City to discuss lands bill tonight | NevadaAppeal.com

City to discuss lands bill tonight

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer
Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal A first year red-tailed hawk cleans its talons on a fence near the Silver Saddle Ranch on Oct. 16.
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Carson City may gain control of thousands of acres currently managed by the federal government, which controls more than 60 percent of the land in the city.

More than 40 parcels are being considered so far for inclusion in a bill that would turn the federal land over to Carson City. That number could rise before the Board of Supervisors votes on it Dec. 7.

“Carson City isn’t focused on disposing of land for development. Its focus is on preservation of land,” said John Lopez, deputy chief of staff for Sen. John Ensign, about the city’s effort to create its own federal lands bill.

Nevada’s first federal lands bill was approved by Congress in 1998. It allowed land controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to be sold to developers so Southern Nevada’s rapidly growing population can have more breathing space.

Many residents have been asking, “‘Why are you doing this?'” said City Manager Linda Ritter. “Congress is asking us to look at these lands.”

Some of the locations could be used for recreation or preservation, while others could be managed to provide maximum wildfire or watershed protection.

Taking the requests to Congress would allow sweeping land-management changes to occur within a few years. The process of swapping pieces of land between government agencies could take much longer if the city were to negotiate changes over each piece and wait for an updated federal land plan, Ritter said.

Much of the land some city employees seek to dispose of on the west side, for example, is wildfire-prone. Costs to fight wildfires are on the rise, and the city needs to decide whether it would be better to manage these areas on their own or allow the federal government to take on the responsibility, Ritter said.

A workshop from 6-8 p.m. tonight will be the last opportunity for residents to talk to city staff one-on-one and look at maps before the bill starts moving through citizens panels. It will be at the local University of Nevada, Reno, Cooperative Extension office, 2621 Northgate Lane, Suite 15.

The goal is to remove the 868 acres of the Silver Saddle Ranch from BLM control for the city to use as a regional park.

“Cost was a concern so we considered going into a management agreement,” with the federal government instead, said Juan Guzman, the city’s open-space director.

Silver Saddle returned to the list amid discussions this year with Mayor Marv Teixeira and federal officials because of the opportunity it offers for a regional park. The location is considered brimming with potential, Guzman said.

Silver Saddle being on the list inspired the concept of adding the neighboring 3,250-acre Prison Hill Recreation Area. Response to both locations being part of the lands bill has been mostly positive, Guzman said.

It’s a long-term goal for the city, however. Though most of the acreage will stay as it is, the city envisions adding picnic areas and large open-turf areas, trails, an events facility separate from what’s offered at the Carson City fairgrounds and an amphitheater. A variety of land enhancements also would be sought to improve conditions for native animals and plants.

“It could take 10 or 20 years,” he said.

At a citizens panel last week, east-side residents said they were concerned about a proposal to obtain more than 30 acres on the south side of Fifth Street between Fairview Drive and Carson River Road. It would be used by the state for work force housing. Homes built for this purpose would sit between Fifth Street and Riverview Terrace.

The federal land sits next to a state parcel, and the two sites would be combined.

“We feel it’s an inappropriate use,” said resident Leonard Swisher, who helped create and circulate a petition against the work force plan, a concept he described as “HUD-style housing next to the upscale homes there now.”

An influx of new state workers will replace the large number of those aging and expected to retire. The younger employees will require local housing that’s more affordable than what they could obtain now, state officials have said.

Other sites being considered: C Hill, about 150 acres south of Kings Canyon Road, to maintain the flag; and nearly 170 acres along the Carson River and Deer Run Road, known as Ambrose Carson River Natural Area.

One east-side parcel, 300 acres east of Sedge and Deer Run roads, has generated controversy. Some would like to see it used for a multiuse range for firearm, archery and paintball. Others contend it should remain open space.

Though it has garnered a poor public reaction, it’s going to stay on the list along with other sites that haven’t been favorably received by some residents and committee members, Ritter said.

After city employees compile comments from the public and members of citizens panels, they’ll make their own observations, determine the cost of acquiring or disposing of each site, and present all of these findings to the supervisors, Ritter said.

Land-management costs aren’t included in presentations to residents and panelists. The idea is to find out first “what these people like,” she said.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.

Who controls what in Carson City?

Total land comprising Carson City: 93,609 acres

U.S. Bureau of Land Management: 45,213 acres; 48.3 percent

U.S. Forest Service: 11,233 acres; 12 percent

Private interests: 25,274 acres; 27 percent

State of Nevada: 5,617 acres; 6 percent

Carson City: 5,617 acres; 6 percent

Washoe Tribe: 655 acres; 0.7 percent

– Source: Carson City, based on 2001 data

Opportunities to learn about the plan or voice an opinion:

Today

Public information workshop, 6-8 p.m.

Cooperative Extension Office

2621 Northgate Lane, Suite 15

Wednesday

Planning Commission meeting

Public testimony, 5:45 p.m.

Community Center, Sierra Room

851 E. William St.

Nov. 1

Carson River Advisory Committee meeting

Public testimony, 5:30 p.m.

Community Center, Sierra Room

851 E. William St.

Nov. 7

Parks and Recreation Commission meeting

Public testimony, 5:30 p.m.

Community Center, Sierra Room

851 E. William St.

Nov. 13

Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife meeting

Public testimony, 6 p.m.

City Hall, Capitol Conference Room

201 N. Carson St.

Nov. 16

Special meeting of Board of Supervisors

Presentation and discussion, with public testimony, 6 p.m.

Community Center, Sierra Room

851 E. William St.

Dec. 7

Board of Supervisors meeting

Federal lands bill vote comes after final public testimony (time to be announced)

Community Center, Sierra Room

851 E. William St.

For information on the bill, contact these city employees:

Lee Plemel

Planning division

887-2188, ext. 1003

Vern Krahn

Recreation department

887-2262 ext. 1006

Juan Guzman

Open space

887-2262 ext. 1004