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An Urban State Just "Blooming with Atoms"

by Ralph Heller

emographers had a few surprises for Nevadans not long ago. It seems that Nevada is now considered an urban state. Nationally, the percentage of Americans residing in urban population areas is 78 percent, but in Nevada urban dwellers now constitute 83 percent of the state’s population, concentrated in Clark and Washoe counties.

No less surprising was the recently released news that fully 87 percent of adult Nevada residents were born in some other state. That most of us weren’t born in Nevada comes as no secret, of course—but do natives really account for only 13 percent of Nevada’s population?

One finds a higher percentage of native Nevadans in our less populous counties, of course, and fortunately Nevada’s congressional delegation takes very seriously those matters of special interest in our rural counties. And few things have rubbed rural Nevadans and their congressional representatives the wrong way more than last spring’s new hardrock bonding regulations decreed by the Bureau of Land Management which by mid-summer was still defying all congressional efforts to take testimony on the new regulations.

In this issue Contributing Editor D. Dowd Muska takes a close look at today’s BLM arrogance. At present, reports Mr. Muska, the mining industry in Nevada employs 13,190 people, making it a weak sister politically when compared, for example, to the state’s gaming industry. But the average salary of the mining industry’s employees is $46,280, far higher than the state’s overall average salary of $26,626.

What we’re talking about is a stable, highly responsible industry that plays a critical role in the economic life of Nevada’s less urbanized counties and one that can now boast that it is the fourth highest gold producer on earth, behind only South Africa, Australia and those places with names nobody can pronounce which together until recently constituted what was known as the Soviet Union.

Mr. Muska provides a blow-by-blow account of the struggle against the BLM, one that found a subpoena being served to the Secretary of the Interior which seems to be the only way Congress can maintain governmental accountability these days. Yet we call it democracy.

Not that Washington has a monopoly on government arrogance, of course. Elsewhere in this issue Elko Daily Free Press Editorial Page Editor Dan Steninger relates the tale of how the Nevada Division of Wildlife joined forces with the U.S. Forest Service to shake down owners of a gold mine to the tune of a half million dollars before they’d permit the mining operation to expand. Mr. Steninger wonders if we’re now doing business with the government or the mob.

We welcome to our pages for the first time in this issue Nevada Assemblyman Pat Hickey who provides a refreshingly candid "insider’s critique" of the legislative process in Nevada. He even dares to suggest that some lobbyists may have too many chips on the table which obviously makes Mr. Hickey a welcome legislative heretic in Nevada these days.

In this issue’s centerfold, you will find come comparative financial statistics your local newspapers could be providing for taxpayers if they cared as much about their readers as they do about their advertisers. This issue is rounded out with contributions from Managing Editor Erica Olsen and from me. Miss Olsen proves herself to be a savvy detective, exposing the grotesque financial mismanagement of several federal programs.

And finally for this issue, I did my best to explain the step-by-step process used in problem solving today and quickly found myself awash in a sea of acronyms from "COPPS" to "SLAPP," all the while reminiscing for the good old days when we call spoke English.

There is an understandable tendency in western states to blame the federal government for everything that may go wrong, from floods to a case of the sniffles, but recent publication of a 1952 speech by Nevada Governor Charles Russell serves to remind us that sometimes we bring on our own troubles. Defending the Test Site and continued atomic testing just seven years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Governor Russell had this to say: "It’s exciting to think that the submarginal land of the proving ground is furthering science and helping national defense. We have long ago written off that terrain as wasteland and today it’s blooming with atoms."

So there you have it. The state we love and like to think of as the Wild West is actually an "urban state" and moreover it’s "blooming with atoms." It’s enough to make a Californian or a New Yorker homesick, isn’t it?

Ralph Heller is the Senior Consulting Editor of Nevada Journal.


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