“Stop the transfer of Nevada public lands”
Las Vegas, NV-June 6,2018-Off road racers and environmentalists are both equally outraged about a new land transfer proposal bill that County Commissioner Chairman Steve Sisolak is trying to sneak past them. County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, who attended open house on Tuesday, couldn’t explain why the resolution was coming to an immediate vote after just becoming unveiled to the public.The bill would transfer 39,000 acres of public land to greedy land developers.
On Tuesday a two-hour open house drew over 400 people at the Clark County Library. Environmentalists and Off Road enthusiasts all crowded into a conference room to study maps and hear how their protected land is attempting to be transferred to land developers. Both sides were there to inquire about plans to ask Congress to open nearly 39,000 acres of federal land for development just outside the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Talks with county officials and private investors have been held behind closed doors for more than a year.
The two groups of Nevada off road racers and environmentalists were upset because they had not been contacted regarding the land development. Kenny Thatcher, president of Southern Nevada Off Road Enthusiasts (SNORE) ,“The administration is not informing the public about how much public land we will be losing access to. Its like they are operating under the cover of darkness,” Thatcher said.
County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak, stated “the reason for the rush of the bill is probably part of a push to get legislation introduced in Congress before the midterm elections in November, though he acknowledged it is unlikely any lands bill would pass this year. “If they think there’s not enough time for public input, I’ll request a delay,” Sisolak said. “We’d rather act on more input than less input.”
On June 19 the County commissioners will vote on the resolution, which seeks federal legislation that would carve out a large swath for development along Interstate 15 south of the valley, while setting aside more than 370,000 acres of new wilderness and protected areas for the desert tortoise and other threatened species in the county.
Sisolak said the county’s main interest in the lands bill involves the I-15 corridor south of the valley, where he envisions large-scale commercial manufacturing and distribution facilities. He said he has been approached in recent years by major companies — he declined to name them — looking for large blocks of land, including one firm that wanted 10,000 acres.
Kenny Freeman, a founder of SNORE and long time environmental activist stated “ We were never given a chance for input regarding the proposed bill. The off road community and the environmental community are working together to fight this. The removal of the Jean dry lake bed area will displace the 1000 special recreational permits that were issued by the county’.
Jim Stanger, president of Friends of Sloan Canyon, the nonprofit that looks after the national conservation area south of Henderson, said, “I’m a big believer in citizen participation. If they’re going to let the public in on this and then immediately approve it, that doesn’t seem right.”
The proposed legislation would make additional lands available in Clark County for economic development and infrastructure, provide for the conservation of sensitive natural areas, eliminate OHV events in the Jean/Primm area. OHV competitive events such as the Mint 400 which brings over a million people a year to Las Vegas, would be severely affected. In the past when the county has transferred land, those area then became closed to OHV events. Past examples include the Ivanpah airport, Avi track and Eldorado Valley.
Patrick Donnelly, Nevada director for the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity stated “ ‘We see this as an assault on prime desert tortoise habitat and the Endangered Species Act, and an attempt to cash in on more urban sprawl. The county is keeping this quiet because they know how unpopular it is,” Donnelly said.
The BLM is threatening to place the Lucy Grey mountains as an ACEC. Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is a conservation ecology program in the Western United States, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).If an ACEC is obtained for tortoise protection off road racers to would not be able to utilize that area. The historic Mint 400 race, SNORE races and 8 MRAN races will be terminated as well as 5000 miles of recreational trails.The proposed legislation would push outward the existing disposal boundary, a line established around the valley in 1998 within which federal land can be sold to private developers. The expanded disposal area would allow the Bureau of Land Management to auction off another 38,636 acres for development at the valley’s edges.