A Wilderness System for Nevada

For generations, Nevada was almost the exclusive province of free-wheeling gamblers, miners and ranchers who sneered, or worse, at those federal fellows who tried to tell them what they could do, and what they could not do, with the land. Nevada was the wellspring of the Sagebrush Rebellion against the alleged oppressive land management tactics of the federal government, which controls most of the state. But finally, the environmental movement has staked a legitimate claim to its share of the Silver State.

Three years ago, Congress created the first national park in Nevada, the Great Basin National Park in the east-central part of the state. And now, Nevada is on the threshold of having a National Forest wilderness system worthy of its name. After seven years of battling federal land exploiters, wilderness advocates in Congress led by Democratic Sen. Harry Reid have managed to pass a bill to create a 14-unit, 733,400-acre wilderness system on forest lands throughout the state. "For the first time in our history as a state we have said that wilderness is a resource to save for ourselves and future generations," Reid said.

Only one hurdle remains, the signature of President Bush. Republican Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, the only member of the Nevada delegation to oppose the bill, is imploring Bush to veto it. But the wilderness plan, scaled back from the 1.4 million acres originally sought, is a fair compromise that has wide popular support in Nevada.

Would Bush want to be remembered as the President who vetoed a reasonable Nevada bill--the only wilderness legislation to clear Congress on the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Wilderness Act and the first wilderness bill to reach his desk? Not likely. Our hunch is that Bush will be proud to sign the Nevada wilderness bill into law at the first possible moment this week.

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