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Nevada senators, advocates urge Biden Administration to protect Ruby Mountains

A small lake sits in front of brown and white mountain slopes under a blue sky.
Zoe Bommarito
Trout Unlimited
The Ruby Mountains loom over the Ruby Marshes at Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Ruby Valley, Nev.

Nevada senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen are urging the Biden Administration to immediately protect the Ruby Mountains and their marshes from future oil and gas leasing.

The senators, with the support of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone, wildlife advocates, and recreators, wrote a letter to the administration asking to ban speculative oil and gas development in the Rubies and surrounding valleys for 20 years. The request encompasses almost 350,000 acres of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge lands.

Grace Olscamp, national campaign director for freshwater conservation group Trout Unlimited, said that the Rubies are home to native fish and the state’s largest mule deer herd.

“It is a fragile ecosystem. We’re a very, very dry state in Nevada and so any type of threat that could impact the water within the Ruby Valleys is one to be taken really seriously, because it would have such a huge impact on the wildlife and the recreation that happens in this area,” she said.

An administrative withdrawal would hopefully give enough time for the senators’ bill, the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, permanently enacting a ban, to pass Congress. Northern Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei has introduced a companion bill.

The letter is the next step in a campaign that began in 2017. That year, developers made many formal expressions of interest in leasing land in the Rubies for speculative oil and gas development.

Then, in 2019, the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the majority of the land, issued a finding that leasing should not occur due to little oil and gas resources and potential negative impacts to the environment and the landscape.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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