Earlier today the Nevada delegation led by Sen. Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Nevada Test and Training Range Withdrawal and Management Act (S. 3145). The Nevada Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers would like to thank Sen. Cortez Masto and the Nevada delegation for bringing this issue into the national spotlight.
The legislation addresses public input and access in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge while incorporating provisions dealing with our national defense. The DNWR is the largest refuge in the lower 48, comprising more than 5 percent of all refuge lands, and provides critical habitat and hunting opportunities for bighorn sheep.
Along with designating eight new wilderness areas totaling over 1.3 million acres, this legislation addresses the critical need for collaboration between the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local stakeholders. The two agencies must co-manage our public lands and identify proactive ways to mitigate and support fish and wildlife habitat.
The Nevada Chapter of BHA is appreciative of the Nevada delegation for starting the conversation between all stakeholders surrounding this issue. However, the finish line still lies distant on the horizon. We support the wilderness designations of 1.3 million acres, but 645,998 acres of the proposed wilderness area will be off-limits to the general public, including 227,000 acres of prime bighorn sheep habitat that is currently open to the public.
David Gough, chair of Nevada Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, offered the chapter’s take on the bill:
“We are very appreciative of Sen. Cortez Masto’s initiative to tackle the difficult task of balancing our military’s need to train while protecting public lands for recreation activities. Nevada BHA members understand the importance of providing our military with the resources needed to train at the highest level in order to protect our country,” said Gough. “However, it is our hope that the Nevada delegation will work with conservation organizations like ours to work on increasing public access and sustaining Nevada’s largest bighorn sheep population.”