Celebrating 39 Years of Keeping Nevada Wild

Palisade Mesa Jump by Kurt KuznickiFrom the snowy peaks of the Rubies and the wildflower meadows of Mt. Rose to the sand dunes of the Desert Refuge and red hoodoos of Gold Butte, we're celebrating 39 years of Keeping Nevada Wild! Check out this timeline of Friends' history and how many of our favorite protected places came to be.

Jarbidge Wilderness by Scott T. Smith1964: Marge Sill, who would later become a founding board member of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, works with other conservation leaders to include Jarbidge Wilderness (pictured) as Nevada’s first Wilderness area with the signing of the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1964.

1974: A loose-knit, statewide network of conservationists interested in protecting Nevada’s wild lands was christened “Friends of Nevada Wilderness.”

1984: After a decade of participating as a network of individuals in the public lands process, Friends of Nevada Wilderness is officially founded on March 21, 1984, including incorporation and the successful application for 501c3 nonprofit status.

Great Basin National Park by Kirk Peterson1986: Great Basin National Park (pictured) is established in White Pine County thanks to the Nevada conservation community, including then-Rep. Harry Reid, Marge Sill, and Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

Hawk Over Mt. Charleston by Jose Witt1989: The Nevada Forest Service Protection Act – which designated 733,400 acres of Wilderness – was signed into law on December 5, 1989. The thirteen new Wilderness areas include Mt. Charleston Wilderness and Mt. Rose Wilderness, and the act also expanded the Jarbidge Wilderness.

1990 -1993: Friends help pass the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Act, creating the extremely popular Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas in 1990, and expanding it in 1993 from 83,000 to 195,000 acres.

1994: The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 designates 44,000 acres of Wilderness – known as the ‘Nevada Triangle’ of Death Valley National Park.

Black Rock NCA by Kurt Kuznicki2000: Executive Director Shaaron Netherton is hired in July, serving as Friends' first ED. The Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area Act of 2000 is signed into law on December 21, 2000. The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (pictured) is created, and ten Wilderness areas are designated, totaling 752,000 acres in northwest Nevada. This includes the Black Rock Desert Wilderness, the largest designated Wilderness area in Nevada at 315,700 acres.

Bridge Canyon by Kirk Peterson2002: The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act is signed into law on November 6, 2002. It designates 17 wilderness areas – including the El Dorado Wilderness and Ireteba Peaks Wilderness – and also expands the Mt. Charleston Wilderness Area and creates the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area.

2003: The Nevada Wilderness Coalition publishes The Citizen’s Proposal for Wilderness in Lincoln and White Pine Counties with assistance from Friends of Nevada Wilderness volunteers and staff in the field, who complete mapping and organizing in both Lincoln and White Pine Counties.

2004: The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2004 is signed into law on November 29, 2004, and creates 14 new Wilderness areas totaling 768,294 acres that will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management, including Weepah Spring and Mormon Mountains Wilderness.

High Schells Wilderness by Kurt Kuznicki2006: On December 18, 2006 the White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2006 designates 13 new wilderness areas totaling 558,133 acres, including the High Schells Wilderness (pictured) and the White Pine Range Wilderness.

Stewardship in the Sheldon2008: Friends of Nevada Wilderness expands it stewardship work, completing projects with the BLM and the Forest Service on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. As a result, Friends is awarded the prestigious national Bob Marshall Award as Champions of Wilderness Stewardship.

2012: Friends of Nevada Wilderness begins a concerted effort to inventory Wilderness Study Areas and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern to establish Wilderness recommendations for the land management agencies in their planning process. It begins with the re-inventory of about 60 areas in northern Nevada with high Sage-Grouse habitat values and the hiring of cartographer/GIS expert Jake Kastner to develop Friends' in-house mapping program.

Wovoka Wilderness2014: On December 19, 2014, the Pine Forest Range and Wovoka (pictured) became Nevada’s newest Wilderness areas with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015. The untrammeled 26,000-acre Pine Forest Range Wilderness is located in Humboldt County; the culturally important 49,000-acre Wovoka Wilderness is found in Lyon County near the East Walker River. 

Gold Butte National Monument by Kurt Kuznicki2016: After two decades of advocacy by coalition partners including Friends of Nevada Wilderness and the support of Sen. Harry Reid, President Barack Obama designates Gold Butte as a National Monument on December 28, 2016. Gold Butte National Monument includes Wilderness areas like Lime Canyon.

Massacre Rim Dark Skies by Chris Cutshaw2019: After three years of research and field work by Friends and the BLM, Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area is certified as the world’s seventh Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association on March 19, 2019 – an area so dark you can see your shadow by the light of the Milky Way.

The Stillwaters by Kurt Kuznicki2022: Decades of hard work and advocacy result in the designation of three new Wilderness Areas with the passage of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act – the Clan Alpines (pictured), the Desatoyas, and Cain Mountain. Congress also created the Numunaa Nobe National Conservation Area which encompasses much of the Stillwater Range and the Numu Newe Special Management Area to help protect important cultural values. In total there are more than 500,000 acres of new conservation protections.

Monuments for All2023: Friends of Nevada Wilderness continues to lead volunteer stewardship trips and promote ethical recreation on America’s public lands in Nevada while also advocating for Congressional and Presidential protection of high-quality wildlands in Pershing, Nye, Washoe, Clark, and beyond.

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