ELKO — During his visit to Elko on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei set aside time to talk with the Women’s Mining Coalition about legislation and public lands issues.
“A big reason you wake up in the morning in this district is for public lands issues,” Amodei said. “... That is the beast.”
Representatives from the coalition spoke with Amodei regarding current Environmental Protection Agency actions, a proposed dirt tax and a potential sage-grouse listing.
Ann Carpenter, WMC adviser, also asked Amodei about the current movement on the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Policy Act of 2013. The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to conduct an assessment of the nation’s capability to meet demands for minerals.
“There are scheduled right now —this is subject to change — between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31, 27 days that we’re supposed to be on the floor,” Amodei said. “... At the pace this outfit works, that’s not very much time.”
The good news, Amodei said, is there are more than 350 bills that have been sent to the Senate, and Strategic and Critical Minerals is one of them. It is part of an entire jobs package that will be presented to the 113th Congress. Two other packages will include energy and medical care.
Regarding a potential sage-grouse endangered species listing, Amodei said there is one major threat to the species.
“The uncontested major threat to sage grouse in Nevada is catastrophic wildfire,” Amodei said. “... If it is really about the sagebrush steppe ecosystem and loss of acres, and about regulatory mechanisms to stop it, then we need to talk about fire.”
In the last 25 years, the state has lost more than 6 million acres of habitat to fire, he said. During that time period, 150,000 acres have been permitted to mining. In agriculture, there are fewer sheep and cattle grazing lands. The wild horse population, however, is up, Amodei said.
“We aren’t where we are because of decisions that district managers and district rangers are making about land use in the Great Basin,” he said.
Carpenter also asked about a measure to designate certain exclusion areas for sage-grouse leks. Amodei said in order to protect the best habitat, it’s important to find out where it is and take precautionary measures against fire.