LAS VEGAS - A measure to sell federal government land in a rural Nevada county to pay for economic development, infrastructure, recreation and conservation was introduced Wednesday by the state's congressional delegation.
Nevada's five federal lawmakers in Washington said they modeled the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2004 after a program that has sold almost 8,200 acres and raised $1.4 billion in the Las Vegas area.
"This bill represents a Nevada solution to a number of tough land and water challenges," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. He called it "a comprehensive compromise" for selling public land for the public good.
Lincoln County, with fewer than 4,000 residents, is just north of fast-developing Las Vegas and Clark County - home to 1.6 million of the state's 2.3 million residents. The federal government controls 98 percent of the mountains and deserts of Lincoln County, which covers an area larger than Vermont.
The measure would authorize the sale of 100,346 acres - the equivalent of about 157 square miles or the size of the city of Denver.
The act also would set aside 1,205 square miles as wilderness and earmark an additional 383 square miles for possible future sale. Some land would be turned over to the state and county for parks.
A strip along U.S. Highway 93 would be specified as a utility corridor - a contentious issue because it would provide a route for a proposed $1 billion water pipeline reaching north from Las Vegas to tap groundwater in Lincoln and White Pine counties.
The Nevada Wilderness Coalition, a group of six organizations, issued a statement expressing opposition to provisions granting rights of way for pipelines that could transport water from rural Nevada to Las Vegas.
The act also would designate a Silver State Off-Highway Vehicle Trail running 260 miles on existing backcountry roads in the central part of the county.