Doug Smith 1932-2019

Nevada environmental leader Douglas G. Smith died in Reno on March 25.

Born in Montana, he saw combat in Korea, then earned undergrad and grad degrees at Montana State University. He eventually became state secretary of agriculture. In 1975, he moved to Nevada and became part of the state workers injury insurance program.

Smith was the founder of Citizens for a Scenic Reno, which in 2000 used an initiative petition to curb billboards in the city. He often worked shoulder to shoulder with his friend Marilyn Melton.

In the early days of Nevada auto roads, road signs were not permitted, and the state was in a constant battle trying to control them. Eventually, lobbyists won the right to install them, and they spread across the states, limited over the years only on federal highways by beautification legislation in the 1960s.

CSR delivered its petition on June 25, 2000, with more than the needed number of signatures to qualify for the city ballot. One day later, billboard companies filed a competing initiative petition, which never obtained the necessary signatures and was withdrawn on July 29. On Aug. 29, the companies filed a SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) against CSR and the city, seeking to have the measure removed from the ballot. The suit was unsuccessful, and the measure was approved by Reno voters on a 57-43 percent majority.

CSR became known as Scenic Nevada and evolved to undertake broader environmental concerns, becoming an influential player in the valley. Following Smith’s death, local planning activist Pam Galloway wrote, “Today, developers are heard reassuring elected officials that ‘we have met with Scenic Nevada’ as they develop plans. That is a huge testament to Doug’s vision.”

Since Smith’s retirement six years ago, Scenic Nevada has retained its clout while led by Lori and Mark Wray.