Churchill County Deputy DA briefs federal sage grouse case |

Churchill County Deputy DA briefs federal sage grouse case

Aly Lawson
In Thursday’s meeting, the Churchill County Commission approved a proclamation declaring this year’s Nevada Bighorn Sheep Week Feb. 11-18.
Courtesy of Carl Erquiaga |

At the Churchill County Commission meeting Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Ben Shawcroft discussed being present for the federal court proceedings in Reno about land restrictions intended to protect the declining sage grouse bird species.

The case involves the Department of Defense and Bureau of Land Management as well as state and county representatives and residents.

Shawcroft said it only took a couple hours until the judge said she felt fully briefed on the case; she will reach a full decision by the end of March. Shawcroft added the plaintiffs’ attorney did a fantastic job, “much better than the DOJ attorneys yesterday — she was on top of it.”

The judge will be ruling on whether the case has any merits, but the court only discussed whether any plaintiffs have standing and are able to show injury. Injuries could include lost tax revenue, mining royalties, grazing rights and different economic activities and planning phases that would be impacted.

“That was a very interesting discussion, and that is where our biggest challenge lies in my opinion,” Shawcroft said. “That’s why that was the only thing we talked about yesterday — because if none of the parties have standing then the case is going to be dismissed … There are some injuries being felt by the plaintiffs.”

Naval Air Station Fallon’s additional land withdrawal segregation period was a separate matter, he said, since the segregated status requires maintaining the land’s status quo but any issues are not reviewable by the courts yet.

During public comment, Jim Falk thanked Shawcroft for staying on top of the sage grouse issue.

“It is kind of disconcerting when we think we have something that may be of value then suddenly we don’t have it,” Falk said. “There should be some kind of redress there I would think.”

County Manager Eleanor Lockwood said the county is deeply concerned with the Navy’s proposed expansion and is heavily involved in all the cooperating agencies’ discussions and meetings to ensure concerns are listened to and evaluated during the environmental impact study process.

The commissioners approved a county emergency manager position, thus occupational safety functions would be removed and the emergency manager would report to the county manager. The emergency manager would serve 19 hours per week and therefore not be part of the Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Lockwood said the former position-holder felt bringing the right person on board, including grant-writing experience, would be able to do the position well with those hours.

The commission approved a proclamation declaring Nevada’s Bighorn Sheep Week is Feb. 11-18, 2017. Commissioner Carl Erquiaga brought this idea forward last year as well. He added when Nevada Bighorns Unlimited started their program in the 1970s, there were only a couple thousand bighorn sheep left in the state and now it’s closer to 12,000.

“It is an incredible dedication of time,” Commissioner Pete Olsen said of the program involving hunting and tagging. “In an area where there were no sheep 30 years ago.”

Due to recent and potential flooding, it was reported that Steve Endacott, the city’s emergency director, is working closely with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District and other area emergency managers — as well as property owners along the Carson River.

The next commission meeting will be Feb. 15 at 1:15 p.m. in the chambers on Taylor St.