Newspaper column: Nevada’s rural congressmen chip away at federal lands

The Virgin River

Nevada’s congressional representatives who represent the state’s rural communities continue to chip away at the massive federal public lands under the control of various federal agencies in an effort to aid economic development and recreational opportunities.

Both managed to get bills passed out of the House this past week.

Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy of Mesquite saw the House pass his Eastern Nevada Implementation Improvement Act (H.R. 1815) overwhelmingly. The vote was 360 to 7.

Republican Rep. Mark Amodei of Carson City cleared the House on a voice vote with his Nevada Native Nations Land Act (H.R. 2733).

Hardy’s bill, introduced a year ago, affects tracts in Lincoln, White Pine and Nye counties, as well as the town of Mesquite.

In Lincoln, the bill authorizes efforts to reduce fuels and prevent wildfires that devastate grazing land and damage greater sage grouse habitat.

The bill also corrects language in previous legislation that was blocking creation of a conservation plan for the Virgin River watershed to protect various species and allow Mesquite to acquire land for development.

Arc Dome Wilderness Area

In addition, the bill releases from the Arc Dome Wilderness Area land containing a small dam that is owned and maintained by the Yamba Tribe, releases from the High Schells Wilderness area land where a frequently used Girl Scout camp is located and adjusts the designation of a road near McCoy Creek and releases from the Mount Moriah Wilderness Area a section that will allow access to the main road and facilities at the Big Canyon Trailhead.

“This is a well-balanced, bipartisan piece of legislation that will reduce wild land fire threat and greatly benefit local communities, wildlife and its habitat, and the future management of public lands in Nevada,” Hardy said.

Amodei’s bill places 70,000 acres of federal public land under the control of six Nevada tribes. The bill allows those tribes to address housing shortages, promote development of natural resources, support additional grazing and agricultural activities, promote renewable energy and preserve cultural resources.

The Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe will take over 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Humboldt County. This will help resolve jurisdictional issues over checkerboard lands — which were created when the railroads were built and they were granted every other section of land along the right of way. It also will enable housing development.

The Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation would receive 82 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in Elko County for housing and offices.

The Summit Lake Paiute Tribe would take over 941 acres of BLM land in Humboldt County to unify the reservation around Summit Lake.

The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony would take over 13,000 acres of BLM land in Washoe County to better manage the Hungry Valley residences.

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe gets more than 6,000 acres of BLM land in Washoe County to expand the reservation boundary to fully incorporate the watershed of Pyramid Lake.

Pyramid Lake

The Duckwater Shoshone Tribe receives more than 31,000 acres of BLM land.

“I commend my colleagues in the House for joining me to pass this critical piece of legislation that will transfer more than 70,000 acres of Nevada public lands back into local control – empowering those who are best suited to make decisions surrounding economic development,” Amodei said. “By carefully balancing the unique needs of our Nevada tribal nations with those of local ranchers, land owners, public lands recreationalists and businesses, my bill will allow Nevadans to chart brighter futures for their communities while preserving their cultural heritage and traditions. I urge the Senate to take up this common-sense measure as soon as possible.”

While these two efforts are welcome, the House needs to press forward with Amodei’s Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act (H.R.1484), which was introduced more than a year ago and has been referred to two subcommittees of the Committee on Natural Resources. The bill calls on Congress to hand over 7.2 million acres of federal public land to Nevada in a first phase — only a little more than 10 percent of the federal land in Nevada.

The bill states: “The Federal Government promised all new States, in their statehood enabling Act contracts, that it would dispose of federally controlled public lands within the borders of those States,” but it failed to honor the promise.

Now, that would be significant.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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