MINDEN - With the backing of more than 3,000 residents, Douglas County leaders today are expected to oppose a potential land swap between the Bureau of Land Management and businessman Don Bently.
A resolution opposing the exchange is ready for county commission action. Four of the five commissioners have publicly declared their personal opposition to the idea, so approval is expected unless the item is postponed.
Residents began circulating petitions after a memo outlining a possible swap surfaced in July. In it, Bently suggested trading 17,400 acres in Nevada and California for 32,000 acres of BLM land, including 25,000 acres along the Carson Valley's east side.
Residents are worried the land could be developed and they would lose access to the Pine Nut Mountains, and they have formed a non-profit group called the Pine Nut Preservation League to lobby.
"We may have different views as to how all these issues ought to come out, but the way they should be handled is they should be exposed to the public eye," said John Dicks, a spokesman for the group.
Bently says the residents' fears are unfounded. He says he wants to put any land he acquires into agricultural production, and points to existing holdings of more than 30,000 acres that are used for agriculture.
Bently says the land won't be fenced unless it's to protect cattle or areas irrigated with effluent, and he's willing to allow access as long as users don't litter or damage it.
"There seems to be an impression that BLM land totally precludes usage restrictions or development from ever occurring," he said in a letter published in Wednesday's Record-Courier. "The federal government can sell this land, restrict its usage, and otherwise dictate who can use it and how it can be used ... So think carefully about whether government ownership and control of this land really ensures anything regarding its accessibility to the public."
Dicks said more than 3,000 people have signed petitions against the possible trade, and signatures gathered since a September rally will be collected Wednesday evening at the Fish Springs Fire Station. The group plans to meet before a separate meeting on wild horse management starts at 7 p.m., with the signatures to be formally presented to the county commission Thursday.
Though BLM manager John Singlaub has said no formal land swap offers have been made or accepted, Dicks said the new preservation group intends to follow the land swap idea to its conclusion.
"John Singlaub has said that we are premature, which means there's more coming in the future," said Dicks.
The county commission meets starting at 1 p.m. Thursday at the old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden. For more information on the petitions, call Dicks at 267-0208.
What: Meetings on potential BLM-Bently land swap.
When: 1 p.m. today
Where: The old Minden courthouse, 1616 Eighth St.
Info: John Dicks, 267-0208.