News - January 29, 2024 - by Ray Hagar
Two major federal-land transfer bills to benefit Northern and rural Nevada are stuck in a Congressional quagmire, Nevada's 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei said on Nevada Newsmakers recently.
The lack of progress prompted Amodei, a Republican from Carson City, to fondly remember the days when a Nevada Democrat ran things in Congress.
"I'll say this on your show, I miss Harry Reid ... when stuff got the way Harry wanted it, it happened," Amodei told host Sam Shad.
Reid, who passed away in December of 2021 in Henderson, was the Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015 and served Nevada in the U.S. Senate for 30 years, beginning in 1987.
Now, complex lands bill for Washoe County -- championed by Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nv -- and Amodei's own lands package for rural Northern Nevada, are not moving forward quickly, he said.
"It's late already in terms of lands legislation in Nevada," Amodei said. "We're in the full blown presidential-election season, which we try to avoid."
He said he has "a tough hill to climb" in bringing his bill to fruition.
Amodei said he's also spoken with people who are upset with provisions in Rosen's Washoe County bill.
"I can tell you that I've already gotten a call from Arlen Melendez (retired and respected leader of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony)," Amodei said. "I've already gotten calls from people who have grazing permits up there, who thought they had worked out language because Northern Washoe has always been the biggest challenge of a Washoe bill.
"And there's people who are disenfranchised right now because they felt like they were told, you know what, the sun's coming up in the east in this bill.
"And guess what? The sun didn't come up in the east in the one that's been introduced," Amodei said.
Rosen, however, points out her Washoe lands bills has the backing of the current chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony.
“Reno-Sparks Indian Colony applauds Sen. Rosen and her staff for their extensive collaboration with the various Washoe County local governments. This has led to the introduction of a lands bill benefitting all parties in an equitable fashion,” said Daryl D. Gardipe, newly elected Reno-Sparks Indian Colony tribal chairman.
“We are pleased with the support we received from multiple stakeholders to preserve our culturally important areas, while also allowing the surrounding cities to continue their growth," Gardipe continued. "We have been involved with the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act since 2017, and the compromises reached in this bill are going to greatly benefit the entire Truckee Meadows region.”
Amodei also complemented Rosen's staff for the volume of work done on the Washoe bill. Both bills have taken more than four years to get to this point, according to published reports.
Amodei mentioned another drawback for both bills: Nevada lands bills traditionally don't spark a lot of interest from lawmakers from other states.
"You know, like anything, most of the rest of the nation doesn't understand anything about public lands because, quite frankly, they don't have the public lands that Nevada does," he said.
Amodei and Rosen, however, can point to their successes in passing lands bills after Reid's retirement in 2017.
In 2022, both were instrumental, along with Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nv., for the congressional approval of a major lands bill that added more than 500,000 acres to the Naval Air Station Fallon, transferred lands in Churchill County for economic development, gave 18,000 acres and $20 million to two native American tribes and set aside more than 570,000 acres for conservation and wilderness.
That bill also took years to complete, so all is not lost yet with the current Nevada lands bills in Congress, even if things don't look sunny in January, Amodei said.
"I don't like where we're at right now," he said. "I think we're behind with the way things move in Congress. That doesn't mean we're not busting our tail to close the gap when we wanted to be ahead of it.
"Now, we're going to have to nip them at the wire," he continued. "So we're still full steam ahead. But this isn't the way I had it when I diagrammed on the clipboard."
There's no Sen. Reid waiting at the end of the process to make sure all turns out well. Amodei sees little success for an omnibus lands bill arising to meet the demands of both his and Rosen's bills by the end of the current Congress.
"I wouldn't put the whole bank account on (betting), 'Well, there's going to be a big bill where both sides come together and hug on public lands at the end of the day,' " he said.
Rosen's bill, officially the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act, would make 16,000 acres in Washoe County available for sale at a fair-market value, to boost economic development, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Some land would also be earmarked for affordable housing and another 3,500 acres would be allocated to local governments for parks, a water treatment facility, schools and roadway expansions.
Amodei's bill, officially the Northern Nevada Economic and Development Act, calls for federal-land transfers in Douglas County, Pershing County, Carson City, Fernley, Sparks, and Incline Village.
It also designates nearly 150,000 acres of wilderness in Northern Nevada and removes the possibility of oil and gas leasing in more than 300,000 acres of the Ruby Mountains of Elko County, according to Amodei's office.
More than 450,000 acres are planned for conservation protections in Amodei's bill, compared to less than 40,000 acres for development, his office said in a press release.