Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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Editorial: Preserve our open spaces

A coalition forms to bring attention to Western conservation and wilderness areas

Early American Indians communicate with us today through their centuries-old etchings on rocks and stone walls in desert wilderness areas.

These fascinating and priceless petroglyphs are endangered, though, as the resources to protect the open lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management are stretched way too thin.

Conservation areas, such as those in Red Rock and Sloan canyons, and the vast wilderness areas, national trails, rivers and other open, natural spaces guarded by the BLM, make up the little-known National Landscape Conservation System.

It's a system that deserves far more attention from the BLM than funding now permits. The 48,000-acre Sloan Canyon Conservation Area south of the Las Vegas Valley, for example, has just four rangers to protect its petroglyphs, trails and rare plant and animal species.

Fortunately, a national coalition has formed and has taken on the mission of educating Congress and the public about the conservation system, in hopes of making it as well-known as the National Park System. By increasing awareness of the system's role in ecology as well as recreation, the coalition hopes that more federal money will become available for its preservation.

The coalition, which includes the National Wildlife Federation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, has our support. As the Western population grows, residents have a need for greater preservation of their open and natural spaces. We would welcome more patrols by BLM agents in these remote areas.