Nevada public lands: Patience is no virtue when your rights are being ignored

On Tuesday I emailed the office of Gov. Brian Sandoval and asked what he will do, if anything, to address a vote of the citizens of Nevada taken nearly 16 years ago, but roundly ignored ever since.

I’ve had no reply yet. Just like the voters. I wonder if I will still be waiting 16 years hence.

The federal government, not the state will decide whether windmills will be planted on Mount Wilson and the peaks north of it in the Wilson Creek Range. (Photo by Jo Mitchell)

In 1996 the voters amended the Nevada Constitution to delete the Disclaimer Clause in the Statehood Ordinance, in which the residents of the Territory of Nevada agreed to forswear forever any claim or sovereignty over unappropriated land in the future State of Nevada, ceding all rights to the federal government. That’s why to this day the federal government controls somewhere between 83 and 92 percent of the land in Nevada.

That vote is what is known in the parlance as a petition for redress of grievances. You might have heard of that somewhere. It is the fifth right listed in the First Amendment. It was first embodied in the Magna Carta in 1215.

This issue is the topic of today’s column in the Ely Times, in which I point out that on Oct. 31, 1864, the president proclaimed:

“Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in accordance with the duty imposed upon me by the act of congress aforesaid, do hereby declare and proclaim that the said State of Nevada is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states.”

Which brings us to the Equal Footing Doctrine, which holds that every new state admitted to the union does so under the same conditions as the 13 original states. None of the original states was extorted under duress to surrender sovereignty over its lands.

Sound like grounds for a grievance.

Ballot Question 4 in 1996 read simply: “Shall the Territorial Ordinance of the Nevada Constitution be amended to remove the disclaimer of the state’s interest in the unappropriated public land?” Yes or no.

Today the state Constitution still contains a footnote explaining that the amendment was “proposed and passed by the 1993 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1995 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1996 general election, effective on the date Congress consents to amendment or a legal determination is made that such consent is not necessary.”

Congress has not consented. There has been no legal determination.

Will the governor ask the state attorney general to act? Will she?

Will any of our representatives in Washington put forward legislation to address this vote of the citizens of their state?

Don’t hold your breath.

11 comments on “Nevada public lands: Patience is no virtue when your rights are being ignored

  1. Steve says:

    An old horse drug out by a new horse the color of green.

    Now we will have real windmills to tilt at.

    This is a valid and age old arguement in Nevada. There are simply not enough people in Nevada to rise up and make the feds take notice, Harry might have had enough juice but he wasted it all on Yucca.
    As you say don’t hold your breath. To this I add, its not necessary the situation will outlive us anyway.

  2. Harry doesn’t care about the voters of Nevada, Steve.


  3. nyp10025 says:

    One party to a contract can’t unilaterally change the contract.

  4. No, but they can start the process. Did you not read about the right to redress grievances?


  5. nyp10025 says:

    Feel free to request a unilateral modification of your contract. As part of this negotiation, what are you offering in return for all the land you want us to give you?

  6. Return of the land? It was extorted in the first place.


  7. nyp10025 says:


  8. What else would you call it? They did the same to Utah.


  9. […] the better argument to be made is one Nevada and other states have been arguing for years: The Equal Footing […]

  10. […] to prove it from this year alone here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here — that Derek Yonai’s piece in Sunday’s Viewpoints section of the Review-Journal seems […]

  11. […] be a reminder that the will of the voters of Nevada had been ignored for 16 years. It was a link to a blog based on a column that appeared in the Battle Born Media newspapers. Oh yes, it was first posted in […]

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