Public lands are worth protecting

Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how good we have it and that what we have is worth protecting. Just last week I was reminded in a big way, a Texas-sized way, of just how blessed we are to have so much open space in Nevada. Of course, that open space is only a blessing if we have access to it.

Like many parents across the country, my wife and I spent the past couple of weeks taking one of our children to school. While my other kids have stayed fairly close to home, my eldest son accepted a scholarship to Texas A&M, located in the eastern part of Texas. After making the trip there and back, I can honestly say we had only an inkling of what we were in for.

Twelve hours of nonstop driving the first day put us somewhere in eastern New Mexico. A second 12-hour day put us in Austin, Texas, and part of a third day was required to finally reach College Station. I can't imagine making that trip with a horse and wagon. Even with a padded seat and rubber tires my posterior was glad to be out of the truck at the end of the day.

Hoping to get a chance to wet a line in a Texas bass pond along the way, I tucked my fly rod and the necessary supplies in a protected corner of the truck before we left home. But the opportunity to use that rod never came. Not because there weren't any lakes, ponds or open spaces in Texas - anyone who has been to Texas knows the state has plenty of wide-open space - but because there always seemed to be a fence, a "no trespassing" sign and someone's private property between us and the shoreline.

Granted, we only saw a small part of Texas, and I am sure there is some fine shoreline fishing or hunting there, but as we traveled its highways, I couldn't help but think how good we have it farther west.

There is still a lot of open space in Nevada, and even our neighboring states of Utah and Arizona, places I can drive to right now and hunt or fish without seeing a fence or a "no trespassing" sign. But there are those who are looking to take that away from us. They can be found among overzealous land managers who want to lock the public off its own lands through stringent regulation, among the wealthy souls who are looking to buy up public land and fence the rest of us out, and in the anti-hunting organizations who simply don't like what we do.

In any case, the results are not good for the average person. If we fail to speak up and get involved in the management of our public resources today, tomorrow we could find ourselves telling our kids or grandchildren they can look but don't touch.

■ DOVE SEASON - As we made our way back to the Las Vegas area, my wife and I couldn't help but notice the water left behind by the large storm that passed through Southern Nevada while we were away. The availability of water will scatter the mourning doves for Saturday's season opener. If the storms expected this week actually take place, the doves that have migrated into the area will continue south.

To be successful, hunters will need to remain flexible and be prepared to try a number of locations.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at


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