Nevada: The Federal Government and Population Growth

The Federal Government and Population Growth

In the 20th cent. the federal government played a major role in Nevada's development. Some federal works, like the Newlands Irrigation Project (1907)—the nation's first federal irrigation project—and the Hoover Dam (completed in 1936), were generally welcomed. Others aroused opposition. The Atomic Energy Commission began conducting nuclear tests in Nevada at Frenchman Flat and Yucca Flat in the 1950s. In 1987 the Department of Energy chose Yucca Mountain for the storage of high-level nuclear wastes; the state has continued to fight that decision. Federal activities in general gave impetus to the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, which demanded that the U.S. government give federal lands “back” to Nevadans. Democrat Bob Miller was the longest-serving governor to date (1989-99), but then moderate Republicans held the seat for the next 20 years, until Steve Sisolak was elected to the office in 2018.

Nevada's population, sparse since the time when the Paiute and other tribes eked out a meager living from the land and animals, increased by more than 1200% between 1950 and 2000. Growth slowed over the last decade, but the population has become increasingly diverse, with 40% identifying as Latino or Hispanic, and most increases occuring in the major metropolitan areas. Now the third fastest-growing U.S. state, Nevada is increasingly home to retirees and to workers in new, especially technological, industries.

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