Nevada’s outdoor recreation under threat by oil leasing

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a man standing in front of a mountain: Russell Kuhlman

© Provided by Russell Kuhlman
Russell Kuhlman

This opinion column was submitted by Russell Kuhlman, the executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation.

Public lands have always played a central role in my life. I grew up hunting turkey, deer, elk, antelope and waterfowl all across America’s public lands. My passion for hunting is not only because I get to fill my freezer with organic meat but the time I get to spend with my friends and family quietly taking in the wonders of the wildlife landscapes around us. Hunting provides me with a chance to reset and focus on what matters most. As I return from my latest hunting trip in New Mexico, I have been reflecting on both the beauty of the wildlife that surrounded me, as well as the myriad of outdoor enthusiasts who join me in appreciating all that our public lands have to offer. 

a snow covered mountain: A section of the Great Basin Trail is seen in the Ruby Mountains during the spring of 2020.

© Ryan Sylva
A section of the Great Basin Trail is seen in the Ruby Mountains during the spring of 2020.

In a typical year, Nevada’s public lands will draw in over $12.6 billion from outdoor recreation activities such as climbing, biking, hiking, hunting and fishing, and these lands support more than 87,000 direct jobs for Nevadans. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, public lands are providing a much-needed escape and place of serenity — drawing in more visitors and helping our economy to stay afloat.

Unfortunately, the future of our public lands is being put in jeopardy by our nation’s outdated oil and gas leasing system. Right now, the Bureau of Land Management and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt are exploiting our broken system to allow oil and gas companies to lease our public lands — including many parcels that have little to no potential for development — for pennies on the dollar. Allowing oil and gas CEOs to hoard land with low or no actual potential for development wastes taxpayer resources, ties up our land from being used for other revenue generating activities and harms critical wildlife habitat in the process. 

More: Protect Ruby Mountains from development | Erquiaga

Furthermore, through a process known as noncompetitive leasing, millions of acres of public land across the West are being leased for just $2 per acre. This may be nothing to oil and gas companies, but it is a great loss for outdoor enthusiasts everywhere. Under the current administration, 2.3 million acres of public lands in Nevada — an area slightly larger than Yellowstone National Park — have been made available for noncompetitive leasing. And in the last decade alone, 70 percent of all acres leased in Nevada were offered noncompetitively, for as low as just $1.50 per acre. To make matters even worse, many of these lease sales were in critical mule deer migration corridors and sage grouse habitat. 

BLM has a mandate to “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the

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Nevada’s Goldfield Hotel Said to Be Portal to the Other Side

After gold was discovered on nearby Columbia Mountain in 1902, the town of Goldfield, NV ranked as one of the biggest and brightest mining towns in the west. In its boom year of 1906, the town’s mines produced $11 million in gold. A year later in 1907, the mines were generating close to $10,000.00 a day.

The earthquake-proof, four story, 154-room Goldfield Hotel was built on top of an abandoned gold mine in 1908 for $500,000.00. Being the finest lodging between Denver and San Francisco, the hotel was known as “The Gem in the Desert.”

When it opened in 1908, the hotel boasted an Otis elevator then considered the most modern lift of its kind West of the Mississippi. The Goldfield Hotel’s crystal chandeliers, elegant, mahogany-trimmed lobby with black leather upholstery, gold leaf ceilings and gilded columns rivaled the best hotels in San Francisco.

In an era when few homes or businesses had telephones or carpets, the extravagant hotel featured a sophisticated switchboard and a telephone in every guestroom. Meals were “exquisite European cuisine,” featuring oysters, quail and squid. Patrons came for dinner attired in formal clothing – black tie and tails and ball gowns

Once the largest city in Nevada, Goldfield was connected to the rest of the United States by five railroads and with Goldfield’s mines producing more than $10,000.00 a day at their peak, the town’s five banks thrived. Goldfield even had several mining stock exchanges and three newspapers. As the town boomed, its leaders were considering bringing in a trolley to run through downtown.

But, as the mines bled dry, the city lost its allure and the once splendid Goldfield Hotel ceased operation in the 1920’s. During WW II, the military took it over and added a few improvements that included a grill in order to house Army-Air Force wives whose husbands were stationed and training in the nearby remote desert.

At the end of the War, the Goldfield Hotel was once again abandoned and boarded up. Then in the 1980’s, a well-to-do new owner began to pour millions of dollars into modernizing the hotel. His dream to open the former “Gem in the Desert” in all its original splendor went broke before completion. He lost ownership to back property taxes. Vandals carried off most of the newly installed bathroom and light fixtures, eventually taking all but the bare walls.

Today the town of Goldfield is home to fewer than 300 residents, although remains the seat of Esmeralda County, which at fewer than 1,000 residents, is Nevada’s most sparsely populated county. There is no gas station, no bank, no grocery store and much less a newspaper, a far cry from when the city was known as the “Queen of Camps,” for its more than 25, 000 residents.

The Forlorn Elizabeth Haunts

With its glorious past, the ill-fated hotel remains the most prominent symbol of Goldfield’s former glory. But contributing to its ghostlike mood is the fact much of the original luxurious woodwork has been destroyed by …

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