Ever hear that saying, “Nevada is a wasteland?” For many reasons in the past, people thought that it was. Let’s start with the nuclear testing. Nobody cared. It was Nevada. Then the state became known for being a dumping ground. Dump your trash. Dump your nuclear waste. Dump your quarantinable pests and invasive species.
It wasn’t a place anyone stayed. Las Vegas especially was known as a transient town, where people would move here for a few years and try their luck, then leave. Population statistics were quoted as how many people moved in and how many moved out. All that’s different now. The population is given as over 2 million. What’s changed? People are staying. Building a home here means building a community, and that means you have to give the people something to be vested in. Concepts once unheard of for this town, like farmer’s markets, urban gardening, and various meetup groups are now gaining in popularity. And the state’s leaders are paying attention.
Some years back, in 2006, Representative Dina Titus formed a legislative committee to explore Nevada’s natural “treasures.” Those of us who have spent time exploring and learning to love the desert landscape already knew the treasures were there. Others had to be convinced. Also in 2006, an organization called Scenic Nevada took as its purpose the awareness of places in the state that could do with some protection. They published a booklet entitled Nevada’s Last Chance Scenic Places – 13 outdoor sites that were notable for history, beauty, and/or environmental significance. Over time, various ‘Friends’ groups, as well as industrious individuals, gathered together to push for saving these lands. And the work has paid off. Recently, 2 new national monuments have been created in Nevada: Tule Springs Fossil Beds and Basin and Range. The “Live Monumental” campaign is advocating for another one at Gold Butte.
Media and PR are paying attention, too. Coincidental perhaps, but a great PBS television show called Outdoor Nevada is back in production, after over fifteen years’ absence, sharing great places and activities in this outdoor wonderland. For eons, the categories of outdoor recreation and tourism were considered separate beasts. Then the state Department of Tourism was re-organized to include culture, museums, and historical sites, merging the promotion of all our attractions. It was a smart move, enabling our economy to diversify and benefit from all the great things we offer.
So, it’s time to celebrate what is definitely a change in Nevada’s outlook, and hopefully, everyone’s purview.
Margie B. Klein is a freelance writer, nature lover, and retired environmental educator who’s lived in Las Vegas since the ’90′s. Follow her on Twitter @NatureWriterVgs.