AG, governor at odds over sage grouse plan
Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt joined a suit Thursday on behalf of Nevada challenging the federal government’s greater sage-grouse land-use plan.
In 10 western states including Nevada, the federal plan withdraws more than 10 million acres of federal land from public use. In Nevada alone, mineral exploration and development is barred on nearly three million acres.
Additionally, the plan may result in significant restrictions on livestock grazing, resource development and public access on over sixteen million acres of public land in Nevada.
“The federal government’s one-size-fits-all sage-grouse plan will greatly hinder Nevada’s growth and success, and have an adverse impact on Nevada’s economy, affecting ranchers, mining exploration, new energy source development, recreation and everyone who works in these industries,” Laxalt said.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, though, said he is not happy with the lawsuit.
Sandoval said he believes joining a lawsuit now will chill ongoing discussions between the state and Department of Interior, divert resources from the current strategy of engagement and could actually undermine the “not warranted” decision nearly every stakeholder has been working toward for more than a decade.
“By pursuing litigation now, the attorney general is acting in his personal capacity and does not represent the State of Nevada, the governor or any state agencies,” Sandoval said.
Before the federal government adopted its final plan last month, Nevada developed a State Plan that focuses on the specific needs of the sage-grouse population within the state while balancing relevant economic and rural concerns, and ensuring that federal land remains available for multiple uses.
The plan was developed through the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, and received input from all stakeholders including representatives from local government, the general public, wildlife, mining, ranching, tribal nations, energy, agriculture and conservation organizations.
The federal government is required by law to adopt a plan that allows for multiple uses that is consistent with the State Plan where possible. Despite repeated efforts by state and local officials, the federal government rejected major portions of the State Plan and withdrew millions of acres from other uses.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller the final greater sage-grouse land-use plans are not a win for Nevada.
“New restrictions on over 16 million acres in our state alone pose a threat to our western way of life,” Heller said. “I support efforts to stop these unnecessary regulations in their tracks and allow rural Nevada to thrive economically.”
Congressman Mark Amodei of District 2, which includes Churchill County, said the sage-hen resource management plans are based on political maneuvers where the last consideration seems to be multiple use in the West.
“The result is a nearly 3 million acre exclusion zone because the Interior officials in D.C. do not have to live with their rulings the way Northern Nevadans do,” Amodei said. “When the Department of the Interior completely ignores input from Nevada’s Environmental Impact Statement, I believe no tool should be left in the shed, and one of those tools is litigation.”