Nevada Legislators Consider the Future of Conservation Policy and Advocates Call For the Inclusion of Indigenous Voices

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NEVADA – On the second night of conservation lobby week, conservation groups hosted a virtual town hall with Nevada legislators to discuss the key role of public lands policy on the future of Nevada’s natural lands and wildlife, Indigenous communities, and the recovering economy. 

(A recording of this event can be watched and downloaded here)

Nevada legislators Assemblyman Howard Watts, Assemblywoman Cecelia González, and Assemblywoman Sarah Peters emphasized the importance of urgent action to respond to the climate crisis while also ensuring public lands policies prioritize Indigenous voices and marginalized communities and integrate science-based solutions. The legislators also previewed policies on their conservation agenda this legislative session. 

“Assembly Bill 349 is looking to close the ‘classic car loophole,’” said Assemblyman Howard Watts, Chair of Assembly Natural Resources Committee. “We are trying to close that loophole to make sure everyone’s playing by the same set of rules. I’ve got some other efforts in there to reduce smog. What we really want to do is set up a program to provide incentives to help lower income folks that may be using their classic car plates because they can’t afford to fix their vehicle or get a new one to help them do just that.”

“The conservation community, climate policy experts, and environmental scientists have long called for an ambitious conservation goal to address the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. That’s why I’m proud to sponsor legislation to conserve 30 percent of Nevada’s lands and waters by 2030,” said Assemblywoman Cecelia González of District 16. “AJR 3 is a brilliant opportunity to help reverse the destruction of wildlife, confront the climate crisis, and reshape the conservation agenda to include Indigenous communities and voices.”

“When we make decisions, it’s important that we take in substantive data to make best estimates on and prepare ourselves for the potential outcomes. I think that that is something we haven’t fully fleshed out in really any area in the state to be fair,” said Assemblywoman Sarah Peters of District 24.

Conservation leaders from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), Native Voter Alliance, Get Outdoors Nevada, and Battle Born Progress stressed the importance of prioritizing Indigenous voices in the development of public lands policy. Leaders also touched on how the conservation of public lands through outdoor recreation can boost Nevada’s economy, critically important as we recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

“Indigenous peoples continue to have access to honor songs and prayers that bring a balance and indebtedness to protecting the lands, wildlife, and waters against sickness. We honor Indigenous teachings and the continued protection we seek for our Earth Mother,” said Beverly Harry, Native Community Organizer of PLAN. “With that said, I just want to mention that the care that we are providing our Earth Mother is at the focus of Indigenous people as we are given the responsibility as caretakers of the land.”

“In order to have meaningful conversation about conservation, we really need to include Indigenous people in this process,” said Taylor Patterson, Executive Director of Native Voter Alliance.

“If we strengthen public lands and support public land infrastructure, equity, and access, then we’re also supporting Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy — because those two are tied together,” said Aaron Leifheit, Director of Programs of Get Outdoors Nevada. “We have such strong outdoor spaces we can diversify our economy by protecting those places.”

“There’s so much potential to the whole outdoor recreation business in Nevada. It not only helps our rural communities diversify, perhaps become a little less dependent on extractive industries because of the wide-open spaces out there, once you pass through, you measure it, you see it, you remember it and you make a note to come back to it,” said Pam DuPre of Friends of Nevada Wilderness. “There is a broad cross-section of outdoor recreational opportunities in the state and we are all very fortunate because of it.”

“Our public lands are part of what makes Nevada our home,” said Annette Magnus, Executive Director of Battle Born Progress. “The Biden administration has shown it takes seriously the need to protect our environment and public lands. Preserving 30 percent of America’s land and water will help us stave off the worst effects of global climate change by protecting natural resources, wildlife, and critical ecosystems. Under the Trump administration, climate change was ignored, and our public lands were ransacked by oil and gas corporations. Our state legislature also has a role to play in ensuring that lands sacred to Indigenous communities and that are home to Nevada’s unique wildlife and plant species are preserved in partnership with the federal government. We appreciate the work of leaders like Assemblywoman Cecelia González to present Nevada as a conservation leader amongst the states out west who comprise most of the federally owned public lands in America.”

Tomorrow, March 24th, Nevada legislators and conservation groups will explore clean energy policies that work toward our statewide goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and prioritize at-risk communities, all while positioning Nevada as a leader in renewable energy. Featured speakers include senators Chris Brooks, Senator Dallas Harris, and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno.

Conservation Lobby Week is hosted by the Nevada Conservation Network and features a series of nightly town halls from March 22nd to 25th discussing the urgent need for bold climate and conservation-centered policy with members of the Nevada Senate and Assembly, conservation leaders, and activists.