through the Youth in the Great Outdoors Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This initiative will engage youth from all backgrounds in exploring, connecting with and preserving America’s natural and cultural heritage. National Public Lands Day is also relaying the health benefits of outdoor recreation by encouraging families to develop more active lifestyles on our public lands.
The preservation of our public lands is a priority for me. Mr. President, our public lands are part of what makes the United States a great nation. I voice my gratitude to all who will participate in National Public Lands Day this year.