Land task force could provide a jackpot compared to paltry PILT

One new law that potentially could have the greatest economic impact on Nevada’s future got little coverage.

The Legislature passed and Gov. Brian Sandoval unceremoniously signed Assembly Bill 227, which creates a Nevada Land Management Task Force to study the transfer of certain federal public lands to the state of Nevada, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Lincoln County Record.

The 17-member Task Force is supposed to report its findings and recommendations by Sept. 1, 2014, to the Legislative Committee on Public Lands “in contemplation of Congress turning over the management and control of those public lands to the State of Nevada on or before June 30, 2015.”

As if on cue, Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior senator and the powerful majority leader of the Senate, this past week announced Nevada will be getting $23 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which is intended to compensate counties for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions.

Reid helpfully noted, “The Interior Department collects about $14 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting.” What he did not say is that the grand total of PILT dollars doled out nationwide is $400 million. That’s $35 sent to Washington for every $1 sent back as PILT.

What the most powerful man in the Senate also did not say is that Nevada, as in the past, gets a paltry 41 cents per acre while neighboring states get double and triple that amount. Nor did he point out that PILT amounts to only $8.50 per Nevadan, less than Montana’s $26.37, less than Idaho’s $16.50 or Utah’s $12.40.

Instead of sending all those grazing fees and royalties to Washington, Nevada could collect $805 million directly — assuming that 35-to-1 ratio — plus untold property taxes, instead of accepting a meager $23 million trickling down from Washington.

Read the entire column at the newspaper websites of ElyElko, and Lincoln.