Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR7) was introduced on February 27, 2017 – but it’s nothing new to those of us that love America’s public lands in Nevada: we remember this nasty piece of legislation as SJR1 (2015), introduced in the 2015 legislature.
Both the 2015 and the 2017 iterations call for the sweeping transfer of millions of acres of our federally-managed public lands into state control. Once in state hands, some of those lands would be sold off immediately to cover costs. This takes away control from the individual counties and their resident stakeholders, like the sportsmen who have been hunting and fishing in wild Nevada for generations.
Nevada has a great tradition of doing public lands bills, including transfers and sales, on a county by county basis. For example, the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act – which allows the BLM to transfer or sell land that is eligible after seeking community, city, and county input. Critics of SJR7/SJR1 (2015) asked bill sponsors to look towards SNPLMA for a model on how to do land sales and transfers in Nevada. We don’t have a problem with land transfer – we have a problem with SJR1 (2015) and SJR7.
The SNPLMA process allows an apples-to-apples comparison of land values for evaluation – SJR1 (2015) and SJR7 use land value estimates based on land sales in Idaho (prime timber country) and New Mexico (with its oil and natural gas). Historically, lands auctioned over the last decade in Nevada have rarely – if ever – reached the SJR7/SJR1 (2015) proponents’ estimates of $1,000/acre, so the assumption that land sales in Nevada’s checkerboard will average $1,000/acre is incredibly unrealistic. And if we’re recouping our costs for the transfer via land sales (as the plan states) and the land is selling for 10-50% of estimates, that just means we have to sell more and more to cover those costs.
Currently, a bipartisan bill called the Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act (S. 414 and H.R. 1107) – introduced by Representatives Dina Titus (D) and Mark Amodei (R) in the US House of Representatives and Senator Dean Heller (R) in the Senate – models this county by county process. Stakeholders in Pershing County came together for years to negotiate boundaries, and collaborate on a bill that works for all Nevadans, because our bills should strive to work as much for the conservationists as the rancher and the hunter and the miner – because we’re all Nevadans.
The Pershing bill would “promote conservation, improve public land management, and provide for sensible development in Pershing County, Nevada, and for other purposes.” It would also designate seven stunning areas in wild Nevada as wilderness – Grandfathers’, Fencemaker, Cain Mountain, Bluewing, Mt. Limbo, Selenite Mountains, and North Sahwave. There is a land transfer component in the Pershing bill – six acres that will go to expanding a historical cemetery since the Bureau of Land Management can’t inter bodies on public lands they manage.
Keep America’s public lands in Nevada in America’s public hands.
Land transfers must be done on a county by county basis by the stakeholders who live, work, and love their piece of Nevada – and they must include a conservation component.