Both of Nevada’s congressmen who represent everything north of Clark County in Washington say they are interested in finally pulling off the shelf and dusting off an amendment to the state’s Constitution that was twice approved by the state Legislature then approved by the voters in 1996 — a measure to allow the state to take control of at least some federal public lands, as reported in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.
The 1996 amendment removed the Disclaimer Clause from the Constitution that said the state “forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.”
Rep. Mark Amodei sits on the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, which is chaired by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, one of the leaders of his state’s efforts to gain control of federal land. “When I talked to Rob Bishop, I said, listen, Rob, we want to control it, but I want to do a little bit more homework,” noting the federal government has more money to spend on public land issues than the state.
Because of the expense, Amodei said for the immediate future he would like to cherry pick the areas over which the state would take control — those near urban areas or with minerals or can be used for agriculture.
Rep. Steven Horsford said he too was aware of the 1996 amendment and it is time to discuss what can be done.
Horsford, who represents the central part of the state, said that when he was in the state Senate the issue came up and he asked for a legal opinion and did some study on the matter. “Basically, as you know, when Nevada was brought in to the Union during slavery and the public lands were provided, the federal government’s role was really to serve as trust …” he said, “until such time as the state could handle the land, because it did not yet have the proper infrastructure in place.
“So I understand the history. I understand the intent behind how it was supposed to happen. What I don’t understand is why it never happened and there was never that cooperation between our state and federal officials to get control.”
He said discussions need to start anew.