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Michael Heizer’s City reflects Nevada’s monumental story

Since long before joining the Union in 1864, Nevada has drawn strength from its cultural, economic and geographic diversity. The storied histories of mining and ranching, combined in later decades with gaming and entertainment, and now technology, have contributed to the economic vitality and cultural identity that is today’s modern Nevada.

Initially, mining long defined the productive resource industry of rural Nevada, the Silver State. First there was the Comstock Lode and later the Carlin Trend.

At the same time, emigrants from Basque Country, along with Mormon settlers, combined with Native American populations and others, established vibrant, close-knit ranching communities throughout the Great Basin of northern and central Nevada.

In the 20th century, the gaming industry emerged to make our state one of the leading travel and tourism destinations in the world. Innovative world-class hotels combined with restaurants, entertainment, shopping, spas, and casinos have made Nevada an incomparable destination for international and American tourists.

With hard work and unprecedented investments, Nevada’s tourism economy today is much more than gaming. Indeed, my company, MGM Resorts, now generates more than half of our revenue from nongaming offerings.

Across the state, tourists come for many reasons.

The beauty of Lake Tahoe to the north and the ingenuity and majesty of Hoover Dam to the south have served as internationally recognized icons beyond urban Nevada for more than 75 years. The state has benefited from the creation of conservation destinations that add an important — and often unexpected — dimension to our state’s tourism profile.

Great Basin National Park was established in 1986. Additionally, more than 60 other wilderness areas have been identified in the last 25 years, along with a number of special federal designations including the Red Rock Canyon and Black Rock Desert National Conservation Areas. Together they contribute to further distinguish Nevada as a global conservation destination.

Today, Nevada’s conservation-related tourism is poised to advance to the next level through an opportunity that would uniquely integrate the cultural and natural resource diversity that makes Nevada great.

For the past 40 years, Michael Heizer, a world-renowned landscape-scale artist, has been working to create a monumental sculpture entitled City. Inspired by the sciences of engineering and geology, City is sited in the heart of the Great Basin and Range country north of Las Vegas.

The nearly finished piece, which has received more than $25 million in funding from art philanthropists from New York to Los Angeles to Las Vegas, evokes elements from ancient cultures of North and South America, as well as Egypt.

City exists in harmony with ongoing ranching activities, irreplaceable Native American artworks and cultural sites, and the extraordinary natural history in the transition zone between the Mohave Desert and the Sagebrush country of the Great Basin, amidst one of the most remote and least developed areas of the West.

City is an incomparable asset to our state.

Southern Nevada historically suffers from a dearth of public art. Protecting City from incompatible development would be a visionary and important step toward ensuring Heizer’s greatest work lives in perpetuity for the benefit of not only all Nevadans, but for all Americans and our international visitors. It provides an educational opportunity to help current and future generations of Nevadans better understand and appreciate the wide range of our state’s cultural and natural resources.

Sen. Harry Reid has championed protecting City and the surrounding landscape for many years. I commend his efforts to withdraw the area from exposure to mining, energy development, gaming and other incompatible uses. Both he and Rep. Dina Titus have recently re-introduced legislation to provide such long-term protection.

The imminent completion of Michael Heizer’s City and the threat of incompatible uses to the surrounding landscape underscore the imperative for quick and decisive action. Unfortunately, Congress is often neither quick nor decisive. However, by permanently protecting City and the landscape around it as a national monument, President Barack Obama could ensure that these special aspects of Nevada’s cultural and natural history are protected forever. I am confident such action would ensure that City, and the landscape at the heart of Basin and Range, would become another marquee Nevada attraction on the world map.

As the largest private employer in the state, I am proud to join with a diverse coalition of Nevada business interests ranging from Barrick Gold in the mining sector, to Patagonia in the retail sector, to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority, all joining together to support the effort to protect City.

We all recognize that Heizer’s life’s work is a Nevada original that reflects brilliantly on the greatness of the Silver State. It is urgent that there is immediate measures to protect it for generations to come.”

Jim Murren is chairman and chief executive officer of MGM Resorts International.

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