Amodei lays down gauntlet over land |

Amodei lays down gauntlet over land

Rep. Mark Amodei on Tuesday challenged the Bureau of Land Management to either prove that energy, mining and grazing pose a threat to rural Nevada sage grouse habitat or else open the land for those possible uses.

He said the federal government should put what little money it has for sage grouse protection into programs preventing wildfires.

In an interview with reporters and editors at Nevada Appeal headquarters, the Carson City Republican said that wildfire programs would go a lot further toward protecting the birds than would barring miners, ranchers and energy exploration from 50,000 acres of rural Nevada.

“The biggest threat isn’t mining, agriculture, ranching, energy exploration,” he said. “It’s wildfires that destroy sage grouse habitat.”

He said the BLM needs to prove its claims that protecting the leks, where grouse have their mating rituals each spring, justifies taking that many acres of land out of circulation.

“I’ll take your word we’ve lost a lot of habitat,” he said. “But I’d be shocked if they can support all 50,000 acres.”

Sage grouse are in 15 of Nevada’s 17 counties, all of which are in Amodei’s current congressional district.

He said, however, that it appears that the $15 million budget will be spent in Washington, D.C., not on the ground.

Amodei said he wants to get experts from the BLM, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agriculture and wildlife officials as well as environmental experts together in a room to see whether there is a coordinated plan to preserve and expand the sage grouse habitat so that the bird doesn’t end up listed as endangered. He said that that means controlling the spread of cheat grass and pinion pines, because the grass burns so fast and the birds don’t like being where there are trees.

He said cows will eat cheat grass if allowed on grazing allotments at the right time.

On the federal budget, Amodei said it’s not possible to balance spending with revenue in one year.

“But if we get five years down the road and you’re a third of the way there, you’ve established that you’re getting down the road,” he said.

“I’ll talk with you about revenue – but not unless we talk about spending at the same time,” he said.

He said he is willing to look at such things as “means testing” for Social Security and Medicare, raising the retirement age for Social Security recipients and other such reforms.

He said he can’t support raising taxes on business because “the private sector isn’t in sparkling health right now.”

Amodei also repeated his statements that, contrary to what many in Nevada think, the Yucca Mountain project isn’t dead. He made clear he doesn’t support “a nuclear landfill in Nevada.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said Monday that he is not open to any sort of nuclear waste storage or disposal anywhere in Nevada.

Amodei said, however, that the subject is raised weekly on the House floor by representatives in states that have nuclear plants, and “it isn’t going away.”