Senate approves revised bill to sell Lincoln land

LAS VEGAS - The Senate has approved a revised Lincoln County lands bill, after recalculating how millions of dollars from federal land auctions in southern Nevada would be distributed.

The bill, passed without dissent during a rare Sunday session in Washington, D.C., keeps key provisions designating a utility corridor for construction of a water pipeline from rural Nevada to Las Vegas.

But facing resistance from the Bush administration, Nevada senators raised the share of money that would go to the Bureau of Land Management to 85 percent. The federal agency would have to spend the money within Nevada.

A House version of the bill that passed Oct. 4 would give the BLM half the revenues from Lincoln County land sales, and the county 45 percent.

Lincoln County's share would be reduced to 10 percent in the Senate bill. But the county would also be eligible to apply for a share of money from federal land sales in fast-growing Clark County.

The other 5 percent of revenues would go to a Nevada state education fund.

The House could approve the Senate bill and send it to President Bush for his signature, or members could insist on their version which could delay passage for months.

The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act would designate 768,294 acres in the large but sparsely populated county north of Las Vegas as wilderness, while opening 251,965 acres for other uses.

It would authorize the sale of 100,346 acres, or about 157 square miles of Lincoln County's 10,635 square miles.

The Senate bill would let Lincoln County apply for conservation grants through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998, a measure unique to Clark County that has reaped about $1.3 billion auctioning land around fast-growing Las Vegas.

Nevada negotiators called that fair because Lincoln County was allowing a 299-mile utility corridor for a pipeline to bring rural water to Las Vegas.

Lincoln County Commissioner Spencer Hafen told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the compromise could help his county reap millions of dollars from Clark County land sales.

"In the end, it will be a lot more money than sales would have generated in this county," Hafen said.

"It gives us the opportunity to grow, and that's what this whole thing is about."


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