November 08, 2019

Cortez Masto Introduces Pershing County Lands Bill

Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act. This legislation was designed in collaboration with local officials to incentivize economic growth for Pershing County’s rural communities, while also prioritizing the protection of wilderness and the efficient management of federal public lands. U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) is also an original co-sponsor.

“This bill reflects years of work by Pershing County and various stakeholders to develop a proposal that allows the local community to prioritize economic growth while also designating nearly 140,000 acres of protected wilderness for conservation and recreation. I’m doing all I can on behalf of our rural communities in Nevada to engage stakeholders to develop public lands proposals at the federal level that both incentivize long-term economic growth and prioritize the preservation of Nevada’s natural heritage for generations to come. I’m committed to working in Congress to move this bill forward and fight for the prosperity of our communities in the Silver State.”

BACKGROUND:

This bill follows a successful, bipartisan model that has worked for Nevada’s unique situation as a state with 85 percent of its land area under federal management. This bill was crafted at the local level involving all stakeholders – conservationists, ranchers, county commissioners, hunting, mining, and recreation interests – in a collaborative and inclusive process spanning over a decade. Specifically, this legislation prioritizes:

  1. Creating more efficient land management.
  2. Allowing for a larger local tax base to help provide essential services and increase opportunities for economic development.
  3. Balancing economic development with conservation and wildlife protections.

The Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act:

  • Creates a Checkerboard Resolution Program
    • Seventy-five percent of Pershing County is managed by the federal government, with much of this ownership being a checkerboard pattern, hindering growth and continuing inefficient land management practices. 
    • This legislation creates a process in which checkerboard land can be sold or exchanged. 
    • The county would be able to nominate parcels among the land already identified for sale or exchange by the BLM’s 2015 Winnemucca Resource Management Plan.
    • It also allows BLM to retain lands and select areas for exchange that are best suited for conservation, such as sage grouse habitat, recreation areas, and wildlife preservation areas.
  • Allows Conveyances of Mining Lands
    • The bill authorizes the sale of specific mining lands for fair market value.
    • This legislation will increase the county’s limited tax base to help provide essential county services, while also allowing revenues to be used to fund wildfire restoration, drought management and conservation of environmentally sensitive lands within Pershing County.
  • Creates New Wilderness Lands
    • This legislation designates 136,000 acres of wilderness and releases 48,600 Wilderness Study Area acres into federal multiple-use purposes.
    • New wilderness areas would include:
      • Mt. Limbo: 11,855 acres
      • North Sahwave: 13,875 acres
      • Bluewing: 24,900 acres
      • Selenite Peak: 22,822 acres
      • Fencemaker: 14,942 acres
      • Grandfathers’: 35,339 acres
      • Cain Mountain: 12,339 acres
  • The wilderness proposal has been reviewed and supported by Pershing County and the Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

The bill text can be found here

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