How long will our politicians continue to dither over federal control of Nevada lands?

Federal lands in Nevada from page 83 of "Solutions 2013."

The Utah Legislature has approved legislation demanding that the federal government cede certain federally controlled lands to the state.

A resolution accompanying the bill says such things as:

“WHEREAS, the enabling acts of the new states west of the original colonies established the terms upon which all such states were admitted into the union, and contained the same promise to all new states that the federal government would extinguish title to all public lands lying within their respective borders …

“WHEREAS, the state and federal partnership of public lands management has been eroded by an oppressive and over-reaching federal management agenda that has adversely impacted the sovereignty and the economies of the state of Utah and local governments …

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that … the Legislature of the state of Utah demands that the federal government imminently transfer title to all of the public lands within Utah’s borders directly to the state of Utah. …”

Arizona is working on similar legislation. So why doesn’t Nevada get on board and pass such a bill?

Well, been there done that.

In 1956 the voters of Nevada amended the state Constitution to allow taxation of federal lands, should the Congress ever consent. In 1996 the voters again amended the Constitution to remove the so-called Disclaimer Clause in which all unappropriated land was ceded to the federal government in perpetuity, should Congress ever consent.

Senate Joint Resolution 27 in support of that amendment read in part:

“WHEREAS, The State of Nevada has a strong  moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal  Government within Nevada’s borders; and

“WHEREAS, On October 31, 1864, the Territory of  Nevada was admitted to statehood on the condition that it  forever disclaim all right and title to unappropriated  public land within its boundaries; and

“WHEREAS, Nevada received the least amount of  land, 2,572,478 acres, and the smallest percentage of its  total area, 3.9 percent, of the land grant states in the Far  West admitted after 1864, while states of comparable  location and soil, including Arizona, New Mexico and Utah,  received approximately 11 percent of their total area in  federal land grants …

“RESOLVED, That the Legislature of the State of Nevada hereby urges the Congress of the United States to consent to the amendment of the ordinance of the Nevada  constitution to remove the disclaimer concerning the right  of the Federal Government to sole and entire disposition of  the unappropriated public lands in Nevada …”

Rep. Mark Amodei

Just this week Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents most of rural Nevada at this time, met with reporters and editors of the Nevada Appeal in Carson City and apparently spent much of that meeting discussing the federal government’s abuse of its stewardship of Nevada public lands.

Amodei, who earlier protested a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to reduce the amount of Nevada land available for lease for oil and gas exploration citing a need to protect sage grouse, told the newspaper he challenges the BLM to either prove that energy, mining and grazing pose a threat to rural Nevada sage grouse habitat.

He repeated his charge that wildfire is a bigger threat to sage grouse habitat. “The biggest threat isn’t mining, agriculture, ranching, energy exploration,” he told the paper. “It’s wildfires that destroy sage grouse habitat.”

He told the paper allowing more grazing would do more to protect the birds.

Why can’t we see the forest for the trees? Why is the federal government in charge making such decisions in the first place?

Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “Solution 2013” book on page 82 spells out the argument for state taking control of federal lands. It points out that in 1979, as part of the Sagebrush Rebellion, Gov. Bob List signed into law a bill that states, “The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders because …” This is followed verbatim by the words of SJR27.

NPRI recommends: “Join Utah in demanding federal authorities immediately relinquish ‘all right, title and jurisdiction’ over federally held lands. Lawmakers should immediately petition Congress for a redress of grievances and direct the Nevada Attorney General to pursue legal action to compel the federal government to abandon its unconstitutional claim to state lands.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop appeared with state officials at the Utah Capitol to support the legislation.

Harry Reid

“This debate is over 100 years old,” Hatch was quoted as saying. “I believe we’re in a climate where, if we do it right, the lands in our state can finally come under control of our state.”

Do think Harry Reid would say something like that?

The Review-Journal today editorialized on this topic and pointed out the 1996 vote and saying,
“Nevadans already voted in 1996 to amend the state constitution to remove a clause that gives Washington control of unappropriated land. But new legislation would back up our neighbors and provide a powerful reminder to Washington that Nevadans want the freedom and sovereignty to make choices for themselves.”

Better yet, where is Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s lawsuit demanding Congress address the state’s petition for redress of grievance?

8 comments on “How long will our politicians continue to dither over federal control of Nevada lands?

  1. nyp10025 says:

    What will you guys give the rest of us in America in return for all the land you want us to give you? Are you proposing a cash deal? Or are you offering assets?

  2. You can bid for the land like everyone else, Petey.


  3. Steve says:

    Really, that’s MY public land? I get to use it? OK! I am going to build a house on some of it and live there then. I am so tired of paying the state and local taxes for the land I “own ” so why not? Lets all stake a claim to our land!

    In other words Nyp, you own it just as much as Tom or I do. You have no right to claim anything in return for the states getting it back from the feds.

    This would allow you to potentially own some of it and pay the state and local taxes on it too. Thereby directly benefiting your own state and local communities.

  4. […] passed a similar law in 1n 1979 and it was signed by Gov. Bob List. The voters of Nevada approved an amendment to the state Constitution in 1996. In fact, in 1956 voters approved taxing federal land should […]

  5. […] often — and I have the links 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 […]

  6. […] is the fifth Western state currently taking such action. (The citizens of Nevada voted to do something similar in 1996, but that vote has been totally ignored and largely […]

  7. […] No. 1 the culmination of years of planning and calculating that really dates back to the Sagebrush Rebellion […]

  8. […] year before the Gardner case the voters of Nevada repealed the 1864 Disclaimer Clause that said the state does “forever disclaim all right and title to the […]

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