Southern Nevada lawmakers discuss fight to stop takeover of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee, Steven Horsford and Assemblyman Howard Watts joined conservation leaders to address efforts to strike NDAA’s so-called ‘Bishop amendment’
For Immediate Release

LAS VEGAS -– A group of Nevada leaders made clear on Wednesday that when public lands come under attack, they will fight to protect them. U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee along with Assemblyman Howard Watts spoke at a virtual event hosted by Sierra Club’s Toiyabe Chapter, Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, and Environment Nevada about how they fought this summer to prevent U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah from amending the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with language that would have reduced the size of Southern Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge by more than 800,000 acres. While the effort from Rep. Bishop was defeated, the NDAA is currently in the conference committee stage and allies of the refuge won’t breathe a sigh of relief until it’s been signed into law. 

Speaking at a virtual event on Wednesday, Nevada’s Southern Nevada House delegation discussed the fight to defend the Desert Refuge this year and the ongoing work to keep it from being diminished. 

Congresswoman Dina Titus said, “We have iconic wildlife and plantlife that we need to protect in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Opponents of the refuge were very clever about putting in this amendment at the last minute, not by a member of the Nevada delegation, but by a member from Utah who has never been a supporter of public lands. It took all of us fighting for this, writing letters, and trying to explain it to our colleagues to get it removed. We are very proud of what we did, but it’s not over, we can’t let down our guard. We need everyone engaged.” 

Congresswoman Susie Lee said, “My commitment to environmental causes runs deep. Being an avid outdoorswoman, I have come to love the Desert here in Nevada and to see that this national treasure was under attack, it was really important to me to join our delegation and fight for it. The testing range and wildlife services have cohabitated for a long time and we are still going to have to find ways to compromise, but when someone from completely outside came with this, we had to draw a line in the sand. We had to protect this important place, not just For Nevada, but for our entire country. It's important for us to be vigilant because this fight is not over, we need to have the tough conversations and we will need to continue to work together.” 

Congressman Steven Horsford said, “Public lands truly do make up the fabric of Nevada’s identity. These lands are critical to our state and deserve to be protected from any attempts to diminish their impact. We are working to ensure that any federal decisions to reserve public lands for development maintain the best interest and health of the people and wildlife that live on that land. Nevadans have been strong in their efforts to protect and preserve public lands and I'm proud that collectively we have worked to make sure that Nevada's voices were heard in the halls of Congress. The NDAA now includes an amendment that I was proud to introduce to protect the Desert National Wildlife Refuge because I will always stand up for the values of Nevada, especially when it comes to our public lands.”

Assemblyman Howard Watts said, “I was proud to be one of the co-sponsors of Assembly Joint Resolution 2 in the 2019 legislative session which passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support in expressing opposition to the proposed takeover of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The state took this action because of the diligent work of so many who raised the alarms when this proposal first came out and we came together with a united voice to say that this is not what should happen in Nevada. We’re grateful for Governor Sisolak’s strong support for the refuge as well as our congressional delegation’s. Protecting these lands is critical and we need to have a thoughtful, deliberate approach to development and to be proactive in preserving land.” 

Conservation advocates expressed their gratitude for the efforts of Nevada’s Congressional leaders to fight back against this effort.

"We really had our backs against the wall this summer, and Reps. Titus, Horsford, and Lee came through when we needed them," said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. "It's only by electing conservation champions that we can save our public lands from assault. Without the tireless efforts of our champions in Washington DC and in Carson City, we might have lost our beloved Desert Refuge already."

“Nevadans didn’t take kindly to Representative Bishop’s proposal to give away almost 1 million acres of the Desert Refuge” said Environment Nevada State Director Levi Kamolnick. “The work of our Southern Nevada House delegation was invaluable in our fight to protect the refuge this past July and will continue to be as the NDAA continues to be negotiated, likely into next year. We’re grateful to Representatives Titus, Horsford, and Lee for their conviction to protect this treasured place.”

 Representing the Sierra Club, Nick Christenson added, "Even a few years ago, I don't believe we would have seen the same level of efficacy or interest from our elected officials on environmental issues.  Many individuals and groups worked very hard to get environmentally conscious Representatives elected in Nevada. This is the positive payoff to those efforts."

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Environment Nevada is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. We work to protect our land, water, open spaces, and wildlife. For more information, visit: www.environmentnevada.org