Congressman Hardy seeks to hold the line on federal land acquisitions

Nevada freshman Congressman Cresent Hardy has introduced his first piece of legislation in Congress, and it might best be described as an effort to hold the line on federal public lands control.

Dubbed the LAND Act (Land Acquisition to cut National Debt Act), Hardy’s bill would prohibit the Interior and Agriculture departments from using tax money to increase the net acreage of land under their control during years in which the federal budget is not balanced — and when did that last happen or will in the future?

As Hardy points out in his floor speech introducing the bill, federal agencies control 81 percent of Nevada, and some estimates go as high as 87 percent. The congressman noted the federal land agencies control 640 million acres, nearly a third of the United States’ land, and has a maintenance backlog of $23 billion. They can’t keep up with what they already have.

During an editorial board at the Las Vegas newspaper several years ago a high ranking Interior Department official stated that it was the agency’s goal to never decrease the acreage under its control, thus for every acre it might sell in one area it would attempt acquire a like number of acres elsewhere.

“Simply put, this bill tells the federal government that responsibly and efficiently managing the 640 million acres of land it already controls must be a higher priority than acquiring even more private, state and tribal land,” Congressman Hardy said on the House floor today.

“The federal government has bitten off more than it can chew, and it cannot be trusted to serve as a responsible steward of even more of our lands and resources. I’m a Nevadan. The federal government controls more than 81 percent of my state, and I think I speak for most of my constituents when I say, enough is enough.”

According to the Congressional Research Service, form 1990 to 2010, the federal government did actually trim its holdings, but by less than 3 percent. The total federal land in Nevada was trimmed by 5 percent, probably largely due to federal land being consumed by the development of industry and housing in Clark County. Federal land holdings in Iowa actually increased 269 percent.

Federal land holdings in the West in 2010. (Congressional Research Service

Federal land holdings in the West in 2010. (Congressional Research Service)