The following are Nevada Senator Harry Reid's remarks as prepared for delivery discussing the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act and the Pine Forest Range Wilderness Designation to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee On Public Lands & Forests:
The state of Nevada is a huge state area wise. Eighty-seven percent of the state of Nevada is owned by the government. No other state compares to that.
I sponsored the reintroduction of the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act with my friend Dean Heller and the rest of the Nevada congressional delegation.
The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act would allow the City of Yerington, Nevada in partnership with Nevada Copper, to develop 12,500 acres of land surrounding the already operating Pumpkin Hollow mine site. That is located now on private land. The bill would also designate about 50,000 acres as a Wilderness Area, Wovoka, named after the great Indian Wovoka.
This bill will provide a huge positive economic impact to Lyon County. Nevada has been hit hard by the economic downturn. No state in the union has come close to the economic problems we've had in Nevada. For 20 years, we led the nation in economic vitality. For the last 4-5 years, we've been on the other end of the spectrum.
We've led the nation in unemployment until just recently. We've led the nation in foreclosure until just recently. It's a difficult time. No part of Nevada has been hurt worse than the area about which I'm talking now. As we speak, Lyon County has 15% of unemployment. That is 50% of Lyon County's schoolchildren qualify for free or reduced lunch programs.
Yerington is about seventy 70 miles South of Reno. The city of Yerington will be allowed, by this legislation, to purchase 10,400 acres of land surrounding their current operation. The City will partner with Nevada Copper to expand their operation, resulting in hundreds of new jobs Mr. Chairman.
I've indicated that Yerington is economically depressed. This is a great shot in the arm. When I first started running statewide for Nevada in 1970, there was another vital part of that economy. It was an Anaconda mine, copper mine. It's there now, but it's only a big empty pit.
We've been trying to reclaim that for the last 15 or 20 years. This is badly needed in Yerington, Lyon County, but all over the state of Nevada. That's why I was a little disappointed this morning, in an interview yesterday with a Reno newspaper. I said I would hope that they would be hiring Nevada people to do this work. And in the paper today I read they criticized me for saying that saying, "Well half of the people we've hired already are from Nevada."
Well, half of the people shouldn't be from Nevada. They should all be from Nevada. We've had the highest unemployment until the last couple of months in the entire state. We've got people that can do any kind of work, craftsmen that can do anything. No one can criticize the fact that we don't have mining.
We have the largest gold mining operations in the entire country. We are the third largest producer of gold in the world, the state of Nevada. I would hope that the people here are going to get this legislation here and we're going to pass it. I would hope they would look to Nevada and Nevada employees to do our work. This is a really important piece of legislation. It protects natural lands that are important to the people of Nevada.
As I've indicated, Wovoka Wilderness Area is named in honor of the Native American spiritual leader and father of the Ghostdance who was born and raised in the area. The cultural and natural resources here are worthy of a high level of protection so that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the beauty for generations.
It's a wonderful area on the Walker River and I can't stress enough how very, very important this legislation is for preserving beautiful lands, and also releasing lands that can be used at their best use and from mine. This is terribly needed. I repeat for the third time.
Briefly, I also would like to just put in a good word about the Pine Forest Recreation Enhancement Act, which is also on your agenda for today. This creates the 20,000 acres of Pine Forest Wilderness.
I would just acknowledge that my Republican colleague in the House is the person that is pushing this more than anyone else. It's something that he believes in. I believe in.
I would stress the importance of the local effort that went into crafting this bill led by Congressman Amodei. The Nevada State Legislature endorsed both of these pieces of legislation and I hope you will report both of these favorly.