By Senator Catherine Cortez Masto

For many of Nevada’s communities “Don’t Fence Me In” is not just a tourism slogan or a beloved lyric to a classic Western song, but rather a way of life. It comes as no surprise then that the Nevada Commission on Tourism, known nationally as TravelNevada, recently invested in an extensive four-year commitment to help market our state’s rural destinations to travelers looking to experience a Nevada beyond the bright lights of Las Vegas or Reno. The commission estimates that rural Nevada tourism already supports 27,870 jobs and generates $2.3 billion for our economy each year. Virginia City alone draws over 2 million visitors each year. Responsible and conscientious outreach efforts, at both the state and local level, could help bring more visitors, jobs and economic opportunities to some of Nevada’s greatest cultural gems.

Most of Nevada’s state and national parks, pristine hunting and fishing grounds, famous ghost towns, Native American cultural destinations and historically significant landmarks lie far outside the city limits of Nevada’s urban spaces. On a recent trip to White Pine County, I stopped by the Schellbourne Pony Express historical marker, which marks the location of the old Schell Creek Pony Express station. Thanks to a $15,000 grant awarded this July to Pony Express Territory, other communities along U.S. Highway 50 will receive funding to promote Pony Express related tourism, preserve historical sites, and improve marketing.

Being born and raised in Nevada, I have seen firsthand how important tourism is to our economy. That is why I have fought in the Senate to ensure that Nevada’s rural communities have the infrastructure they need to successfully share their communities’ cultural treasures successfully with a wider audience. As a member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I have fought for more funding for rural transportation and have urged the Administration to reconsider misguided suggestions to cut Amtrak funding. The California Zephyr rail line carries over 84,000 Nevada riders each year, and is a lifeline to rural Nevada communities and their economies. I have repeatedly called on Amtrak to ensure that it will maintain, or even expand upon its infrastructure and continue to provide reliable transportation to rural Nevada’s populations. I have also fought to secure millions of dollars in grants to fix Nevada’s rural roads damaged by storms and natural disasters and to update Nevada’s rural airports.

I’ve also been a proud supporter of Brand USA in the Senate. Though President Trump’s budget proposed the elimination of this program, I strongly support Brand USA because of the enormous value it adds to Nevada’s economy, and because this public-private partnership, funded by visa fees paid by international visitors and contributions from private businesses, doesn’t cost American taxpayers a single dime. The program generates $13.6 billion in visitor spending and $3.9 billion in tax revenue every year. The Nevada Tourism Commission’s latest effort to boost rural tourism across the state is working closely with Brand USA to highlight Nevada in markets across the globe.

Tourism has long been the lifeblood of our state, and its impact is helping economies from Ely to Austin. To the many Indian Reservations and Colonies that stretch across Nevada, tourism provides a chance to share culture, art and the human connection to the beautiful landscapes throughout our state. To towns like Eureka and Elko, tourism provides a chance to showcase Nevada’s cultural heritage at the Eureka Opera House or at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Nevada is home to experiences you can’t find in any other part of the world, and I will continue to work to ensure that our communities have the resources and tools they need to tap into their tourism potential and strengthen their economies.