Like the old Saturday Night Live sketch introduced by a knock on a door, the Douglas County Conservation Act of 2015 could have been introduced in Congress with two words.
As it was, the bill was introduced in February with words praising the public process used to generate the bill, something that surprised some Carson Valley residents.
On Monday the bill, HR925, was referred to the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, according to Congress.gov.
Douglas County’s lands bill has been in the works for six years, but regular public meetings on the issue here were three years ago.
While Legacy Land and Water owner Jacques Etchegoyhen has regularly updated county commissioners on the progress of the lands bill, it has been a slow process.
On Thursday, Etchegoyhen discussed the bill with county commissioners at their Lake Tahoe meeting.
He said Tuesday that update includes last month’s introduction of the bill in both houses of Congress, by members of both parties.
Recent discussions of transferring federal land to the state in the Nevada Legislature may have prompted some residents to question the wisdom of the bill.
Most of the land along the west slope of the Pine Nuts has been designated for auction for years. Should the lands bill be approved, it would allow the county and residents a say on the sale and where the proceeds could be used in the county.
“The bill makes certain any BLM land sales in Douglas County deposit the proceeds into a special account to be spent in Douglas for conservation easements on ranch land, trails, trailheads, land acquisition, and even public access easements,” Etchegoyhen said. “The Douglas Bill would also give the county a seat at the table of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act to access money for parks, trails and natural areas for places near the Carson River or its tributaries.”
A bigger concern when the bill was drafted was the designation of 12,000 acres of the Burbank Canyon Wilderness Study Area as wilderness.
Residents in Smith and Mason valleys opposed the plan, saying they didn’t want to be pushed off areas they visited regularly.
Etchegoyhen said Thursday should the study area be designated wilderness, there would be no additional restrictions on its use. A buffer area around two popular roads would permit visitors to pull off without violating the ban on nonmotorized vehicles.
There are a few parcels that are designated for sale under the bill, including a U.S. Forest Service site at Jacks Valley and Highway 395 south of Carson Valley Plaza that has been used for dumping, according to Etchegoyhen. The site would also allow the county to obtain right of way to put Vista Grande through.
“There are a couple of BLM parcels on the east side of 395 that would be sold, and have no public land anywhere near them,” Etchegoyhen said of the other property.