The White Pine County Public Conservation, Recreation, and Economic Development Act of 2006
In 2003, after exhaustive research and fieldwork, our coalition produced a proposal to protect over 3.1 million acres of public lands in Eastern Nevada as wilderness. Though our coalition strongly believed—and still does—that public lands legislation should follow ecological rather than county boundaries, Nevada senators Harry Reid and John Ensign adopted a county-by-county approach to addressing public lands legislation.
The Lincoln County bill, passed two years before, contained significant wilderness designations for 768,000 acres of lands contained in our Eastern Nevada Proposal. Some of these areas, like Big Rocks and Mt. Irish, were citizen-proposed BLM lands that Congress formally approved for wilderness designation. However, many worthy lands were left out of the legislation in neighboring White Pine and Nye Counties.
When the Nevada Congressional delegation began to craft an omnibus public lands bill for White Pine County, we responded to their county focus by proposing 730,000 acres of wilderness on Forest Service and BLM lands within the county.
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We worked with locals in White Pine County to craft strong wilderness protections for the most threatened public lands in the county. Meetings with PLUAC, county commissioners, hunters, ranchers, educators and many other residents took place both in the field and in commission chambers.
In the spring of 2006, the White Pine County Commission recommended approximately 530,000 acres of Wilderness for the county. This figure protected many worthy places, and we welcomed the strong spirit of cooperation shown by stakeholders to the process, but we continued to advocate for our entire proposal. Many worthy areas were left unprotected, including portions of the Kern Mountains, the Antelope Range and the South Egans Wilderness Study Area.
The bill passed in the last few hours of the 109th Congress after being attached to a larger Tax Bill, HR. 6111. It protects over 558,133 acres of Eastern Nevada. This bill was a tough compromise between many different stakeholders, and NWP and the rest of the Nevada Wilderness Coalition will continue to advocate for those areas still in need of wilderness designation.