Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 13, 2023


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Lawsuit Challenges Nevada Gov. Lombardo’s Unconstitutional Natural Resource Agency Appointment

CARSON CITY, Nev.— The Center for Biological Diversity and a former state employee sued Gov. Joe Lombardo today to challenge his Jan. 6 appointment of former state Sen. James Settelmeyer to be director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Nevada’s Constitution bars legislators from being appointed to any paid state position if, during their term, the legislature voted to increase the salary of that position. In 2021 the legislature voted to increase the salary of the conservation agency’s director; Settelmeyer served in the legislature from 2007 to 2022. The lawsuit seeks to have him removed as the conservation department’s director.

“Nevada’s climate policies and biodiversity protections are too important to leave in the hands of someone as clearly unsuited to lead the state’s conservation agency as Sen. Settelmeyer,” said Patrick Donnelly, Great Basin director at the Center. “Gov. Lombardo broke the law in making this appointment, and we’re taking him to court to hold him accountable.”

Settelmeyer has opposed significant climate legislation, public lands protections, protecting water, and increasing the budget of the agency he now wants to direct.

John Walker, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a Douglas County resident who retired from the state conservation agency in 2013 after 15 years of service. Walker is a career civil servant and a resident of Settelmeyer’s former Senate district.

“Historically, the public servants who have led the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have risen from within the agency or otherwise gained proven experience in the executive branch of government,” said Walker. “I’m saddened to see this successful formula undone by this appointment. The department exists to preserve and protect our natural resources and that most worthy mission should never by politicized.”

Las Vegas-based attorney Bradley Schrager of Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro, Schulman and Rabkin is representing the Center and Walker. Schrager’s work includes defending voting rights and pushing back when government officials skirt the law.

“The Nevada Constitution has a strict prohibition on appointments like Sen. Settelmeyer’s, and features a cooling-off period for legislators when they seek government positions whose salary or benefits have increased during their most recent term,” said Schrager. “This appointment clearly violates that provision. He should resign or the governor should rescind his appointment, or the courts will address Settelmeyer’s ineligibility through this lawsuit.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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