Public Resource Associates Records

Identifier: 2006-05

Scope and Contents

The Public Resource Associates Records offer insights into the environmental public policy planning process, resource management, as well as the revision process of state and national legislation. It should be noted that materials which predate the 1970s were used by the staffs of the Foundation and PRA as research and background materials on other more contemporary projects they were working on. The records represent resources and materials accumulated from the Foundation’s San Francisco, California office, as well as PRA’s offices, first in Washington D.C., and later in Reno. Much of the material accumulated from the Washington D.C. office is related to PRA’s efforts to reform the Mining Law of 1872. The materials from the Reno office tend to be more specifically related to land and water issues affecting northern Nevada.

This collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, technical and bureaucratic reports, conference packets, copies of House and Senate bills, hearing proceedings, press releases, newsletters, news clips, videos, audio recordings, photographs, and slides. This collection was received in three separate donations, with the first majority arriving from PRA’s Reno office in 2006. This initial donation contained materials on a variety of subjects including land, water, open spaces, and mining. In 2012, additional boxes arrived from John Livermore’s Montesol ranch near Calistoga, California. Much of the material received in this second donation was related to mining law reform and Livermore’s personal mining endeavors in Nevada and California. Since Livermore’s personal papers had little or nothing to do with PRA’s activities, they were returned to proper recipients. Finally, in early 2013 as the office was closing, the last materials remaining at PRA’s Reno office were accepted.

Within the written materials in this collection, the names of both the Foundation and PRA’s employees and associates are recurring. PRA officers and office personnel included John Livermore, Susan Lynn, Patti Baker, Jo Gallagher, Ann Kersten, and Desna Young. Correspondence, especially regarding mining issues, was also often destined for John Livermore’s brother, Putnam Livermore, or PRA’s two lobbyists, L. Courtland Lee and Thomas Barrett. Other lawyers and consultants involved in the mining law reform efforts included Dana Ott and Elvis Stahr, whose names appear frequently in Group 3: Mining. Other individuals associated with PRA’s various activities around Nevada included Rose Strickland of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, Grace Bukowski of the Rural Alliance for Military Accountability (RAMA), and Charles Dodd of the Oregon-California Trails Association. These individuals are mentioned repeatedly in the materials throughout the collection.

This collection is divided into five groups: Group 1) Administrative Records; Group 2) Land Issues; Group 3) Mining; Group 4) Water; and Group 5) Audio/Visual. Each group is accompanied by more specific individual series. Much of the information contained within these series is interconnected with the subject matter in other groups and series. When a particular subject or issue does appear in multiple locations, or relates to information found elsewhere, it has been noted in the scope and content of the corresponding series. Group 1: Administrative Records, contains information about the administrative activities of the Public Resource Foundation and Public Resource Associates. Information regarding the creation and incorporation of both organizations is present in this group. Much of what is included here is correspondence, legal and administrative materials. Group 1 has been divided into two individual series: Series 1) Correspondence; and Series 2) PRA Corporate and Legal History.

Group 2: Land Issues, contains information on a variety of land issues in the state of Nevada. Most of the land issues in this group relate to the usage and/or development of public lands and the relation with privately-owned land. Some of the more pertinent topics found in this group include—but are not limited to—rules and regulations regarding public lands, the development of energy resources on public lands, grazing and rangeland health, national forests, land sales, development of rural economies, military applications for public lands, creation of a National Conservation Area (NCA) in the Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon areas, controversies surrounding the Burning Man festival, utilization of open spaces in regards to development in Washoe County, urban interface issues in and around Reno, and the creation and maintenance of Wilderness Study Areas. This group includes a variety of technical reports, environmental impact statements, planning materials, grant proposals, correspondence, bulletins, regulation booklets, and miscellaneous other materials. It is comprised of seven individual series: Series 1) General; Series 2) Public Lands; Series 3) Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon; Series 4) Urban Planning and Open Space; Series 5) Wilderness; Series 6) Rural Economies; and Series 7) Nevada State Multiple Use Committee.

Group 3: Mining, contains information and materials on mining in the Far West. Much of the material in this group relates, in one way or another, to mining operations in the state of Nevada, but there is also information regarding land withdrawals in the California Desert, and research and background on the reclamation and bonding practices of many other states throughout the country. Since more than 80% of Nevada is comprised of public lands, and large-scale mining operations dominate extensive portions of the rural landscape, much of the material regarding mining law reform is relevant to the state. This group contains working group drafts of legislation regarding mining law revision and land withdrawals, discussion group agendas and minutes, correspondence, memoranda, environmental impact statements, newsletters, nationwide reclamation and bonding rules and regulations, news clips, as well as a variety of other materials. This group is divided into six series: Series 1) Mining Law Reform; Series 2) Mineral and Mining Advocacy Organizations; Series 3) Land Withdrawals; Series 4) Mining Reclamation and Bonding; Series 5) Nevada Mining; and Series 6) General Mining.

Group 4: Water, contains information and materials on water and water systems in Nevada and the West. During the lifetime of PRA, many committees and groups were formed in order to resolve water issues, rehabilitate and regulate water systems and riparian ecosystems, and determine water allocations for the Truckee Meadows and Nevada as a whole. This group is the largest of the collection and contains valuable information on a variety of important water issues facing northern Nevada, including the health and flow of the Truckee River, water litigation within the Walker Basin water system, interstate water transfers, and maintenance of Nevada’s many wetland and riparian ecosystems. While public land might be in abundance in the state of Nevada, water and water resources are not. In the American West, water is at a premium, which is why the health of the waterways, lakes, and underground aquifers is vital for the stability and development of the region. This group contains the agendas, minutes, newsletters, and meeting materials from a variety of water committees and groups, including the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA), Truckee River Yacht Club, Champions of the Truckee River, the Downtown River Corridor Committee, the Truckee River Advisory Board, the Truckee River Flood Management Community Coalition, the Truckee Meadows Regional Water Planning Commission, the Washoe County Regional Water Planning Commission, and the Truckee River Advisory Committee. Other materials in this group include technical reports and studies, environmental impact statements, background and research on other rivers, correspondence, newsletters, bulletins, memoranda, news clips, grant proposals, assessments, and various other materials. This group has been divided into six separate series. These series are Series 1) Truckee River; Series 2) Evans Creek; Series 3) Wetlands, Desert Water, and Other Rivers; Series 4) Walker Water System; Series 5) Water Committees; and Series 6) Other Water. It should be noted that two cubic feet of material contain information on Walker Lake and Walker River water litigation and are restricted for public use without the express permission of the Public Resource Associates. Boxes that are not available for use are marked as Restricted in the guide. For a more complete description of the litigation process that has produced these documents, please see the description for Group 4, Series 4: Walker Water System.

Group 5: Audio/Visual, contains video cassette tapes and DVDs that highlight some local land and water issues. Other videos are on other environmental subject matters that might have been of interest to the staff at PRA. This group contains one series: Series 1) Video Cassettes and DVDs. Initially, Group 5 consisted of two series, the second being comprised of all photographic materials. However, all photographs and slides have been routinely separated from this collection and transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archives as collection number UNRS-P2015-05. These photographs and slides documented field trips to the Truckee River, Walker Lake, and the Black Rock Desert. Other photographs included trail building projects in the Truckee Meadows, as well images used as parts of presentations in support of various projects.


  • 1919-2013
  • Majority of material found within 1985-2012


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Material on Walker Lake and Walker River water litigation and are restricted for public use without the express permission of the Public Resource Associates. Boxes that are not available for use are marked as Restricted in the guide.

Administrative History

John Livermore, of the Public Resource Foundation (hereafter referred to as “the Foundation”) and later Public Resource Associates (PRA), began working in mining following the conclusion of his military service after World War II. In 1952, Livermore signed on as a geologist in Leadville, Colorado, which marked the beginning of his long career with Newmont Mining Corporation. Livermore’s career in mineral exploration and mining took him all over the globe and later afforded him a senior management position which he held for eight years. In the early 1960s, Livermore went on to play a pivotal role in events that changed the course of mining operations in Nevada, the United States, and arguably the world when he tested the theory of “invisible gold” deposits in former mining districts near Carlin, Nevada. This 1962 discovery of microscopic gold resulted in Newmont’s recovery of four million ounces of gold and spurred exploration and recovery of similar nearby deposits that came to form the “Carlin trend.” The Carlin trend and its parallel Battle Mountain-Eureka trend continue to yield substantial gold reserves to this day—making them some of the richest gold mining districts in the world. Livermore has been hailed as the “father of the modern gold rush” and his accomplishments were featured prominently in many national news sources, such as the New Yorker magazine. In 2000, John Livermore was appointed to the National Mining Hall of Fame.

Over the decades, Livermore formed multiple successful mining endeavors in California and Nevada and went on to become a staunch benefactor of Stanford University, and endowed chair positions and scholarship funds at the University of Nevada’s renowned Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering in Reno. True to the Livermore family’s longstanding traditions of conservation and concern for environmental issues, John and his brother Putnam along with several others, including Elvis Stahr, Dana Ott, and later Thomas Barrett, formed the Foundation in 1982. The Foundation operated on a national level as an independent non-profit “educational corporation” based out of San Francisco, California. Its purpose was to engage in research and public education relating to land and natural resources, with particular emphasis on promoting the development and use of innovative legal techniques designed to achieve balanced resource management. Much of the Foundation’s early activity included providing grants to various environmental land trust foundations and associations for holding workshops, producing publications, and completing research on land and mining issues.

The Livermores believed that the Mining Law of 1872 was ineffectual and outdated, a piece of territorial frontier law devised by wealth-seekers to bring a modicum of order amid the chaos of the mining booms of the mid-nineteenth century. In its original form the law essentially allowed the mining industry to operate on public lands unabated and unhindered. The Livermores and their associates believed they could act as mediators in the revision process. Their idea was to form “dialogue groups” that brought together representatives from the mining industry and moderate members of the environmental community (excluding the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society) with the intent of developing legislation based on consensus. Agreements were reached on a number of issues, but there was never any consensus established on the issues of land use planning and surface management. Unwilling to make any serious concessions, the mining industry took over the negotiating process and the Mining Law of 1872 continues to stand.

Six years later, in 1988, Livermores, along with Susan Lynn opened a Reno office and founded Public Resource Associates (PRA) as a vehicle for continuing to seek consensus on mining law reform. As PRA came into existence, its interests slowly changed. Livermore made the decision to pursue other public policy and resource management issues that focused primarily on Nevada.

Before the creation of the Reno office, Livermore hired Susan Lynn for the position of Executive Director, which she held until PRA closed its doors in 2012. At the time of her hiring, Lynn already had a strong background in planning, with a Master’s Degree in Planning from the University of Oregon. She had also acted as the Rural Counties Representative for Congressman Jim Santini and was quite well known within the community in the Truckee Meadows.

During her tenure with PRA, Lynn put forth considerable effort, becoming familiar with and heavily researching a variety of public policy and resource management issues affecting northern Nevada. One of Lynn’s primary interests was the maintenance and conservation of the Truckee River, but she worked on a number of projects throughout her career that dealt with a variety of environmental issues. She was responsible for researching and editing “A Comparison of Western States Reclamation and Bonding Regulations, Programs, and Practices for Discussing a Nevada Program,” and coauthoring “The Feasibility of Acquiring More Federal Public Land to the State of Nevada: A Look at Economic, Political, Geographic and Resource Elements.” In addition to completing studies and reports, Lynn also organized and coordinated several significant conferences including the “Mine Reclamation in the Arid West—Bringing Back the Land Conference,” which was held in Sparks, Nevada in 1989, and the “Enhancing Rural Economies through more Profitable Agriculture Conference,” that took place in Fallon, Nevada in 2001.

Lynn was involved in a number of community organizations and local government committees. She served as a member of the State Multiple Use Advisory Committee, the Reno Downtown River Corridor Committee, the Washoe County Regional Water Planning Commission, the Truckee River Flood Project as well as other committees and organizations. Additionally, Lynn founded and served as the “commodore” of the Truckee River Yacht Club for 12 years, and held positions on the board of directors for the Nevada Women’s Fund, the Desert Trails Association, the Mono Lake Committee, and Great Basin Land and Water. PRA also helped start the Truckee Meadows Trail Association to establish portions of the Steamboat Ditch Trail. Additionally, Livermore strongly supported PRA’s assistance to save Walker Lake. According to Livermore, in the mid-1990s PRA was “running smoothly” with Susan Lynn assuming most of the organization’s major responsibilities.

Though it was founded with the intention of reforming mining law, PRA became involved in a plethora of other environmental issues involving resource management, land use planning, public lands, water allocations, open spaces and urban expansion, and conservation. Susan Lynn and her staff were interested in nearly all types of environmental issues that affected Northern Nevada. This collection is a representation of the breadth and depth of this organization’s many interests throughout the region. PRA continued to operate until 2012. On February 7, 2013, John Livermore passed away at the age of 94. Soon afterward, the Reno office, after almost 25 years of operation, was cleared of all remaining materials and closed its doors for good.


133.5 Linear Feet (138 boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



Records cover the various initiatives, activities, and efforts of both the Public Resource Foundation (1982) and later Public Resource Associates (1988) to effect environmental change on the national and local levels through grassroots planning and lobbying. Materials date from 1919-2012 with the bulk of the material covering the mid-1980s-2012. The major areas of emphasis in this collection are the work to reform the 1872 Mining Law, public lands management, and conservation and maintenance of the region's water resources, mainly in northern Nevada. The collection consists of correspondence, bureaucratic reports, legislative records, congressional bills and hearings, newsletters, information packets, conference materials, news clips, slides, photographs, and some audio/visual resources.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Administrative Records; 2) Land Issues; 3) Mining; 4) Water; and 5) Audio/Visual

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Public Resource Associate Records were received in three separate donations, with most of the collection arriving from PRA’s Reno office in 2006. This initial donation contained materials on a variety of subjects including land, water, open spaces, and mining. In 2012, additional boxes arrived from John Livermore's Montesol ranch near Calistoga, California. Much of the material received in this second donation was related to mining law reform and Livermore’s personal mining endeavors in Nevada and California. Since Livermore's personal papers had little or nothing to do with PRA's activities, they were returned to the donor. Finally, in early 2013, when the Reno office was closing, the remaining materials left there were accepted as the final portion of the donation.

Separated Materials

Photographs transferred to the Special Collections Photo Archives as collection number UNRS-P2015-05.

  • Duplicates and unrelated materials
Guide to the Public Resource Associates Records
Patricia Stich, Jacquelyn Sundstrand, Edan Strekal, Jessica Maddox, Garnet Sanford
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)