Those campaigns increasingly favor what is best described as a "Let’s make a deal" wilderness strategy. The price of that strategy is now clear in Nevada.
The Nevada congressional delegation recently pushed through Congress legislation for Lincoln County that considerably raises the price for modest wilderness designation. The final bill designates 770,000 of 2.5 million eligible acres as official wilderness, but opens 246,000 acres in wilderness study areas to development, sells off 100,000 acres of public land, and reserves a half-mile-wide pipeline corridor to accommodate the push by Las Vegas to appropriate vast amounts of Nevada’s groundwater (HCN, 9/13/04: A water-and-wilderness bill kicks up dust in Nevada). The water grab is expected to dry up desert springs in the Desert National Wildlife Range, Death Valley and other areas critical to wildlife.
In Nevada, water, not wilderness, is the key scarce resource and the number-one environmental issue. It is time for wilderness advocates to wake up and take a clear stand in opposition to the "Let’s make a deal" wilderness strategy.