(Thomas Mitchell) – You know the type. No sooner do they move into a nice, new neighborhood than they stand up and say, “That’s enough. No more new residents. No more new homes. Lock the gates. Throw away the key.”
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and Clark County state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, both Democrats, recently penned an op-ed piece for the Las Vegas newspaper under the headline: “Federal lands should stay in federal hands.”
They open with a non-sequitur about Cliven Bundy grazing cattle on federal land without paying grazing fees and never do explain what that has to do with the state and counties trying to obtain federal lands for economic development purposes. Liberals pull Cliven Bundy like a six-gun at the drop of a hat.
The article notes that Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and the Nevada Chapter of the National Association of Counties recently conducted a Summit on Public Lands to talk about the ongoing efforts by the Legislature and the Nevada delegation in Washington to begin to transfer some portion of the 85 percent of the state now under federal control to state and local and private control.
“As representatives of county and state government, we can attest to the fact that we simply do not have the funds to provide law enforcement, trail maintenance and wildfire protection that currently is provided for us on these lands by the federal government,” the two elected officials from urban Clark County state categorically. “Additionally, Nevada counties receive millions of dollars a year in Payment in Lieu of Taxes payments.
These are basically property taxes paid by the federal government that cover critical services for rural communities and would disappear under this land-grab proposal.”
They do not bother to mention that PILT money is a pittance compared to property taxes paid by private owners. Nor do they mention nor seem to have an inkling that their stance, if actually put into place 70 years ago, would mean that today Clark County and its various cities would still be a whistle stop and a wide spot in the road between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City — instead of a metropolis of 2 million people.
What’s good for Clark County’s goose is not good for the gander in the rest of the state?
Those big housing developments, shopping malls, industrial parks, business and office parks and those off-Strip casinos — all are on land once controlled by one federal land agency or another, mostly Bureau of Land Management.
Those big developments by the likes of Howard Hughes, Hank Greenspan, Del Webb and many other were made possible by the acquisition of cheap BLM land. Never mind the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998 that set aside 74,000 acres in Clark County for private and public development, half of which already has been sold or transferred.
Revenues from the sale of that land go into the state education fund, to the Southern Nevada Water Authority and to a special Interior Department account to be spent on parks and trails, conservation, species habitat and restoration projects.
“We need to protect our public lands to protect our health. We need to protect Nevada to safeguard our special places for future generations to enjoy,” exclaim Giunchigliani and Atkinson. “We hope that you will join us in rejecting the effort to seize our Nevada lands.”
Seize? Our Nevada lands?
Legislation pending in Washington would gradually acquire only 10 percent of the current federal public land holdings in Nevada, or a mere 7 million acres.
The BLM loses 91 cents an acre on land it controls, while the average income for the four states that have public trust land is $28.59 per acre. A draft report by the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force says the state could net $114 million by taking over just 4 million acres of BLM land.
A bill Rep. Mark Amodei has been pressing in D.C. would allow cities and towns to annex small tracts — 160 acres at a time — of BLM land to be auctioned off.
It took Yerington nearly a decade to buy at market price 10,000 acres for an industrial park next to the Pumpkin Hollow copper mine.
Yet, two Clark County elected officials are saying the rest of Nevada should not have the opportunities their county had in developing their economies and providing jobs and opportunities for their children.
Lock the gate? Throw away the key?
Mr. Mitchell publishes the 4TH ST8 Blog at www.4thst8.wordpress.com.
The column was originally published in Mr. Mitchell’s blog.