Nearly 3,000 hunters will take to the field in the Ruby Mountains this fall, but first we must defend this habitat
Results for the Nevada Department of Wildlife big game tag drawings came out late last month, and tags are currently making their way to the mailboxes of successful applicants.
More than 2,700 tags were issued to hunters who will be able to pursue deer in area 10, which includes the backbone of Nevada’s largest mule deer herd—the unparalleled Ruby Mountains. Additionally, 150 elk tags were given out for a depredation hunt in the Rubies under the statewide elk management plan. Finally, eight very lucky hunters have drawn what could be called the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hunt mountain goats in three units within the Ruby and East Humboldt ranges.
In the coming months, these tagholders and their families and friends will be making scouting trips, most likely to be combined with fishing, camping, and hiking in Rubies, as well as the Ruby Lakes Wildlife Refuge, an area known to Nevadans as the Ruby Marshes. Approximately 10 percent of these sportsmen and women will be from out of state, and their spending will bring substantial income to rural Nevada businesses.
Many of these recreationists will be enjoying the area for the first time, while others will be returning to traditional hunting grounds, where they have a long history. All will be building lifelong memories of a special place. I know what that is like.
I tagged my first mule deer buck in the Ruby Mountains more years ago than I care to admit. At just 13 years old, it was where I learned some of the most formative lessons about woodsmanship and the outdoors from close friends and relatives. That November hunt was an adventure I’ll never forget and is still one of my favorite stories to tell.
The Rubies are indeed a special place. But this habitat could be changed forever if we don’t speak out for fish, wildlife, and our outdoor recreation opportunities.
A Landscape Under Threat
Sportsmen and women need to be aware of an ongoing threat to the Ruby Mountains and how they can help. Nearly two years ago, 54,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the Rubies were nominated for oil and gas leasing. After months of careful consideration, the forest supervisor officially decided not to allow leasing of those parcels.
In late January 2019, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto went even further and introduced the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S. 258) to withdraw 450,000 acres of Forest Service land on the Rubies and East Humboldt Range from oil and gas leasing. The bill had a hearing in May and now awaits further action.
At approximately the same time, additional “expressions of interest”—the mechanism by which parcels are nominated for leasing—were filed for some of the same areas as the original request, as well as other parcels in the southern Rubies. Mule deer migration corridors flank both sides of the mountains, where Nevada’s largest deer herd moves from the high-elevation summer and fall range to its southern winter range.
Oil and gas exploration could negatively impact those corridors. But Cortez Masto’s bill would be a major step forward in protecting and conserving these critical habitats.
Time to Act
S. 258 would be a huge win for anyone who care about this special place, and sportsmen and women need to speak up in support of this legislation.
Still, we can do even more to protect the outdoor opportunities in this area. The Ruby Marshes, nestled against the southeastern corner of the Ruby Mountains, are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now is our opportunity to see that they are protected as part of the larger bill. Please ask lawmakers to add the Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to the lands included in Cortez Masto’s bill to ensure that the hunting and fishing traditions in this area remain intact for future generations.
Learn more and take action at SportsmenfortheRubies.com.
Photo: Tom Hilton via Flickr