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In NV Politics, Public Lands Underscore Everything


Wednesday, October 24, 2018   

CARSON CITY, Nev. - More than 80 percent of land in Nevada is federally owned, the greatest portion of any state. So, Nevada candidates in the midterm elections are addressing public-lands issues, from nuclear waste sites to water and grazing rights.

Ryan Bundy, known for armed standoffs on public lands in Nevada and Oregon, is in the Nevada governor's race as a far-right independent candidate with an anti-government message. However, Michael Green, an associate professor of history at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said that hasn't shifted the positions of the state's Republican or Democratic candidates. Green said Adam Laxalt's stances on public lands are traditionally conservative, warning of federal overreach, while Steve Sisolak plays to moderates by emphasizing protecting natural resources.

"It's odd that, in a sense, I don't think Ryan Bundy's presence has had much of an effect," Green said.

Nevada politicians for years have had to weigh public-lands benefits of federal funding and a strong outdoor recreation and tourism economy against limits set by governing bodies outside the state, Green said, adding that that balance is part of the state's political DNA.

"You can take this back to the beginning of statehood and what many people in Nevada view as the fatal or devil's bargain," he said, "when getting statehood required ceding the right to most of the land in the state."

Green said the prominence of land issues also leads to unique political alliances in the state. He cited the range of groups that have spoken out against the water pipeline proposed to pump groundwater hundreds of miles from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas.

"You would not be likely to bet a lot of money that ranchers and environmental activists would unite on something," he said, "but there it is."

In another unlikely pairing, gubernatorial opponents Laxalt and Sisolak both have said they oppose the groundwater pipeline. Their statements on the SNWA pipeline are online at

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