More than 80 percent of Nevada’s landmass is managed by the federal government. This fact of life in Nevada has been a source of conflict over the years as Washington, D.C.-based agencies have struggled to administer the local issues, interests and concerns that come with managing approximately 60 million acres. Fortunately, with the partnership of responsible local leaders and professional state agencies, Nevadans know these resources are in good hands.Nevada mining has long supported the time-honored “multiple use doctrine” that federal agencies use to guide their land management. This doctrine prioritizes public accessibility to these lands and provides that the land should be managed to ensure the appropriate mix of uses that best suit the public. Determining the best mix for any given area always includes multiple opportunities for public comment.
Nevada mines are serious about stewardship of the public lands near their operations. Mines work closely with local communities, tribal representatives, and state and federal agencies to develop plans for current operation and future closure that pay careful consideration to protecting Nevada’s land, wildlife, air and water resources. Strict environmental state and federal oversight continues throughout and beyond the life of a mine.
This stewardship is at the core of multiple use, and multiple use is at the core of federal land management strategy. Unfortunately, erratic planning and efforts to restrict access have put the multiple use doctrine at risk.
Today, more than 1 in 3 acres of Nevada land have been formally withdrawn from mining activity or are otherwise inaccessible for exploration or development, leaving 65 percent of the Silver State open for mineral consideration. This figure seems like a lot until you consider the fever pitch with which lands are being constrained: In 2016, nearly 1 million acres of public land were withdrawn from mineral access. This year alone, there are pending proposals to withdraw at least 1.4 million more acres. There is no end in sight.
In Washoe County, policymakers are considering a proposal to withdraw up to 440,000 acres from mining access. In exchange, the county proposes to acquire another 60,000 acres in land to be auctioned off and developed. In Clark County, another 400,000 are on the table for withdrawal to develop roughly 35,000 more. The Department of the Navy is seeking to expand Naval Air Station Fallon by 600,000 acres – making this land inaccessible for mineral or geothermal development for generations to come.
Nevada minerals power 21st-century technology. Each withdrawn acre represents an area where discovery and development of the minerals that power our future may never be found or developed, no matter how great the need. Preserving multiple use, meanwhile, gives the public options to determine the best mix of land uses based on the context of the time and situation.
This long-established doctrine should be preserved, and policymakers should be allowed the flexibility to determine the best uses based on what the state and its communities need. To do otherwise is short-sighted and irresponsible.
Today, more than 1 in 3 acres of Nevada land have been formally withdrawn from mining activity or are otherwise inaccessible for exploration or development, leaving 65 percent of the Silver State open for mineral consideration.