Nevada’s Heller: Controlling wildfires can help sage grouse | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada’s Heller: Controlling wildfires can help sage grouse

Dean Heller

Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said Monday getting a handle on wildland fires won't only prevent destruction of millions of acres in the West but reduce the need to list the sage grouse as threatened or endangered.

He said 10 million acres in the West burned last year, 1.2 million of them in Nevada.

The Republican said that's why passage of the Emergency Fuel Reduction Act is so important.

Heller said when talking about the sage grouse, the problem is wildfires that destroy their habitat.

He said he supports the amendment being considered that wouldn't allow the grouse to be declared an endangered species for 10 years.

"If you would list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, it would be disastrous to this state," he said.

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He said that listing would end much of the state's mining, agriculture and cattle ranching.

In a telephone interview with reporters from Washington, D.C., Heller touted the importance of the VA Mission Act scheduled for a vote in the Senate.

He said that act will help resolve the problems veterans have with finding medical services in rural areas by allowing them to use local providers they're comfortable with and have access to instead of having to go to a VA hospital likely many miles away.

He said the core problem is the Affordable Care Act which he said is "devastating rural portions of the country."

"We have a healthcare system that simply does not work," Heller said.

He said people should be able to choose providers in other areas, other states to restore competition in healthcare. At present, he said 14 of Nevada's 17 counties are stuck with a single provider: "They get to call all the shots."

Heller said the VA Mission Act also allows veterans to receive organ transplants from non-veteran donors with their VA coverage and requires the VA to report annually on performance awards and bonuses given to VA employees.

He said he thinks Yucca Mountain is dead in the Senate, but in any case, he has no reason to compromise and try to get something as Nevada U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei has suggested.

He said Amodei's plan to get something in trade for Yucca Mountain was rejected by House backers of the project and if there's no benefit for Nevada, there's no reason for him to participate in that discussion.

Heller said he and others are working on a plan with the Interior Department to do something about the growing population of wild horses.

"We have a plan," he said. "What we want them to do is take a look at the males and try to figure out how to slow down the growth of young colts. Concentrate on the males at this point. We think we can get the wild horse numbers down to about a third of what we have in the state of Nevada."

He conceded that would take a number of years.