National Public Lands Day
Second only to Alaska in the percentage of land that is publicly owned, Nevada has quite a bit of land to work on for the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day (NPLD) on Sept. 28.
“Nevada is well over 80 percent public land,” said Pat Bruce, the Stewardship Program Director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness (FNW). “We have some of the largest refuges in the lower 48, and all of that is accessible to everybody in the country. And what wilderness allows is an experience in the outdoors that is free from mechanized intrusions, so wilderness in general offers solitude, primitive recreation and preserves view shed, watershed, clean air.”
NPLD is a volunteer event during which people work on public lands cleaning up trash, removing invasive weeds and maintaining or building trails. FNW has been participating for several years and has four events planned for it this year.
The Southern Nevada events are day trips to the Desert National Wildlife Rescue and the South McCullough Wilderness on the 28th, but the Northern Nevada events are weekend-long camping trips to Soldier Meadows in the Black Rock Desert to clean and restore the hot spring and to the Santa Rosa Mountains in Paradise Valley to remove an old, rusted fence. The Soldier Meadows trip will be the weekend before NPLD.
All meals are provided on the camping trips, and gear can be borrowed from FNW for those who need it. Bruce said that working on public lands is very important because the government agencies that hold these lands need help because there is so much work to be done.
“We don’t receive direct federal funding, and most of our money comes through private foundations and grants and membership,” Bruce said. “We do have some assistance agreements with the different agencies that they’re able to put money into that. … We can use it to get hundreds of volunteers out on the ground to make something happen, whereas they would only be able to pay two people.”
Bruce likes to use public lands himself and thinks of them as a “resource and gift.” This event allows others to come out and experience these places in a fun and mutually beneficial manner.
“Most of the projects that we do, you start and there’s a problem and by the end of the day, most times you can’t even see where the problem was anymore,” Bruce said. “So there’s that gratification, instant gratification for the completion of the project, but knowing that you’re giving back and you’re helping to keep America beautiful—to throw a cliché in there—it’s a worthy thing to do.”
He added that the Soldier Meadows event—the one he’s running—will also have a Dutch oven cook-off, saying that “it’s a lot of fun to add a little competition to the weekend,” and that he wishes it was National Public Lands Week.
“It’s a neat way to get out there and make something happen. … These things are long lasting impacts that you can have for one day of work,” Bruce said. “Taking a day, doing eight hours of work and spending a weekend with a lot of cool people and having good food—it’s free. It’s the cheapest vacation you can get.”