Several years ago a high ranking Interior Department official told a Nevada newspaper editorial board that the agency planned to maintain its level of land control by acquiring an acre of land for federal ownership for every acre of land that was released to private ownership. It was a blatant admission that the bureaucracy intended to maintain its power and authority and budget in perpetuity, no matter what was good for the local citizens and their economy.
If recent events are any indication, it appears the bureaucracy has escalated from maintaining power to full-blown growth mode at a rate of 10-to-one.
Clark County officials have been talking about an effort to acquire nearly 40,000 acres of federal public land for auctioning off for private business and residential development. (Where they would get the water for the new development was not addressed.) In exchange, the county is talking about withdrawing from private development another 400,000 acres.
In Washoe County, officials are considering acquiring 60,000 acres for auction for private development in exchange for taking 440,000 acres out of private development access.
In a recent column published in the Elko Daily Free Press, Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association, warns that the long-established doctrine of multiple use for federal public lands is being threatened. She notes that more than 80 percent of Nevada land is controlled by various federal land agencies and currently a third of the state is off limits to mining activity.
And the limits on mining, such as those proposed in Clark and Washoe counties, are growing apace.
“In 2016, nearly 1 million acres of public land were withdrawn from mineral access,” Bennett writes. “This year alone, there are pending proposals to withdraw at least 1.4 million more acres. There is no end in sight.”
Additionally, the Department of the Navy is asking to expand the Naval Air Station at Fallon by 600,000 acres, which would block mining or geothermal power generation on that land for generations to come.
“Nevada minerals power 21st-century technology. Each withdrawn acre represents an area where discovery and development of the minerals that power our future may never be found or developed, no matter how great the need,” Bennett concludes. “Preserving multiple use, meanwhile, gives the public options to determine the best mix of land uses based on the context of the time and situation.”
We agree. Locking up land and barring productive use without thorough examination of alternatives and benefits is nothing but bureaucrats holding onto their power base.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.