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Lawmakers Join Opposition to Ruby Mountain Drilling

A Nevada Legislature committee recognizes "the irreplaceable scenic, biological, cultural and recreational value of the Ruby Mountains to Nevadans." (Trevor Bexon/Flickr)
A Nevada Legislature committee recognizes "the irreplaceable scenic, biological, cultural and recreational value of the Ruby Mountains to Nevadans." (Trevor Bexon/Flickr)
September 11, 2018

ELKO, Nev. — More Nevada lawmakers are voicing opposition to plans to allow oil and gas leasing in the Ruby Mountains.

For months, dozens of environmental organizations, Native American tribes and sporting groups have been speaking out against the U.S. Forest Service proposal to open parts of the Rubies to drilling and fracking. Now, the Nevada Legislature's interim public lands committee will send a letter formally opposing the leases.

The move comes after a 5-4 vote last week. But the fight to protect the Ruby Mountains is not over, said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"This is certainly not the end of this,” Donnelly said. “But I think this adds to this overwhelming chorus of opposition that has come out of every corner of Nevada and around the West for oil and gas in the Rubies."

The letter will go to the secretaries of the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture, as well as Gov. Brian Sandoval.

In 2017, the U.S. Forest Service introduced the plan to open 54,000 acres of the Northeastern Nevada mountain range to oil and gas development. Over two public comment periods, the Forest Service received thousands of letters of opposition from the public.

The leases were proposed in response to the Trump administration's push for "energy dominance" across the U.S. But Donnelly said he hopes the federal agencies that will make the final decision on leasing the land will take into account the environmental consequences that could come with oil and gas development.

"The plan is in the works, but they haven't signed on the dotted line yet,” Donnelly said. “And that's why we're saying, you know, it's not too late. They can change their minds, they can respond to the people of Nevada and say no to this. They're under no obligation to allow leasing in the Rubies."

If approved for leasing, several more steps in the Forest Service approval process would be required. No leases have been scheduled yet.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - NV