Lands bill rejected by Lyon officials | NevadaAppeal.com

Lands bill rejected by Lyon officials

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

A lands bill agreement with the federal government has been rejected by the Lyon County Commissioners for the second time, because of the inclusion of wilderness areas.

The commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a resolution rejecting any lands bill that includes a requirement to set aside wilderness areas.

Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill said she has been extremely frustrated trying to work with environmental groups that have asked for more and more Lyon County land to be set aside for wilderness.

She said most Lyon County residents oppose the bill and said 750 residents showed up at a meeting last month to oppose the measure.

In the original 2005 bill, the Nevada Wilderness Project asked for 90,000 acres comprised of the East Sister of the Sweetwater Mountains and Bald Mountain in South Lyon County, which the commissioners rejected.

In the 2008 version of the bill, the amount of wilderness areas increased to 195,638 acres in Lyon County, including roadless areas in the Pine Grove Hills, Lyon Peak and Rawe Peak in the Pine Nut range.

The group also included 497,251 acres in Mineral County, and the two counties were joined in one lands bill.

The commission didn’t adopt a wilderness resolution in September 2005 and March 20, 2008, despite a requirement by the Nevada Congressional Delegation that wilderness designations are required in all lands bills for passage by the U.S. Congress.

Milz had a special request of the commission.

“Since I was the original author of the bill, will you give me the pleasure to kill the SOB?” he asked.

Kevin Kirkaby, Rural Director for Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., read a letter from the senator that indicated the wilderness proposals were introduced by a “select group of citizens who are interested in environmental protection” that did not have his backing or the endorsement of the delegation.

Ensign indicated in his letters that other lands bills for Southern Nevada, Lincoln County and White Pine County have been successful and have raised millions for local services.

He said he and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who have both worked on the lands bill, hoped the commissioner would look at the lands bill as an opportunity, but would not impose a bill that did not have local support.

Cameron Johnson, Northern Nevada outreach director for the Nevada Wilderness Project said it was “unfortunate that places like Wovoka and East Sister will not receive wilderness protection.”

He said his organization would continue to advocate for their protection and seek other means in the interim.

“Wilderness is the strongest and most ideal designation because it does require an act of Congress,” he said. “It’s much more collaborative and is an opportunity for everyone to come to the table. But in the meantime there are opportunities for administrative protection and other channels by working with the agencies.”

The resolution cites opposition from Gov. Jim Gibbons in a March 12 letter, an April 2 press release by U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Carson City, indicating the intent to take another look at the bill and an April 8 letter from Reid stating that he would not force legislation on communities that do not wish to participate.

Other issues noted in the resolution was an Oct. 3, 2005, letter from Sen. Ensign, that indicated Walker Lake negotiations not be included in a lands bill, but the 2008 version has the Walker Lake issue as a main focus.

Also, the idea of a Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center, part of the 2005 original plan worked out with the delegation by Commissioner Bob Milz, was dropped.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 881-7351.