Fire season cost at $3.9 million so far

The Board of Examiners on Tuesday approved plans to ask for $3.93 million from the state's contingency fund to cover costs of fighting wildland fires this year.

State Forester Pete Anderson told the board chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval the fire season never ended this past year.

"As everyone knows, we've had a very active wild fire season through the winter," he said.

Anderson said there were 55 large fires that burned 666,000 acres of land, 81,000 of them non-federal land. Many of them, Anderson said, were sparked by lightning in August and the largest in the northeast portion of the state.

He said, however, some of that money may come back to the state from the federal government when all the costs are added up and responsibilities assigned to the various agencies that fought the blazes.

Sandoval complimented Anderson and his firefighters saying, "it's been an extremely rough fire season."

The board also approved a $5.9 million increase in the amount the Nevada Department of Transportation needs to purchase a piece of land to extend Interstate 15 in Las Vegas known as project NEON. That more than doubles the original $4.7 million cost of the property but officials said the change was based on a reappraisal that showed significant increases in the value of land in that area based on recent comparable sales.

The payment was made contingent on settling other challenges to that sale - primarily a utility easement that was originally issued to serve the property. Since no building will be built on the land, the board was told state experts believe that easement has no cash value and that it's owners don't deserve a share of the settlement.

The board approved two requests for contingency fund money to continue state efforts to prevent listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species.

One would be the state's 25 percent share of salaries for three conservation specialists to implement the sage grouse conservation strategic plan, costing the state just $28,265.

The other is $289,109 from the fund to create a state multi-disciplinary technical team to coordinate and maximize Nevada's efforts to avoid that listing.

The team of five members will focus full time on the problem to help convince the federal government the state has a handle on protecting the birds. That was a top priority recommendation from the Governor's Sage Grouse Advisory Committee.


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