For decades Nevadans have been trying to wrest greater control of public lands within the state from federal hegemony.
This year the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 227, which created the Nevada Land Management Task Force to study the possible transfer of certain federal public lands to the state of Nevada. The 17-member task force is to identify what federal land should be transferred to the state and what the economic impact would be.
Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, chair of the task force, said in a recent interview the impetus for AB227 began in 2009 when the Forest Service announced it was working on a public lands travel plan, but indicated it did not anticipate closing any roads, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.
“It turned out that it was way different than they had represented,” Dahl explained. “They were actually going to close a lot of roads. They were doing the new map and then everything that wasn’t on the map was not considered a road. …
Dahl said he was told by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the legal advisers to the Legislature, that there might be some constitutional issues with simply demanding a takeover of federal land. It was state Sen. Pete Goicoechea who came up with the idea to put together a bill that would simply study the implications of a transfer rather than demand it.
“We started off to make the decision on whether we could or we couldn’t as a state manage our own public land,” he said.
Dahl anticipates participation from such diverse groups as the Sierra Club, Bighorns Unlimited, the Farm Bureau, miners and ranchers. “We want all the stakeholders out there on the public land to have an opportunity to make a case for or against transfer of the land.”
The task force probably will do as Utah has done and be selective about what land would be transferred, meaning monuments, wilderness, national parks and Department of Defense land are off the table, the chairman said.