A bill quietly introduced by United States Senator Harry Reid would protect an 800,000-acre swath of Nevada desert containing the land artworks of Michael Heizer, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Hailed by conservationists, the legislation was introduced by the Nevada Senator, its only listed sponsor, on September 16.
Reid had previously proposed a similar effort in 2010, according to an official from Lincoln County, home both to Heizer and his works. The official, Ed Higbee, told the paper that Heizer’s City complex, which represents four decades of effort, was “kind of neat stuff,” but that the county opposed the proposal. “We don’t want that to become a national conservation area,” he said.
Among the most well-trafficked works in the area is Heizer’s “Double Negative” (1969–70), two 1,500-foot incisions into the landscape that the artist has described as “longer than the Empire State Building lying on its side.” Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, whose institution prominently features Heizer’s “Levitated Mass,” has long supported the artist’s desert development. “It is perhaps one of the greatest, most ambitious artworks ever attempted,” Govan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In 2005, Heizer’s work — and the Lincoln County landscape surrounding it — was threatened by a proposed Department of Energy rail line carrying nuclear waste from Yucca Mountain. Both the artist and Senator Reid opposed the line, and the College Art Association adopted a resolution against the Department of Energy’s plan, calling it deleterious to Heizer’s City, “an artwork of national and international significance.” Those plans were scrapped, but the future of the surrounding land remains, unless Reid’s bill passes, unsecured.