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GUEST EDITORIAL: What if government were closer to the people?

Washington has grown too far removed from the people whose lives it impacts. This is literally true as often as it is figuratively true for those of us living in the West.

This week Jeb Bush became the first candidate for President of the United States – from either party – to articulate how he will deal with issues that impact the West.

It's about time.

Western issues deserve to be part of the national debate. Eastern politicians need to start recognizing the unique nature of our regional issues like water, land use, and local involvement.

One of the more intriguing proposals from Governor Bush was that we move the United States Department of the Interior to be closer to the people it impacts the most. Anyone who looks at a map showing where the large majority of federal lands are located can immediately see the appeal. Interior's main areas of jurisdiction are almost exclusively located in the West.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned a government that grows daily in its size and influence by empowering a faceless bureaucracy that rarely interacts with the people it is sworn to serve. Moving the Department of the Interior's headquarters to the West wouldn't solve every problem associated with big government, but it would bring government a little closer to the people in more ways than one.

As the son of a rancher and farmer, I know first-hand how out-of-touch the Department of Interior can be and how challenging it is trying to work with individual employees who have little or no first-hand experience dealing with critical issues like conservation, water rights, land management, and sporting access. Bringing Interior staff closer to the issues they impact would require government to operate more efficiently and, with time, more effectively.

Imagine if Interior employees witnessed firsthand the existing local commitment to balanced and effective resource management. Or, saw the difficulties associated with operating a commercial mine while navigating the red tape of duplicative regulations. What if they interacted with us on a daily basis at the store, in the school system, or at church? Maybe they would begin to see things a little more the way we do.

My only criticism of Governor Bush's proposal is that he failed to mention Southern Nevada as a potential home of a relocated agency. The federal government "owns" more than 80 percent of all land in Nevada, and Southern Nevada is positioned near the geographic center of a cluster of federal land stretching from California to Colorado, and Arizona to Idaho.

We are perfectly positioned to house a federal agency dedicated to protecting these lands. McCarran Airport is one of the best run transportation hubs in the world and no one is better at welcoming new friends than Las Vegas – when was the last time you felt welcomed by someone in a federal government agency?

No matter who ends up being our next President, I hope other candidates will take note. Any President of the United States should strive to represent all of us. Doing so includes a commitment to understand, respect and appreciate issues found at home the West.

Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy represents the Fourth Congressional District in Nevada, which includes all of Nye County.

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