It was the third visit by Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who previously arrived one month after the Range 2 Fire that burned more than 9,000 acres on Sept. 30.
“I think it’s exciting to see the new growth in [such] a short period of time,” she said toward the conclusion of her Monday visit.
Cortez Masto spoke with U.S. Forest Service officials and personnel about reseeding the area and invasive species management. She noted that the fire had reduced cheatgrass and other invasive plants in the canyon.
“The Forest Service needs to be funded to ... do the seeding, but also to address invasive species, and make sure this continues to grow and be pristine again,” she said. “My goal is to fight for that funding at the federal level and make sure it gets down here into Lamoille Canyon.”
Cortez Masto’s visit also comes as her legislation to protect the Ruby Mountains from future requests for oil and gas leasing is making its way through the Senate.
The question over leasing 4,000 acres in and around the Ruby Mountains began when the Bureau of Land Management received an expression of interest in April 2017. An environmental assessment from the U.S. Forest Service rejected the plan in May, stating that the Rubies showed “unfavorable geologic conditions in the area.”
The Ruby Mountains Protection Act, introduced by Cortez Masto in February, would withdraw approximately 450,000 acres of land within the Ruby Mountain Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest from any eligibility for oil and gas leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act.
If passed, it would permanently protect the Rubies from oil and gas leasing.
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The bill had a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee, Cortez Masto said. She said she has only received “neutral non-support” from one individual who questioned the need for the bill in light of the Forest Service’s rejection of the permit request.
“The bill I have makes it permanent,” she said. “It doesn’t waste any more taxpayer dollars. [It also] makes sure we’re protecting this land that we already know isn’t conducive for oil and gas leasing.”
Cheva Gabor, Nevada’s liaison with the U.S. Forest Service Intermountain Regional Office, accompanied the senator on her tour with other Forest Service personnel. She said the group had the opportunity to show her Lamoille Canyon’s recovery and the challenges that lay ahead.
“The senator is asking very good questions. It’s always better to get out and see things on the ground, so we’re very pleased that she’s taking the time to do that. Clearly, she cares a lot about this area,” Gabor said.
Cortez Masto was also accompanied on the tour by Elko County Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi and Lions Club Chair Chuck Stout.
Stout said he was happy to see her interest in the camp’s rebuilding efforts, inviting the senator back when the Lions Club Camp publicly reopens.
“This is really awesome,” Stout said. “It makes me feel good to know it is close to her heart also.”
The senator’s visit to Elko is part of her rural tour of northern Nevada this week, with other visits planned in Carlin, Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.
“For the next three days, I’ll be in the rurals talking to folks to see what’s going on,” Cortez Masto said. “[I’ll be] talking about what we’re doing in Washington, D.C., and I’ll hear on the ground what I need to take back to Washington to fight for the people in our communities.”
She said topics of conversation would likely revolve around transportation and broadband internet in rural Nevada.
“We need to make sure our rural communities are connected so they can access so many important services they need, like healthcare and many other things.”