ELKO — Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said Wednesday unless federal agencies can control wildfires, keeping sage grouse off the endangered species list would be difficult.
During a rural conference call, Heller said the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service should place a greater emphasis on suppressing wildfires and then treating more burned acres afterward.
The BLM and Forest Service are drafting a regional sage-grouse conservation plan for Nevada and California, and are taking public comment until Jan. 29. The greater sage grouse face a possible 2015 listing as endangered or threatened, which Heller said would be ruinous to the local economies.
Heller was encouraged by the newly nominated director of the BLM, Neil Kornze, who grew up in Elko.
“One of the pluses of having Kornze there is at least he has an open mind and understands the concerns,” Heller said.
Heller said Kornze, who spent time as a staffer for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., developed a reputation of working across the aisle.
“I might not always agree with BLM policy-wise, but I can pick up the phone and talk to Neil,” Heller said. “…I’m kind of looking forward to him being in that position.”
Before taking the floor to vote against a budget deal, Heller reiterated his position Wednesday, saying the plan was a short-term stopgap that failed to address long-term fiscal issues.
Furthermore, the senator said the budget targeted military families, who he said stood to loose about $6 million in pensions.
“I think that’s a disgrace,” he said. “I won’t support that.”
Heller said it was too early to comment on a bill that would help Elko County acquire public land for a motocross park and convey about 370 acres of land to the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians.
“These land bill issues take a couple years,” he said.