ICYMI: Nevada's public lands better managed under Trump Administration Originally Published by Reno Gazette Journal

Last edited 03/12/2021

Reno Gazette Journal

Originally Published by Reno Gazette Journal

By: Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management

A recent opinion column from an environmental organization in Nevada criticized the Trump administration’s “energy dominance agenda,” with the usual hyperbole of how we are “steamrolling ... wildlife” and “fulfill(ing) the wishes of the oil and gas companies.” This nonsense is continuously spewed by environmental extremists who will do and say anything to discredit the historic conservation achievements under the Trump administration and the incredible progress that has been made to more effectively manage our public lands.

The United States is blessed with tremendous natural resources, but energy development and mining are under attack by environmentalists and Green New Deal pushers who want to “keep it in the ground.” This ideology not only serves to drive hundreds of thousands of energy development, mining and production workers to the unemployment line, it makes the United States dependent on China, Russia and other unreliable countries for our domestic needs. This is dangerous and naive. The Trump administration has embraced an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that creates more jobs for American workers, makes the U.S. energy independent and drives costs down for American consumers, all the while opening up more acres of public lands for outdoor recreation and conservation.

This is no truer than right here in Nevada as the Trump administration balances multiple uses of our public lands and moves the ball forward on some major projects.

In May of this year, the Bureau of Land Management approved the largest solar project in U.S. history, the Gemini Solar Project, which has been cleared to be built about 30 miles outside of Las Vegas. At an estimated $1 billion, the project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 260,000 homes in Nevada. The on-site construction workforce is anticipated to reach up to 900 workers and support another 1,100 jobs in the local community for an overall economic impact of $712.5 million during construction. 

In July, the BLM completed the draft environmental impact statement analyzing the potential impacts of the proposed Thacker Pass Lithium Project in Humboldt County. If approved, the project would develop lithium reserves within the Thacker Pass deposit, the highest-grade and second largest known sedimentary deposit of this critical mineral in the world. If the Thacker Pass Lithium Project moves forward, approximately 1,000 contractors could be employed during construction with 300 remaining to facilitate operations.

Lithium has several uses, but one of the most valuable is as a component of high energy-density rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Lithium consumption for batteries has increased significantly in recent years as the market continues to grow for portable electronic devices, electric vehicles and grid storage applications.

The United States is not currently a major producer of lithium despite having significant lithium resources. President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 outlining a strategy for the United States to develop, produce and distribute its own critical minerals, such as lithium, to strengthen the American supply chain. For 31 of the 35 identified critical minerals, the United States imports over half of its annual consumption, with no domestic production at all for 14 critical minerals. Everything from solar panels to smartphones to medical devices to the military equipment our soldiers need to protect our nation require these critical minerals.

In addition to these mining and energy development projects, the Department of the Interior boosts Nevada’s outdoor recreation industry by supporting 11,500 jobs and spurring $1.3 billion in economic output. Interior has opened new areas to hunting and fishing or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 4 million acres at national wildlife refuges since 2017. This is historic for places like Fallon National Wildlife Refuge, which now is open to migratory bird, upland game and big-game hunting for the first time. Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge now offers quail and rabbit hunting on new acres, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge now allows pronghorn hunting.

Most significantly, President Trump called for and signed the largest single investment in our public lands in history with the Great American Outdoors Act, wherein $9.5 billion will be invested over the next five years to address significant deferred maintenance at national parks, forests, refuges, campgrounds and American Indian schools. An additional $900 million a year will be permanently funded into perpetuity through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for activities including state and local recreation projects, such as baseball fields, parks, and other outdoor activities. It is primarily revenue from oil and gas production that will cover these conservation improvements.

Some activists would have you believe that we are leasing Nevada’s public lands for pennies on the dollar to energy companies, giving way to some imaginary development rush. Simple economics and geology reveal that it’s simply untrue. A quick internet search demonstrates there are currently no active oil rigs in Nevada and a historic low amount of federal land being leased. Unsurprisingly, these special interest groups always fail to mention that the Trump administration has actually leased the least amount of acreage for development nationwide since this data was first collected in 1985.

While radical environmentalists and other critics continue their misinformation campaigns against the Trump administration, know that we are continuing to support public lands management that more effectively balances recreation, conservation, energy development, mining and other activities for the benefit of American workers, American companies and American consumers. Look no further than Nevada.


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