Lands bill can do much for Lyon County

Fast-growing Lyon County needs lots of things, and a federal lands bill would be like getting everything on its wish list delivered by Santa on Christmas morning.

Well, almost.

As has already been done in Clark and Lincoln counties, such a bill involves selling off public lands deemed by the Bureau of Land Management to be "disposable" and applying some of the proceeds to local needs.

There are two clear benefits: Putting federal lands into more productive use in the private sector, and applying money from the sale towards public benefits such as schools, parks, fire stations, jails and affordable housing.

The rules have tightened a bit since Clark County's windfall in 2002, but there is still substantial money to be made from selling 3,265 acres in Nevada's fastest growing county.

What Lyon County doesn't need is space - its wide open reaches already make for a difficult patchwork of development from Dayton to Silver Springs to Fernley to Yerington. It does need more productive space, which a lands bill can provide.

It also needs water, which the lands bill doesn't provide. Water is going to continue to be the No. 1 restriction on Lyon's growth, as it is throughout Nevada and has been throughout history.

The bill currently in Congress is actually being opposed by Lyon's commissioners because it calls for more than 90,000 acres of wilderness designation and another 13,395 acres of wilderness study areas. The commissioners are hoping they can whittle that number through negotiations with environmental groups.

They should keep the bigger picture in mind. Lyon needs the lands bill, and wilderness designations help make it politically appealing in Washington, D.C.

Rapid growth in Lyon is changing it from rural to urban every day. Look far enough in the future, and wilderness lands someday will be as important symbolically to the people of Lyon County as wild horses are today.


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