The feds vs. the state

I am torn, dammit. What’s a good native Nevadan to do?

Let me explain.

I think the new Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area is a good thing (even if that official name is unnecessarily long).

I have lived in Nevada all my life. I come from a family that loves to camp, hunt, fish—to do outdoorsy stuff. Over the last couple of decades, I have seen a whole lot of formerly beautiful natural land get developed. It saddens me.

Take many of the areas my family used to hunt and hike in around these parts. There are increasingly few areas of Washoe and Storey County where someone can just get away from it all and enjoy nature. Residential and business developers, with greedy dollar signs in their eyes, have grabbed it all. And it’s just going to get worse, if the 2010, 2020, 2030, etc. population projections have any merit to them at all.

One of the few places that somebody hasn’t messed up yet is northeastern Nevada, where the Black Rock NCA is primarily located. I love the Black Rock, Granite Mountain, Dooby Avenue—they are some of the places where you can truly feel like you have left the city behind. And I think the fact that the federal government is stepping in to help assure that some of this land is protected is wonderful.

Some people, however, protest such federal protection, preferring to call it a land grab. I think they’re idiots. In the NCA, you can still hunt, fish, drive around and even do business, assuming you already have a permit. In designated wilderness areas, you can still do all that, too, except for the motor vehicles part.

Federal involvement is a good thing.

On Monday, I got a call from the folks at Time Magazine in New York. One of the many sub-editors at the magazine was gracious enough to give me a heads-up about a series of articles, titled “The War Over the West,” in this week’s issue. One of the articles is about Yucca Mountain and the struggle over whether or not it should become the nation’s sole, permanent nuclear waste repository. (The issue was the subject of a similar cover story by Deidre Pike in the RN&R on June 7, “Yucca-ed Up.")

As a native Nevadan, I am appalled that the federal government thinks it can just waltz in and tell us what we can and can’t do with our land. That’s why this country was set up as a republic—the states have rights, too, and if the people of a state do not want something, then the federal government should not have the right to force it on them.

Federal involvement is a bad thing.

You see my dilemma? I really think the feds jumping in to protect the Black Rock NCA is great, but I also really think the fact that the feds may steamroll over the opinions of the vast majority of Nevadans—and put mass quantities of nuclear waste within a two-hour drive of millions of people—is deplorable.

I suspect that most Nevadans are in the same boat I am. It’s a paradox—do we want federal involvement? Are the feds good or bad for Nevada?

Those are two easy questions to answer: yes and no, and yes and no. The paradox remains.

On a related, yet separate note: Check out that story about Yucca Mountain, “Not in Our Backyard,” in this week’s Time, and you’ll see a familiar name. Longtime RN&R staffer and current contributing editor D. Brian Burghart, who is now also a local correspondent for Time, contributed to the article. He got a “with reporting” byline at the end of the story, his first for the national newsweekly.

Congratulations, Brian. We’ll try not to brag too much about you.