ELKO — The Nevada Assembly passed a bill this week designed to ultimately transfer public land from federal control to the state.
If enacted, Assembly Bill 227 will create the Nevada Land Management Task Force and charge it with developing a strategy and process for a public land transfer.
“This is a huge step forward for Nevada,” Assemblyman and bill sponsor John Ellison said in a statement. “For 150 years, Nevadans have been encumbered by federal land dominion more than residents of any other state. It makes no sense for any government to keep dominion over 80-plus percent of the land and leave less than 20 percent to its people. That’s feudalism.”
This issue affects all the Western states, said Assemblyman James Oscarson, but Nevada is acutely affected.
“It’s with good reason that the Sagebrush Rebellion began in Nevada,” he said, “and it’s important that Nevada continues to lead in the effort to return federal lands to the states.”
If passed, the task force would deliver a report to the Legislative Commission by Sept. 1, 2014, with recommendations on how to best transfer control of public lands. In addition, the task force will prepare an economic and fiscal analysis detailing how Nevada would benefit from sales or lease proceeds and how the state will finance public land management.
“Nevadans voted overwhelmingly to remove the disclaimer of interest in public lands from the state’s constitution in 1996. It’s no surprise to me that AB227 received such bipartisan support,” said Assemblyman Jim Wheeler. “Unfortunately, Congress has ignored the will of Nevada’s people for the past dozen years and failed to consent to the amendment.”
The bill mirrors similar legislation that was passed in Utah last year.
“In the past few years, Utah’s lawmakers have been particularly boisterous in demanding transfer of federal lands. This is an issue that first came to prominence in Nevada, though, and we felt it was time to reassert Nevada’s leadership on the issue. After closely examining all of Utah’s proposals, we felt the task force idea offered the most workable solution.”
AB227 was passed by a 23-18 vote. It will now go to the Nevada Senate for deliberation and, if passed, would go to the governor for enactment.