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COMMENTARY: Congressional Western Caucus a voice for rural communities

As Americans from all over the country gather in Las Vegas for one of our greatest cultural traditions, the National Finals Rodeo, members of Congress are also convening here to discuss important issues facing Nevada and states across the West.

Congressional Western Caucus members serve as a voice for rural America in Congress. As a group of more than 70 members from across the United States, we work to focus on issues impacting communities throughout the West and beyond. Our caucus’s efforts are driven by a unified desire to ensure the voices of rural communities are not ignored by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. We work tirelessly to push the priorities of these local communities front and center in our nation’s capital.

This weekend, more than a dozen members of Congress from across the country — both in the U.S. House and Senate — are gathered in Las Vegas for field tours and policy roundtables with local stakeholders and issue experts to discuss both short-term and long-term solutions to the West’s water challenges, the importance of responsible domestic critical mineral development and the need for further deployment of rural broadband to bridge the digital divide.

All of these issues impact the lives of Nevadans every day.

With severe drought conditions throughout the West and historically low water levels at Lake Mead, the need for further investment in our water systems has never been more clear. With much of the Western water infrastructure under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal government plays a significant role in meeting the water needs of Nevada and other states throughout the region. We must continue to focus on improving — and utilizing — our water infrastructure, including storage projects and desalination plants, in order to protect and provide a stable supply of water for our homes, businesses and agriculture producers who feed the world. Hearing the perspectives of Nevada’s local water managers will help inform our policymaking in Washington, D.C.

As the United States and nations across the world look to embrace a clean energy future, critical minerals continue to be an important cornerstone. Nevada is no stranger to responsible mining. Mining accounts for more than $204 million in tax revenue and contributes $9.5 billion in economic activities throughout the state. Not only does this boost local economies, but it contributes to our national security by providing the minerals we need to develop clean energy infrastructure, build military technologies and manufacture everyday goods here at home. Instead of relying on foreign countries with lax environmental standards — many of which utilize slave and child labor — we should be developing the resources we have domestically. Without mining, we have no clean energy future, and we are here in Las Vegas to help leverage these local perspectives to make that case.

Lastly, if the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that broadband connectivity in rural communities is a necessity, not a luxury. As millions of people transitioned to working and learning from home, the digital divide between rural and urban America became even more apparent. While rural broadband development has been a priority for decades, there is still so much more work to be done. At our roundtables, we plan to discuss how we can further work with states, the federal government and industry partners to close this gap and ensure that each and every individual, family, and business has access to reliable Internet service.

We are proud to represent rural America in Congress and will continue to elevate the traditions, values and principles of the West. The challenges facing Nevadans are the same challenges facing so many rural communities throughout the United States. We will take what we learn in Las Vegas to continue working to lift Nevadans’ voices — and the voices of all of rural America — in Washington, D.C.

Dan Newhouse, a Republican, represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District and chairs the Congressional Western Caucus. Mark Amodei, a Republican, represents Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District and serves as vice chair of the caucus.

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