WASHINGTON — Sen. Dean Heller on Tuesday called President Barack Obama’s creation of a 704,000-acre national monument conservation area in Nevada a “disgrace,” saying it was done without input from lawmakers or the rural counties it affects the most.
When Obama on July 10 signed the proclamation designating the Basin and Range National Monument, Heller, R-Nev., issued a statement critical of the move.
On Tuesday he ramped up his remarks, and in the process drew a retort from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who had championed the president’s move to set aside 1,100 square miles of Lincoln and Nye counties through executive order.
“What happened in Nevada, I feel was a disgrace, and it’s a shame we are standing here today with a monument in the state of Nevada the size of Rhode island, with no input from Nevada’s delegation nor counties,” Heller said on the Senate floor. “Just a single action made by one person.”
Reid issued a rebuttal through his spokeswoman, who said that nobody was caught by surprise by the president’s action and that the Basin and Range National Monument enjoys “vast support.”
“This wasn’t a secret,” Kristen Orthman said. “Senator Reid talked with Senator Heller and other officials in Nevada about his intentions. We waited for their input and didn’t get any.”
The exchange shows Obama’s move to preserve the region encompassing Garden Valley and Coal Valley by withdrawing the area from energy exploration, mining and other development remains a sore spot among some Nevadans and other Republicans in the West.
At a federal land forum last week on Capitol Hill, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said some Westerners are fearful that the Basin and Range land withdrawal “is just the beginning of what this administration may propose in its last 15 months.
“We may see millions and millions of acres (withdrawn), all without any input at all from the local people who are most affected,” Stewart said.
Heller on Tuesday took to the Senate floor as Idaho’s senators had just created a 275,000-acre wilderness area by passing legislation.
The Nevadan was there to speak about privacy rights and cybersecurity, but before he began, he complimented the Idaho achievement.
Heller then contrasted it to Nevada, where there was little consensus surrounding the Basin and Range National Monument. It enjoyed support from Democrats, conservationists and some residents, and not much from Republicans and local officials.
“The collaborative effort that you saw from Idaho and how it works and how the system should work needs to be recognized,” he said.
Contact Review-Journal Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC.