tv Earth Focus LINKTV January 22, 2022 5:00am-6:30am PST
man: in the american west, most of the land is public land. it's owned by all of us. this is nowhere more true in the lower 48 than in nevada, where close to 90% of the land is owned by the federal government. it's owned by us. chisholm: particularly in nevada, so many people are oriented to spending time out on publicands, whether you hunt, you fish, you just enjoy it casually, you horseback-ride, you're a rancher, you're a miner, you're a farmer. whoever
you are, you spend time out on your public lands, and it's an amazing part of our legacy, and it's something that really distinguishes the united states, distinguishes nevada as a great, great place to live. baca: one of the beauties of nevada is that we have these millions and millions of acres of public lands, but sometimes this can lead to conflicts, as you have generations of people who come through and engage with the land in different ways.
[applause] nancy pelosi: today we unveil a portrait of one of the greatest leaders the senate has ever known hillary clinton: both a trusted colleague as well as a friend. jobiden: iove you, pal. i know that embarrasses you, but i do. [applause] [camera shutter clicks] harry reid: when i retired from the senate, we had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of box of papers. archivists, when they start inventorying this, found out more of a half of thstuff that i did in the senate, well, dealt with the environment. people have asked me on a number of occasions, "how come you became interested in environment?" it was because of piute springs. oh, it was a place of my dreams. for a young boy, it was beautiful. they had great big,
tall cottonwood trees. most of all, there was a fort there. it was called fort piute. it was made out of rock. it had been built in 1864 to track the mail routes. you can still see some of the windows where the gunning placements were. there were ponds and you had lily pads, cattails. i mean, unbelievable. i mean, gee whiz, as a little boy ming from searchlight. as i look back, growing up in searchlight, i couldn't believe where i was raised. i was born in my parents' house in searchlight. we didn't have much money, but they left me something better. they taught me that by hard work, in america, you can succeed. my dad was a hard rock miner who--a lot of times, he worked and nobody paid him, and when they paid him, the checks bounced. my mother took in wash. now, you might ask, in a town of a few hundred people, whose wash would she take in? when i grew
up in searchlight, it was a town of prostitutes. at one time, we had as many as 13 bordellos in searchlight. searchlight itself had no trees, no grass. it was just a place where there was no water. i'd wanted to go back to piute springs cause as a boy, my youthful mind, it was like paradise. and i went back. somebody had burned the trees, the big cottonwood trees. the fort had been knocked down. the lily pads were gone, the ponds were gone. i felt so bad about that. if we couldn't protect that gem of the desert, then we're in big trouble as a country. christensen: so reid's had a very interesting, "only in nevada" kind of political career. woman: congressman harry reid, the first district, whichsents
includes las vegas. man: graduated from utah state and earned his law degree from george washington school of law in washington, d.c. woman 2: and served in the nevada assembly from 1969 to '71. reid: i'm out with a couple of my friends. one of them just nonchalantly says, "why don't you run for lieutenant governor?" "hmm. never thought of that. ok, i'll run for lieutenant governor." that was my preparation for running for lieutenant governor. woman: he was lieutenant governor of nevada from 1971 to '75. christensen: then, in 1974, he ran for u.s. senate against paul laxalt. reid: i never lost anything. freshman, sophomore class president. christensen: lost by 524 votes. he went back to las vegas, ran for mayor, lost again. reid: nobody knew who i was. o'callaghan: i first met harry reid whei was teaching hig school in henderson, nevada. ristensen: then mike o'callaghan appointed him to the gaming commission...
reid: regular meeting of the nevada gaming commission is called to order. christensen: where he played a mob from the gambling industry. man: the chairman called me a liar. you can dish it out, but you can't take it, can you, harry? christensen: then, in 1982, with nevada's booming population, the state got a second congressional district. reid: we need to get people who appear in the halls of congress who speak for the consumer. christensen: and harry reid ran for that new open seat and won. and that was the beginning of his long congressional career. reid: i will continue to be nsistent... conservation, you know, is not a democratic issue. to be independent... tv announcer: independent like nevada. reid: and to work hard for r state. this is gridlock in spades. and i'll always do what i think is right for nevada. christensen: when he won that congressional seat in 1982, nevada was still seen by many as a wasteland.
[wind howling] tv narrator: the nevada desert, some of the most desolate acres to be found anywhere in the united states. chisholm: the federal government's role in nevada has been one of using it, quite frankly, as a colony. goes back to the mining history, where the mines generated all the wealth for san francisco, but also were important to the union cause. it goes to the cold war, when it was the testing ground and proving ground for the atomic weapons. at the height of the cold r, the u.s. government was testing atomic weapons above ground, underground, just 90 miles from las vegas. tv narrator: the nevada test site. it's sort of a backyard workshop. [explosions] ok, so nevada is important. chisholm: people would watch mushroom clouds from las vegas. cocktails were named after the atomic tests.
i mean, it's absurd to think that we were allowing the type of atomic testing that was curring so close to a population center. man: ...minus one minute. chisholm: it was as a result of the cold war, the atomic testing that people really came to see nevada as being a wasteland. narrator: ...in the new world of the atomic age. [poignant music plays] [slide projector clicks] baca: it's interesting. in nevada, where we have these incredible wilderness areas, we have these beautiful night skies, there are so many assets. however, we had no national parks. so few places were really being celebrated for the incredible beauty that they had. christensen: when reid got into congress, he wanted to change thathe wanted to put nevada on e map in a different way. reid: i wanted to do somethi about wilderness. becausnevada was growing so fast, i knew
people unintentionally would ruin the environment. i had a press secretary. i'd been out looking around rural nevada, and she called me. she said, "senator, i'm in ely. these people up here think you should forget about this wilderness thing and go for a national park." chisholm: before harry reid was elected to congress, if you were an environmentalist in nevada, you didn't have a friend in congress. in fact, you had people who were working against you. laxalt: the values i have now are very much the values of having been raised in an old-country family, first generation, and also of small-town values. reid: a national park, which i want for nevada, it would behe first park in the united states in almost 15 years... christensen: reid advocatin for a big park of 129,000 acres that would cover the entire wheeler range. laxalt and the other senator, chic hecht, want a smaller park
of 44,000 acres to protect the mining and ranching interests. tv reporter: the town of ely could experience the most impactfrom the great basin naonal par many sident believe that the park' popularity cou spill over to ely and rejuvenate an otherwise dormant economy. christensen: when he heard that there was support for a national park, he saw a solution. reid: i was willing to compromise snificantly. laxalt didn't kill it. i'm sure he could have, but he didn't. because of him, i made it smaller than it should have been, and i also allowed grazing on it. cows and shp could graze there. i got it passed, and so there was talk about the secretary of agriculture at that time. was recommending to president reagan to veto that. ronald reagan: democrats and republicans must join together not to do what's easy, but to do what is right. reid: so i called william penn mott, thdirector of park service, and i said, "mr. mott,
there's talk about vetoing my park. how do you feel about it?" he said, "i, as a young park ranger, was asked by one of the senators from nevada to go out and find a place in nevada for a park." and he said, "i spent a lot of time, and i found the place atheeler peak. no one's going to veto this park." he says, "i have been in favor of this park for over 50 years." mott: congre recognizes that here, we do have natural resources of national significance. now that it's a national park, people will begin to understand that, and as we begin to interpret the natural and cultural values, it'll be clear that this truly is a national park. tv narrator: on october 17, 1986, president reagan signed legislation designating a carefully prescribed area as the great basin national park. senator harry reid, during his tenure in congress, was instrumental in the park's final push through congress.
reid: this state is beautiful. we're now going to have a national park. it's a place of intersecting mountain ranges. it's a place of beauty, and we want people to know of nevada as something other than a place to set off bombs and to store nuclear waste. christensen: i think we can see this first big victory as confirmation for reid himself that he can get things done in congress. great basin national park is significant in an interesting other way. when the rk was being inaugurated, he was supposed to fly out there to join the ceremony, but the weather was too bad, and so he ove up etern nevada. it's a couple hundred miles. reid: and all the way, from alamo up, there were great fields of grain. what are they growing there? they were growing alfalfa, all these huge alfalfa fields. [slide projector clicking]
'cause we have so much sunshine, they get as many as 5 or 6 cuttings each year and bundle up for hay. alfalfa's one of the most water-intensive plants there is, so i thought to myself as i drove up there, "how are they able to grow that?" it's not from rainfall. las vegas has 4 inches a year. it's being irrigated. it's irrigated la. [slide projector clicks] [water sloshing] for lifen the american westal also f agriculre. in tems,ut eastern rt of the united states and in the midwest, agriculture can rvive on rainfall. in the american west, it's dependent on irrigation. and late in the 19th century and early in the 20th century,
settlers realized that to have agriculture at the scale that they envisioned, couldn't just be done with local, small irrigation projects, but required massive federal investments for dams and reservoirs and canals, and leveling fields and valleys to make agriculture possible, to make the desert bloom. this was called reclamation. narrator: parched scrubland was turned into green farms. reid: the idea with reclamation was to find a way to harness particularly rivers in the west to put people and support families out on the ground, to expand agriculture. people weren't really looking at what was the impact on native americans, what was the impact on our rivers, our fish. people didn't thi about that. [gavel pounds] from nevada has the floor.r
id: fit bureau of reclamation project ever to take place in the united states took place in nevada--the newlands project. [bell dings] the newlands project was funded for one reason: nevada has a shortage of water. christensen: what the newlands project did was to dam the truckee river and divert tha water over to the carson river basin to expand agriculture around the farming community of fallon. it also dammed the carson river and set up a network of canals to supply water to farms in what came to be called the truckee-carson irrigation district. ernie schank: i am a native nevadan. i was born in fallon.
i live on the same ranch--in fact, i live in a house that my grandfather built in about 1930. i am the youngest who ever ran for the board of directors for the truckee-carson irrigation district. my main occupation, however, is a farmer. this is what i love. our farm is now in the fifth generation. our family came to the fallon area in 1929, and when i asked my grandfather why, he said he wanted to go to a place where reclamation was in its infancy. the mormon pioneers pioneered reclamation as we know it today. they came to what was considered a wasted area because nobody thought that you could grow crops, but when they got here, they determined that if they would dam the streams and build reservoirs, that soil could become very fertile.
[water sloshing] baca: however, what they did not take into consideration was the effect of that reallation on the truckee river itself a on pymid lakend on some of the other lakes that were dependent onhis water system. ater splhing] man: this lake came under a great peril beginning of the last century because water was diverted from here for other uses, primarily truckee-carson irrigation disict in fallon. it silted up the aa, made spawning very bad. it was very difficult for the fish to find places to spawn, the beds were wiped out. not only did the lake go down, but the timing of the water and how it came down and what it came down with, the cleanliness, all of that, was just a big problem. tv announcer: since it is shrinking, the lake is becoming ss pure. it's ha to predict how long it may be before fish can no longer survive in it. young el i wouldmagine, by
the turn of the century, the fisheries would be eliminated entirely. tv narrator: just 3 fish today, where there once were thousands. man 2: then they murdered the murders what iis.. just a ely: at one point, the lahontan cutthroat trout were extinct in this lake. we were very much afraid that the cui-ui were going to become extinct as well. tv narrator: pyramid lake is the only place they're found in all of the world. ely: we're cui-ui ticutta. we're cui-ui eaters. we fish for them, we eat them, and we want to do that again. when i was a kid, about this time of year, yourars would be listening and you'd hear somebody say, "they're running" 'cause we knew the cui-ui were running. and when the cui-ui ran, you'd come to the lakeshore and there were people all up and down the lakeshore, catching cui-ui. so it was just this time of laughter and talk, and it was like a celebration.
well, my kids have never experienced that. i'm the last generation to experience that. grandkids haven't experienced it. they don't know at all. [applause] needed to fix that. we're out to protect our livelihood. we're out to protect our way of life. those things that we hold near and dear to us, which are part of our identity, part of who we are, we want to protect that and keep that integrity in place, and we are willg to do whatever it takes to do so. mid-part of the century, we decided to take it on ourselves. we were forced into a position of having to use the endangered species act. baca: many people probably don't realize that president nixon signed into law the clean water act and the endangered species act. richard nixon: each of us all across this great land has a stake in maintaini and
improving environmental qualit we must act. it is literally now or never. the environmental agenda now before the congress includes laws to deal with water pollution, ocean dumping, careless land development, and many other environmental problems. these problems will not stand still for politics or for partisanship. [tv clicksff] ely: we went to court and we took it on, and we were litigating it for years and years; decades, in fact. if the cui-ui go, that's a very intrate part of our way of life, and it goes, a big portion of our culture and tradition goes with it. man: well, if you didn't have the water, there'd be no farming. we have the water. presently, we have the water, and everybody else is wanting our water. man: we make a lot better use and more of a multiple use of the water within this irrigation district than i think is possible in pyramid. they should be compensated. tv anchor: the indians here
filed suit in federal court to stop the diversion of waters bound for pyramid lake. ely: the supreme court ruled on behalf of the fish... [gavel pounds thrice] because at that time, the lahotan cutthroat trout had been listed as threatened and the cui-ui as endangered. baca: winning that case, for the pyramid lake paiute, was really a landmark moment. it created the ability to actually negotiate and frame things in a different way so that they could come in and leverage a new deal. chisholm: it was a complete shock to the system. the urban areas all of a sudden realized something that they thought they had been counting on wasn't going to be available, and it meant working with the tribe. id: we have to resolve this issue. if not, it is going to be a long time before it can be worked out, if, in fact, it ever can be because each year that goes by, more demands are placed on the river systems. woman: a new water report
indicates the truckee meadows will not have enough water to meet the demands here 50 years from now without a negotiated settlement or a water pipeline. reid: reno was growing significantly, and the business community,hey knew tt something had to be done or they were goi to not be able to buy any more water. woman on tv: an unforeseen jump in water consumption indicated that the day of reckoning about the water supply situation is rapidly approaching. christensen: so, at the same time that this is happening on the ground in nevada, paul laxalt is in washington, d.c., trying to push through a compact between california and nevada that would have divided the waters of the truckee river. he wanted to settle the water wars, but in the process, he also wanted to extinguish any possibility that the pyramid
lake paiute tribe could claim more water on the river. when you have a compact between two states, it has to be approved by congress. that's why it was so important for laxalt to get this compact, so he called a meeting with the tribe. ely: we had to go to washington, d.c., and we had a meeting behind closed doors with our 4 congressional delegation. christensen: so imagine you're joe ely of the pyramid lake paiute tribe, in your 20s. you're called in to a meeting with one of the most powerful men in america, senator paul laxalt. with him, nevada senator chic hecht, congresswoman barbara vucanovich, and harry reid. ely: we knew prior to the meeting where senator reid was on this issue. we had a pretty good idea that he would assist us in this process. reid: yeah, i remember the meeting. i didn't say a word.
i just watched. ely: senator laxalt is the one that took charge of the meeting, and it was very short. he called a meeting to inform us that he was going to have the california-nevada interstate compact ratified, that he understood that we didn't like it, but that was too bad. and then he said, "i want you to understand this. i want you to understand that we're going to get this ratified, and we're going to get it passed and he says, "do you understand me?" i said, "yes." and he got up a little bit. he says, "do you understand me?" i said, "yes," then he says, "do you understand me?!" and he stuck his finger about that far from my face. i walked outside and said, "we're going to kill that compact,nd we're going to get this thing settled." christensen: so, over the next weeks and months, they walked the halls of congress, they
knocked on every door. they met with the press, they talked to representatives and senators, and they told them what an injustice this compact would be. these representatives and senators had not heard this side of the stor but as they began to hear what the cost of this compact would be for the pyramid lake paiute tribe, they began to question the compact. re: by theime that i was focused on stoing that compact, alrdy knew way around theouse of representives, so i felt that i was in a better position than they were, "they" meaning the laxalt folks. and then i did what i could just to throw a monkey wrench in everything. if i didn't want it done, it wouldn't get done. and the first hearing was in the house, and i didn't know the indians at all, but a number of
them came from nevada tribes, and they stood and objected to what he was trying to do. it surprised everybody in nevada 'cause you had paul laxalt andh. and these indians stood up and took them on, and the house members felt it was wrong, they were being, as usual, preyed upon. those inans enlightened me. th stopped it, and i decided after that to try to be some help to them. [applause] man: harry reid is the man. i think he's going to make it. id: thanyou very much. chstensen:he falof 1986... man: i'm kind of leaning
toward harry reid. man 2: personally, i think he's a little wishy-washy. woman: i'm going to support harry reid. woman 2: senator paul laxalt will be retiring at the end of this term. laxalt: i've done my political bit, and that's it for me. [lively tune playing] reid: i'veever taken my good fortune for granted. there's one other thing i've never taken for granted, and that's you. [rousing music pys] tom brokaw: there were enough vos to bring about a fundamental shift of power in washington. in nevada, congressman harry reid was a giant killer, winning the senate seat of president reagan's close friend, paul laxalt, now retired. christensen: it's election night, harry reid has won the senate seat. big celebration, lots of reporters around, microphones getting stuck in his face. one reporter asks him, "what's the most important thing you're going to work on?" reid: i said, "water." now, frankly, at that time, i didn't know what i was talking about. man: from a staff perspective, one of the things i really appreciated about him is his sort of decisiveness. he would make a decision, and then you
would go do the thing. he decided that he was going to save pyramid lake. he decided he was going to end the water war between california and nevada. there were components of doing that that were wildly politically unpopular, and he didn't care. he knew that it was the right thing to do, and he set about doing it. [tires screech] christensen: but he doesn't craft a top-down solution like laxalt's compact. instead, he sends one of his top aides, wayne mehl, out to nevada to listen to all of the different interests and try to negotiate a settlement. [slide projector clicking] reid: wayne mehl was a craftsman with legislation. his number-one goal was play all the golf he could. he was a good golfer. and so, when we start on this, neither of us knew what to do, but we learned. it was
on-the-job training. woman: wayne met with irrigators, environmentalists, and city and county and state people and the tribe. he met with evebody. en he went ba to senator reid, and i am told he said, "well, it's going to be nearly impossible, but we might be able to get a deal here." reid: they were all together on what they wanted done.hey just didn'tnderstand how they could work together, andhat's what we were able to do, was kind of put them together. for the first time in the history of this dispute, we were able to have people sit in the same room. initially, they didn't talk much-- [click] [silence] woman: we were pretty much locked in a room for about 4 days running. reid's office was facilitating it with, i remember, cake, and i'm not sure why we had cake, to try and keep
us all sweetened up? the thing that came out of that really was the preliminary settlement agreement, which was an agreement between the tribe and the power company. female news anchor: well, the war has raged on now for 100 years, but today, the fighting stopped, and a peace treaty was signed. male tv reporter: the agreement was reached after a lengthy set of negotiations sponsored by senator harry reid. tv anchor: accordingo the agreement, the water can't be used for new growth, only in times of drought. and in times when the water is plentiful, it will be used to improve flows along the truckee river for the pyramid paiute tribe's cui-ui fish. reid: i think it's really a good deal for everybody. i don't know that we have a single ser. male news anchor: but still to be determined is how fallon farmers, both on and off the reservation, will fare. they have not signed off on the agreement. chisholm: the farmers in tcid
began getting nervous about how the discussions were going. they either walked out or were locked out, depending on who you ask. schank: there was lots of things that impacted the truckee-carson irrigation district. the largest was they gave an opportunity for the united states fish and wildlife service to buy water rights. people who are on the fringes of being able to maintain their farming business basically are forced to sell out. a lot of the farmland has been purchased, the water rights stripped. it's had a tremendous effect on the area. reid: i went from being the most popular person in rural nevada to being the most unpopular. the people of fallon detested me. i came there once for an event. they were just awful.
schank: when senator reid came down, there was a few of the old-time farmers that got together, and one of them rented a gorilla suit. he was not pleased with it. reid: ernie schank is a farmer, a big farmer, and he was one of my big obstacles 'cause he opposed everything i tried to do. he and people--there were other ones--that hung me in effigy. schank: i don't think that's a true story. uh... i, uh... i have to--i have to couch what i say now. heh heh heh! christensen: the farmers left the negotiations for two reasons. one was that they believed, and they still believe, that the water is theirs. the second is that they thought that they could win by
fighting. what they didn't realize was that the politics of power had shifted all around them, and it wasn't going back. schank: all of a sudden, rural nevada, which once had a meopolitan areas, now re at a severe disadvantage. chisho: and you see that all across rural america these days, where rural mmunities are feeling under threat. the challenge is that in many cases, these rural communities were but upon some injustices. we need to think about how to right wrongs, but we also need to consider how we help these communities make adjustments. of many that are going oly one it's all of the western states and even in the midwest now. and little towns that once thrived are just ghost towns
because the people have gone to the city. christensen: there's a strain of american environmentalism that cities and agriculture in anuilt environment where th never should have been, that sees the destruction of the environment and the destruction of native people's cultures and traditions and livelihoods. the negotiated settlement showed that a new deal could be crafted to re-engineer these systems to restore the relationship between people and the environment. chisholm: the truckee river is profoundly different. there are hundreds of thousands of new cottonwood and willow trees.
lahotan cutthroat trout are now recovering. there are fish now upward of 30 pounds being found at pyramid lake. there's talk rights. managers can call for that water when they need it. pyramid lake is recovering. it's a very different setting. to be an environmentalist working on these issues now is you can be in a position of hope. you can see things getting better. ely: oftentimes, you have settlements in any country, or you have an adjudication in a country, then it's all done. it's on paper and life goes on and nothing changes. that's not been the case here. the lake is up, the region's been able to grow, everyone's benefited from it, and so you see results soon. we saw results immediately after
this settlement was done. praise the lord. it's good for everyone. christensen: in the end, reclamation did provide for growth in the american west, but not always through agriculture and maki the desert bloom. in fact, the explosion of urban growth in the las vegas valley in the late 20th century was made possible by another reclamation project... [film projector whirring] the hoover dam, whicwas built in the 1930s to provide water and power to california, arizona, and nevada. las vegas really went through 4 distinct phases of growth. [slide projector clicking] it started out as a small frontier town. the building of hoover dam and the expansion of aartime industry and economy fueled the second phase of urban growth in
las vegas. [lively jazz music playing] christensen: with e postwa period, we see the emergence of the mob-run gambling city. [music tempo quickening] christensen: and then, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, the expansion of corporate gaming and the growth of an enormous metropolitan area. [lounge music playing] and reid was a key player throughout that riod. was instrumental in the gaming commission, in cleaning up the reid: .stated that youent to him and you said, "look, i want you to break his legs." rizzo: no, i did not. rizzo:hank you., mr. rizzo.
christensen: ...making it acceptable for wall-street investment... [opening bl clanging] which led to a massive influx of capital and the transformation of las vegas into the city we know today. [tap shoes clack] women: yee-ha! christensen: family-friendly, resorts for young people... [crowd clamoring] christensen: resorts for retired people. reid: i watched las vegas grow, not realizing at the time that it was growing like it was, but as i look back, it grew very rapidly. [bell dings] i'm from searchlight, and i went to school in henderson, which, at that time, was quite small, so vegasas always big to me, and i probably didn't recognize the growth that was taking place before my eyes. man: we're growing, in the last couple of years, by any measure you want, faster than everybody could have predicted. [power saw whirring] female tv reporter: a new house is built every 20 minutes in
clark county for a population in flux--6,000 new residents each month. male tv reporter: las vegas, with a population of 1.6 million. it's the fastest-growing metropolis in the country. christensen: this explosion of population also led to an increase in demographic diversity. las vegas became increasingly latino, asian american, on top of its historic african american population and the white population. [overlapping chatter] it became a vibrant, working-class union town where service-industry jobs paid a good middle-class wage that people could survive and thrive on, raise their families, enjoy the outdoors. man: nevadans take great pride
in the outdoor recreational opportunities that our great state has to offer. fortunely, nevada has 87% publicly owned lands, which means that most of the recreation must take place on our public lands. regardless, protecting the multiple use of our lands in nevada is very important to our citizens. [traffic noise] baca: development in nevada, and southern nevada in particular, started to happen fairly quickly and you could see this shift. you had the increase in the city of las vegas, north las vegas, city of henderson, and clark county butting up against the desert and starting to encroach on native habitats and desert areas. there needed to be a
solution to come in to balance these interests of growth and development with maintaining our native landscapes. christensen: the solution that was first used to overcome this problem was land swaps. a developer would find some private land worthy of protection--say, up in the mountains--and offer to swap that land to the federal government in order to be able to develop one of the public land parcels in the las vegas valley. reid: they would give the federal government that land, and they would get something in exchange for it. as time went on, it became a corrupt situation. [hammering, power saws whirring] christensen: the danger and fear here was that growth in the las
vegas valley could come to a screaming halt. reid saw this problem and set about to craft a solution. everhing. ifou have a good staf you're gonna have a successful congressman or senator. man: we have both of our united states senators, harry reid and john ensign wi us. reid: i didn't know they were gonna be here. i'm ready to leave. aren't you? [laughter] lopez: i was with nator ensign for 14 years. he was a very pragmatic republican senator. ensign: the usda can certify... reid: john ensign was a conservative republican, but our relationship in the senate was just terrific. i never had anyone to work with in the senate that was more reasonable and agmatic than john ensign. ensign and i had a deal. if you have a problem with anything going on in my staff, you call me. i would do the same with him. and as a result of that,
our staffs knew that they were to work together. lopez: they brought me in the room with the top staffers from each office. we were told that "you will rk together. you will not disparage each other. the staffs cannot say anything bad about each other, and if you do, you will get fired. regardless of whatever differences we have, we are gonna work together for the benefit of the state of nevada." and that set the whole tone, and that set the wlememememememememe reid: we had to do something differently, and that's where the snipla came in. christensen: sniplaba. lopez: snipplema. chisholm: snipplema. christensen: the southern nevada... bacapublic land... lopez: management act. chisholm: iplama. anderson: truly horrible acronym. baca: it's one of the weirdest acronyms, but i love snplma, yeah. ensign: this bill fixes the
faulty land exchange process. lopez: john ensign w the sponsor of snplma at the time, and senator reid and senator bryan were the senate champions for getting that legislation through. reid: we'll change the way we do things in the state of nevada regarding land. anderson: snplma, as it's lovingly referred to, was the seminal piece of legislation that created the land salparadigm for the s vegas valley. lopez: the concept was instead of exchanging land, just auction public land to the highest bidder. that way, yobring market forces, and you just put it out in the open and you auction land. man: open th bid at 250,000. open this bid at 11 million. reid: have a public auction d none of this trading business. man: now 60... number 179 higbidder. baca: it creates a level playing field for everybody. man: he says he's out. 14,200,000. close the bid here at $14,200,000. reid: the money that came from the land would go back into family sensitive things in
nevada. baca: everything from lake tahoe, building parks and trails, restoration projects, investing in visitors centers. man: parking areas, access that allow people to get into the outdoors. lopez: over its life, snplma generad over $3 billion. man: 47... that man's a poker player, i think. christensen: in many ways, snplma built on the successes of the negotiated settlement on the truckee river that you could craft a new deal between a growing urban area and the environment. this is perhaps an example of government at its best. it works and people don't even notice it. chisholm: for the first time, it's really connecting las vegas with the environment. and for the first time, you're beginning to see how, through these investments, las vegas is getting woven back into that landscape.
christensen: while snplma was a bipartisan compromise that worked in urban nevada, crafting the same kinds of solutions in rural nevada was not so easy. chisholm: so the 1990s were a time of great optimism for the environmental movement. i mean, you had a democratic president, you had bruce babbitt as a secretary of the interior. reform of grazing, reform of reclamation, reform of mining were all being discussed and being considered. and it seemed possible that types of changes would be made. but there was also, in some ways, a powerful wind that was blowing from rural communities that were concerned about the overreach of the environmental community. in rural nevada, there's a lot of distrust of government and of harry reid in particular.
in 1999, harry reid was a democratic senate whip. he was a master of senate procedures and policies, and he helped push through a wilderness bill in northern nevada. it was really the environmentalists' dream of what black rock-high rock should look like. part of the reason that occurred is that the hunting, off-road, mining community didn't think it would pass, and they didn't feel like they needed to engage. of course, harry reid surprised his staff and got it passed. baca: black rock-high rock was a wilderness area that had been created largely from the conservation voice, but that voe had not taken into consideration some of the other interests and other stakeholders, such as hunters and fishermen and some of the more active-use folks who'd been using it for a long time. johnson: i am native american by
heritage. i'm an engineering geologist by profession. i'm an outdoorsman by passion, really. my earliest memory in life is my father butchering a deer on the kitchen table in our cabin. i've hunted from the time that i could hold a rifle and hold a bow. i have lived it. i have loved it. we were in opposition to that bill. the bill offered us a number of problems, as it did to much of nevada. for hunters, it was disastrous as it was for certain miners, certain ranchers, et cetera. for example, the impacts on hunters--the wilderness boundary was set at a particular road. it would be a 5-mile wilderness
across the valley to a mountain range that we formerly hunted with no access to it at all. all of our jeep trails were cut off. sportsmen, for example, chukar hunters, for a day hunt or for a 2-day hunt to walk 5 miles across the valley to get to the mountains, to climb up to a spring, to even find chukar or other upland game, it was a physical impossibility. so it essentially eliminated entire mountain ranges from hunting. christensen: and this wasn't the first time wilderness bills had come under criticism in nevada. in fact, they had been increasingly controversial since the 1980s. man: i'm here with some full- and part-time residents of jarbidge, nevada. we're standing on a road that doesn't go anywhere anymore. it used to go to some places that these people were quite fond of. woman: we need this road for multiple uses. we need it for fishing and
hunting and fuel for the winter months, and we can't get to 'em unless they open this road up. man: the attraction for us was the scenery and the accessibility. boy: we can't have picnics and go cping. we need to be free so we can hunt with a vehicle, 'cause older people who don't like to walk can't climb up the mountains and hunt for deer like the younger people can. johnson: the senator took a great deal of criticism--in my opinion, rightfully so--for the wording that was present and the boundaries that were present and the restrictions that were placed upon this land. but to his credit, he realized that at least some of this criticism could be valid. reid: yes, a lot of them were. wilderness was hated. johnson: he sent one of his top aides, kai anderson back to
nevada. anderson: working on wilderness bills with reid was a great lesson for me and sort of outreach to a whole range of constituencies, many of whom weren't super thrilled that my boss was in the senate or that i worked for him. johnson: right off the bat, i mean, i had a significant level of distrust because i felt this had been improperly rammed down our throat. anderson: once you sit down with people and talk through issues, you pretty quickly come to the conclusion that even if you're not politically aligned, all the people i worked with out there love the state of nevada. johnson: there is no place like nevada. anderson: there's sort of two different venues for having those sorts of conversations. one is the sort of classic open public meeting. you take all comers. those are important, particularly from the perspective of making sure that you're connected with everybody who would have an interest, who's paying attention in a fashion that they have an opportunity to he a say.
we would go until nobody else wanted to talk. i've missed flights doing those sorts of meetings. people do like to talk, and it's important that you hear them. [cheering and booing] that said, we didn't resolve most of the details of those wilderness bills. a lot of the work ended up happening after those public meetings, with sort of priva side conversations. some people view things happening behind closed doors as untoward, and i think that's a real misconception. and the reason i say that is, people aren't inclined to share their bottom line in public. they're gonna tell you what their preferred course is, but they're not gonna tell you what they can live with. a--it's not human nature, and b--it's not very strategic to have the other side understand exactly what you're willing to do.
we would sit down with folks, whether it was in the ranching industry or the mining industry or in the wilderness community and say, "look, tell us what is most important to you. tell us what you're most worried about and ll us the truth. we're not gonna share that information with the folks that you view as your opponents." johnson: kai met with me first, and then later i assembled representatives of a numr of sportsmen groups and individuals who knew the area. kai, to his benefit, not only met with us and the department of wildlife, but went in the field with ranchers who had similar concerns. and we expressed our concerns to kai. we laid out on this conference table detailed maps of each of the wilderness areas. we delineated needed access points on existing roads into the wilderness areas that had been closed off. reid: if they had a complaint
that was valid, we had maps with us, and we'd just chge it right there. they'd call me, "is that ok?" i'd say, "sure, go ahead and do that." johnson: at best asked for.t get everything we anderson: at the end of the day, when we cut a deal, we're gonna try to cut a deal that does as good a job at minimizing the things that you're ncerned about and maximizing the things that you want. johnson: this process came to an end when an amendment was passed through congress. [gunshot] quite frankly, we got most of what we wanted as did the ranchers, as did the department of wildlife, as did some of the mining interests. and quite frankly, we have some disappointments. all in all, with that amendment, my conclusion is it reid: my work on wilderness damaged my popularity significantly in rural nevada,
but it all turned out for the better. because after i got my wilderness legislation done, i would go to these communities. no one everaised wilderness as an issue, because once it's in place, people are proud of it. johnson: probably the closest i will ever come to a religious experience is being on my horse on the crest of a mountain range in nevada with a tremendous vista in front of me. you are just at one with the earth. christensen: there are a lot of different ways of using political power. one of the ways is bringing people together to craft a solution,
but sometimes it's using power behind the scenes. sometimes it's making a phone call. man: one of the most important energy sources for the nevada power company is the reid garer powerlant, located st off interstate 15 near moapa. the plant supplies nearly 40% of thpower fothe las vegas community. man: reid gardner was the main power plant to take electric to las vegas when they first put it in. they located it out here next to the reservation, which is not unusual. it really just mored into e big llution factor that just puinjury onto the rez. man: problems first arose in the unfinished boiler complex, when a variety of construction tradesmen began complaining of respiratory problems 2 weeks ago. woman: when i was growing up, i didn't realize that we were being affected. my friends, inking back on my life, they
would cough all the time. my brother was working down there. he'd always be covered in black. his clothes would be black, his face would be bck. died of an enlarged heart. lee: you know, it's a coal-burner, so they had coal ash and they put it up on the hill. they actually put it everywhere. and of course, when it dried out, the dust blew, it would look like a big gray cloud blowing off from top of the hill right on us. baca: in the 2000s, there was a proposal to expand a coal ash pond at reid gardner, and there were proposals to add additional coal-powered power plants around
nevada. woman: this is all the statements from peop of 2006. baca: there was a significant amount of backlash from the tribal communities and from conservationists regarding this potential expansion of coal power. chisholm: it was really sierra club's "beyond coal" campaign that put the focus throughout the country, but particularly in the west, on closing down coal plants. lee: the sierra club stepped up, and they had the resources, the attorneys, scientists, and they come in and they was helping the tribe fight this battle. woman: it is a david vs. goliath fight. fewer than 400 moapa paiutes taking on nv energy, trying to shut down the reid gardner coal plant. man: hers the bottom line. you at home pay for electricity made at reid gardner with your money. moapa paiutes say they pay for that electricity with their lives. lee: we filed a lawsuit against nevada power, the tribe and sierra club, and that's where things got real.
man: i am paiute. i am proud of who i am, and i'm proud of all of you to be here. thank you very much. raborn: they brought home their message through a 50-mile walk from the moapa reservation to las vegas that took 3 days. the tribe ultimately succeeded, convincing the public, convincing the utility that owned the plant that it was time for them to close the plant after over 50 years. [explosion] reid: and so i started looking at that power plant--exacerbated heart conditions and everything else. so i made up my mind i was gonna get rid of coal in nevada. i read in the paper thathey were going to open 4 new coal-fired generating plantsn nevada. i called mary, i called
my vegas operation. i said, "i'm not gonna let that happen." and what i did, i called a hedge fund. i told the guy, "look, you back away from that coal plant, or i will get even with you. i don't know what i'm gonna do, but i'll figure something out." [phone dial tone] biden: every time i hear a dial tone, i'll think of harry. [laughter] chisho: it's a little bit of a joke inevada around, you know, the harry reid phone call. "i want to see the grazing rights bought out of great basin national park." and he hangs up. "i want to plant some joshua trees. where do i find 'em?" and he hangs up. pelosi: harry? [dial tone] christensen: by this time, people knew that they would write harry reid off at their own peril. he knew how to get things done, and they could either get on board or be left behind. baca: while senator reid was working to kill coal plants, at
the same time, the nevada state legislature was actually making its owmoves towards ending coal power. atkinson: expand renewable energy, retiment of coal plants. all those in favor, say "aye." all: aye. baca: senate bill 123 was passed. it basically ended coal power in nevada, and it mandated that there would be no more power plants and that the existing power plants had to be sunsetted. atkinson: ok, we are adjourned. raborn: right around that same time was, you know, the recession. woman: the stock market is now down 21%. man: 'cause we're now down 43%. man: the dow traders are standing there watching in amazement, and i don't blame 'em. raborn: in d.c., senator and his leadership staff and congress worked to pass the american reinvestment and recovery act. reid: what we're trying to do is stop a depression. that's why president obama says that this bill is so important to the american people. it's not only
important for the shorterm to create millions of jobs, but it'll also do things for the long-term, like start doing something about our energy grid. if we can produce renewable energy and take it someplace, it creates thousands of jobs in nevada, and that's what this legislation is all about. raborn: there was $6 billion in that act specifically for renewable energy development and transmission line development. anderson: the staff quickly put together the plan that would lead to development of transmission in nevada that would connect the northern and southern grids in the state for the first time electrically. baca: an interesting element of this transition from coal poweto green energy sources is some of the social justice component that you see at play with the moapa band of paiute who saw the end of this power plant that had been making their transioned and really beme part of the green energy
movement by building their own solar power plant. reid: this power plant in moapa is really the first solar project to be built on tribal lands, certainly in nevada and likely in the whole country. lee: senator reid, in our opinion, was for us. the actual actions that he took, i'm not sure about, but i know there was influence there 'cause he's a very powerful person and he was a friend to us. [busy signal] [dialing] christensen: so behind the scenes, reid is helping to set up this architecture for a transition to renewable energy. he's talking to the companies that want to build new coal power plants in nevada, and he's saying "no way, but i will let you build a transmission line." he's calling up the mayor of los angeles, and he's persuading him to agree to buy power from the moapa solar facility. [phone ringing] reid: so i called the mayor of
l.a., and i said, "i know you're trying to go to a renewable energy. i can get you 600, 700 megawatts within a period of time. in a year, we'll build a facility. can you use it?" he said, "you bet." the indians sold their power to s angeles, and now they've added to it and done more. lee: the moapa solar, it's sitting on 2,200 acres--photovoltaic. it's a fixed system, as opposed to single axis, which tracks the sun one way or a double axis which tracks it both directions. christensen: each of these pieces adds up to a dramatic transformation of the energy system in nevada and the american west. baca: it's an interesting example ofow you can have the just traition. lee: a just transition means that as we transition from
one form of energy to another, from fossil fuels to renewable, as we transition our economy, that we also address historical injustices, like the injustices to the moapa tribe. the main thing is it gives us the means, financial means to grow. we got guaranteed income, and it's not based on crops or the weather or floods or nothing. this is based on that the sun's gonna shine, you're gonna get electric out of it. the credit rating for the tribe went up, and the fact that we did this industrial scale solar, it kind of put us in a different kind of a club. simmons: we led the way. we were breaking the ground for solar, especially for indian tribes. and of course we're really proud of that. and it's changed the lives of many, because once you work on a solar plt, you know, you can make enough money to change your whole life. so i think we were able to do
that for the younger people. we created a name for moapa, and wherever we go we're known for that. christensen: in the obama administration, reid is at the height of his powers as the leader of the democratic senate caucus. he's the most powerful democratic politician, aside from obama, but he's still fighting a battle that has dogged his whole career, and that's the push to bury high-level nuclear waste at yucca mountain that began with the screw nevada bill in 1987. anderson: nuclear waste policy act passed in 1982, the same year that reid was elected to the house. basically, it laid out a process by which the u.s. government would look at a variety of permanent storage repositories fohigh-lev nuclear waste. man: that did not occur, and it did not occur because politics,
not science dictated the conclusion. man: senators voting in the affirmative... anderson: growing weary of actually doing that scientific process in 1987, t congress, in its wisdom, decided that it would rewrite that bill and choose yucca as the preferred alternative. chisholm: yucca mountain was a site that was identified because it was within what was called the nevada test se, which is where the federal government's early atomic testing occurred. man: ...2... 1! [explosion] baca: it felt like it was coming back to that old narrative. nevada was a wasteland that nobody needed to care about what they were putting here. woman: nowou may be wondering why yucca mountain is being considered a suitable site to dump nuclear waste. anderson: that was not a scientific process. that was tom foley representing the state of washington, taking care of hanford. that was jim wright representing the state of texas, taking care of deaf smith
county, texas, and senator reid being a eshman. man: the "yea"s are 61, the "nay"s a 28, and the conference port is agreed to. reid: i think it's important to recognize that nuclear waste is not a partisan issue. chisholm: republicans, democrats, ranchers, miners, urban people, outdoor people--everybody knew that this was... reid: the screw nevada bill. woman: the screw nevada bill. man: the screw neva bill. anderson: it wasn't chosen on the merits. it was chosen for pure political reasons. man: who has only 2 senators, no political clout whatsoever, and who lives in a place that is perceived at least to be nothing but desert and wasteland? d they said, "a-ha! nevada." man: we in nevada will not stand for it. [applause] man: a coalition of elected officials, environmentalists, and businessmen is waging a guerrilla war to kill a project they believe has been shoved down their throats. reid: the repulsive and mendacious political
backstabbing represented by the deal cut against the people of nevada should bring a blush of shame to the face of every member ocongressho has suorted this nuclear waste legislation. well, frankly, i was a new senator, and i thought we were doomed. i didn't know what to do about it. [explosion] man: workers drilled and blast a starter tunnel. reid: the biggest opening we got was bill clint... al gore, to his credit. they knew what a big deal this was in nevada, so they came out publicly opposed to yucca mountain. that was one reason we were able to stall it as long as we did. raborn: as senator reid gained more and more leadership in the senate, he was also able to use that power to put a stranglehold on the appropriations process and starve the proct of funding. reid: i used my seat on the appropriations committee to help cut $30 million from the waste
site budget. i urge the president to veto legislation that would put a temporary dump at the nevada test site. i won't quit until my colleagues understand that transporting nuclear waste to nevada is dangerous. and we don't want a nuclear waste dump in our backyard. [children laughing] anderson: the nuclear industry has spent 4 decades underestimating senator reid and his ability to fight back. instead, they picked a fight with the wrong guy. man: the senator from nevada. reid: unsupportable. mikulski: the senator from nevada. reid: totally unsupportable. we have the nevada test site, nellis air force base, fallon air naval station, hawthorne ammunition depot. we have done our share. it's not compatible with tourism, which is our number-one industry. people are afraid of it, based upon chernobyl, based upon the experience of the people in st. george, where they have the highest cancer rate in the world, literally. we don't want it if it's 1,700 feet underground or 10,000 feet underground. when nevada was first mentioned as a possibldump site for
nuclear waste, i said, "no way." my goal is to deliver these signed petitions to the president and impress upon him that nevadans don't want a nuclear dump in their backyard. man: joining me now live is u.s. senator harry reid. what's your strongest argument to keeping nuclear waste out of nevada? reid: how are you gonna get it here? we had 400,000 truck accidents last year. 14,000 of those dealt with hazardous materials. we had 2,100 train wrecks last year. over 1,000 of those dealt with hazardous materials. this is an accident waiting to happen. man: and they say most americans will join the opposition once they see the web of highways and railroads for transporting the waste from 131 sites in 45 states. chisholm: in order to ve the radioactive waste to yucca mountain for long-term storage, one of the proposed approaches was to move it by rail car,
particularly through an area called garden valley... at the heart of one of the remotest parts of the great basin. baca: it would have permanently altered that landscape. you have these beautiful mountain ranges that encircle this massive basin that was once a giant inland sea. it really takes you back in time. it shows you some of the most essential parts of nevada. reid: part of that wonderful place is a man who's a famous, famous, world-famous artist. name is heizer--michael heizer.
anderson: who is michael heizer? um... charles kuralt: michael heizer is a modern sculptor. instead of a chisel, michael heizer usually uses dynamite and bulldozers to create his art. reid: he worked for 40 years building this monument in the middle of nowhere. kuralt: in the nevada desert, hours from any big town, he has created massive pieces of sculpture from concrete and steel and granite and compacted earth. anderson: he's a scientist, he's an artist, he's an engineer--all in the sort of pursuit of building this thing that i'm not gonna describe, 'cause i can't. baca: "city," created by michael heizer, is a place that... the...just... chisholm: "city" is... it's hard to describe it until you walk it.
reid: it is a mile and a half long. it represents all these great artistic things that have taken place over the centuries. i first heard about this project out in the middle of nowhere. and i thought, "who cares?" but all you had to do was go look at it, and you know why people would care about it. first of all, to meet him is to meet a true iconic american. there's nobody like him. heizer: you got my rock in the...? obviously, there's a lot of acreage in this part of the world that isn't developed. so there's a lot of potential, lot of agencies and opportunistic people see all this backcountry and want to exploit it. a highway from arizona through here. the mx missile silo truck, agricultural things cause these water companies. it's just endless.
i think he ended up liking it. i think he did. yeah, i'm pretty sure he did. i think after he sat out for a while, he liked it. reid: michael heizer was truly a nevadan, and i did everything i could to help with that project of his. i was bound and determined to preserve that city, that area. anderson: senator reid and his team were thinking through how to protect the landscape scale artwork by michael heizer in a fashion that was appropriate for the scope and scale of the project. christensen: it's not lost on him and his staff that where "city" is located is also the location through which the energy department wanted to run a railroad to bring high-level nuclear waste to yucca mountain. anderson: senator reid set about trying to have the president of the united states
use his authority under the antiquities act, an act which dates back to 1906, to protect the special resources in that placthrough executive proclamation. baca: the antiquities act gave presidents the authority through executive order to create national monuments. christensen: national monuments have protected a wide variety of special places--from buildings to battlefield graveyards to mount rushmore. raborn: president obama was in the white house. senator reid was very close to him. and senator reid cared deeply abt the potential ability to make sure that that area was preserved in perpetuity. that was a moment in time that needed to be seized reid: i was with president obama on an airplane. said, "mr. president, there's this thing in nevada." he said, "describe it." "i can't explain to you what it is."
try to describe this to somebody. and i said, "mr. president, i really would like you to do an executive order creating a national monument." anderson: some people would say, "well, that short-circuited the system." i don't think it really did. i think that folks worked through the system best they could, came to an impasse, and choreographed a path forward that was a different one than using the legislative process. reid: it stops that land forever being spoiled. there'll be no railroads going through that land. right now, all the drilling equipment they had up there, it has now been ground up for junk steel. there's nothing there now. they would have to start all over again. we don't have nuclear waste, and i don't see it in the future.
baca: his career was bookended by protecting great basin national park and basin and range. he's covered the mountains. now he's covered the basin and the ranges. chisholm: we have 70 wilderness areas because of him. we have 2 large national monuments because of him. he's also demonstrated the way to work through tough land use issues around wilderness, around national parks, national monuments. and the model that he pioneered can be used around the country. nevada's profoundly changed in the time from when he started to when he left. and he's really helped bring us along from that old west into the new west, and he's left us with a very different legacy. christensen: the old west is defined by the legacy of conquest and the dominance of
the region by extractive industries--mining, logging, ranching, and irrigated farming. the new west is defined by the demographic changes that come with the rapid expansion of urban areas, the rise of the service economy, and the rise of people caring about the environment and about the amenities they enjoy from the outdoors. he saw the changes that were coming to the west. he rode those changes throughout his career. he was an agent of those changes. baca: our new west--it's a different ace. there probably are a lot of mixed feelings, honestly, for some people, about that new west versus the old west. there are some people who probably would love to go back to that untrammeled feeling of the old west. schank: his legacy is not very well looked at
by most of the people in rur nevada. in order to appreciate rural nevada, you have to understand that it is part of the complete nevada. and so i think that that's a very, very important component that many, many politicians do not really look at. christensen: harry reid was also a complicated character. environmentasts somemes found themlves at odds with him because he sported mining and he supported las vegas getting e water it needed to grow. and this complexity enabled him to see the kind of pragmatic solutions that eluded purists and ideologues. baca: the competing interests, the stakeholders with different needs and perspectives will always remain. and we're always going to need somebody like a senator reid to come in and help
negotiate through those competing interests. chisholm: this was about the politics of the possible. harry reid has pointed to a model of how work can get done, not just in nevada, but i also think nationally. you need to think pragmatically, but you also need to be willing to make deals. lopez: the legislation that a republican and democratic senate duo were able to accomplish together i think could be a template for the whole nation to look at and understand that working together pays huge dividends for your constituents, and they all appreciate it. no matter republicans, democrats, independents--your constituents will appreciate the fact if you can deliver on quality-of-life promises. johnson: i'm not shy in saying harry reid has done more for politician ever in history.
baca: problem is, especially right now, there's this sort of zero sum gain, where no one's willing to give anything. part of what senator reid brought to the dialogue is that you can have 100% of nothing if you're not willing to give something away. christensen: he showed that bipartisan compromises can work to protect millions of acres of wilderness. he saw the tremendous potential of renewable energy in the nevada desert. he saw conflicts that had raged on the truckee river for a century. he showed how development could be balanced with protection of the environment in public lands. he's also provided people in a major metropolitan area access to those public lands. i've asked harry reid many times if there was a grand vision that he had that stemmed from his love of paiute springs and
animated, really, his whole career. reid: no. i just did o thing at a time. never looked at any grand vision of anything. christensen: but i think when we look back, it sure looks like there was some kind of vision there, and i think there is a vision there for a new kind of pragmatic environmental politics for nevada, for the american west, and for the whole country.