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U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced the Ruby Mountains Protection Act, a bill to prohibit oil and gas leasing on the Ruby Mountains.

“Expansive oil and gas drilling on the Ruby Mountains is not only a threat to one of the Silver State’s natural treasures, it also risks the livelihoods of Nevadans who rely on our state’s outdoor economy,” Cortez Masto said in a statement Feb. 1.

The Ruby Mountains Protection Act would withdraw approximately 450,000 acres of National Forest System district land comprising the Ruby Mountain Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest from any eligibility for oil and gas leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act. The measure protects all existing multiple uses in the area including recreation, grazing and mining.

Her move is in repose to an expression of interest for oil or gas leasing on about 54,000 acres of Forest Service Land. The Bureau of Land Management, which manages the subsurface minerals on public lands, received the request in April 2017. The request promoted a U.S. Forest Service environmental assessment, including a public comment period that garnered about 10,000 responses mostly in opposition. The USFS recommendation is now awaiting a decision in Washington, D.C.

This legislation also covers any future land or interest in land acquired by the United States for inclusion in the Ruby Mountains Ranger District from future oil and gas leasing. The Ruby Mountains Protection Act would not affect any recreational use of these pristine lands, including for hunting, hiking and fishing.

“I’m proud to stand alongside a coalition of local business leaders, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who are standing up to protect our pristine and sensitive public land areas threatened by harmful oil and gas drilling,” Cortez Masto said. “It’s time for Congress to act to protect the Ruby Mountains for Nevadans, and the thousands of annual visitors from around the world that boost the economies of Elko and White Pine counties. Let’s ensure that future generations have the same opportunity to explore this beautiful landscape, just like so many Nevadans have before us.”

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Carl Erquiaga, Nevada Field Representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, thanked Cortez Masto for proposing the act.

“The Ruby Mountains hold some of the most important wildlife habitat in the state,” he said. “As one of the West’s legendary big game hunting destinations, they are truly too special to drill.”

The Sierra Club also lauded the senator’s proposition.

“We’re both proud and grateful that the senator is taking a stand for the Ruby Mountains,” said Sierra Club organizer Christain Gerlach. “Sierra Club and our partners are committed to engaging in every step on the way to get the Ruby Mountains permanently protected.”

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