Senate okays Bryan bill to ease land swaps

U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan says Douglas County leaders should try tapping into proceeds generated by a southern Nevada land swap program to bolster local conservation efforts.

Bryan, D-Nev., said funding for the planned land exchange program is the "next challenge" now that the Senate has approved legislation that would make participation in the program easier.

"Our next challenge is to find a financial mechanism to acquire those land easements from those landowners who will participate," Bryan said Monday. "One option that might be available is some money from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Act. It's something they ought to explore."

The Southern Nevada Public Lands Act, effective in Clark County, allows private buyers to acquire public land. Five percent of the money goes to schools, 10 percent goes to the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the rest is available for acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands.

Douglas County leaders and landowners are supporting plans for land exchange programs whose proceeds could be used to pay ranchers to keep their property in agricultural production. One, the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange, is being coordinated by the Bureau of Land Management. The plan calls for public land in Lincoln County to be sold, with the proceeds used to buy conservation easements in Douglas.

The legislation approved by the Senate would facilitate the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange by giving the BLM jurisdiction over the Carson Valley area. Currently, the BLM oversees land east of Highway 395 and the U.S. Forest Service has authority over the property west of the highway.

Bryan's bill would move the boundary west of the Carson Valley, eliminating the possibility that some landowners would have to deal with both agencies to participate in the conservation easement program.

"What we're trying to do is provide the tools for private landowners and Douglas County to assist in preserving and protecting open space," Bryan noted. "Eliminating administrative barriers should help."

Bryan said the bill drew no controversy, and he expects it to pass the House of Representatives easily.


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