LAS VEGAS SUN- Throughout my career, I’ve watched visitors from around the world flock to Nevada to experience our nightlife, gaming, shopping, restaurants and entertainment. These tourists also come to see our national monuments and enjoy the rolling red rocks, gaze at the open blue skies and experience the desert heat.
With this in mind, I was stunned to learn that President Donald Trump issued an unnecessary executive order to review national monuments throughout the country and potentially strip them of protection. Last month, the Nevada Legislature took the bold step to pass a resolution in support of Nevada’s three monuments. I applaud the Legislature for this effort.
The president’s executive order represents a serious threat to our state economy given that public lands play an integral role in the Nevada tourism industry, our largest employer and economic engine. I’d like to offer some perspective on this executive order as a 30-year veteran of the tourism industry in Nevada.
In 1989, we hosted 21 million tourists in Nevada. At the time only 1 percent of visitors came from foreign nations. Last year, we had 58 million people come to Nevada, and 19 percent were from foreign lands. I believe this drastic increase is in large part due to the magnetism our public lands have in attracting new visitors.
Two of Nevada’s monuments — Gold Butte, and Basin and Range — are targeted for review under Trump’s executive order. These monuments have bolstered our economy and contribute to a well-rounded set of tourist attractions in Nevada. Outdoor recreation activities generate approximately $15 billion in direct consumer spending each year and approximately $1 billion in state and local tax revenue for our state.
Nevada’s legislative resolution outlines support for “the enactment and use of the Antiquities Act as a critical tool for protecting the public good by authorizing the designation of national monuments under the Antiquities Act.” The Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt and has been used by 16 presidents (eight Democrats and eight Republicans) to designate crown jewel American monuments.
The distinctly American tradition of national monuments coupled with the vast economic impact they provide make it difficult for me to understand why we would debate rolling back protections for these special places.
This resolution should be a clear message to President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that Nevadans want to keep our national monuments just the way they are. The actions of the Trump administration are in direct opposition to the expressed interests of Nevada residents.
In addition to our state legislators, we need strong champions in Washington, D.C., to protect our public lands. I want to thank Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., for being a tough advocate for our public lands. I encourage her colleague Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to likewise advocate to maintain protections for the lands that so deeply affect our economy and culture.
Lastly, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Antiquities Act today, I’d ask my fellow Nevadans to let the Department of the Interior know where we stand on this issue. The public comment period for the national monuments review is open. Tell the Trump administration to maintain protections for our national monuments and continue to safeguard Gold Butte and Basin and Range by posting a comment at protectgoldbutte.org.
Thomas Tait is the former secretary of the Nevada Tourism Commission and former president of the Nevada Tourism Alliance.