ELKO – The Trump administration may bring changes to managing sage grouse and wild horses, Bureau of Land Management Nevada State Director John Ruhs said Tuesday at the Elko Convention Center.
“We go clear back to the Declaration of Independence with ties to what the Bureau of Land Management does,” said Ruhs.
In 1785 the land ordinance was passed and it initiated the first survey, he said.
“It was significant because that marked the beginning of time when we started to identify the public domain and put it out for people to buy and start settling the country.”
According to Ruhs the soldiers of the Revolutionary War had been promised land and this was a way to dispose of lands to them for payment.
“The purpose of the General Land Office was to promote settlement and move people west,” said Ruhs.
Ruhs went on to identify some general facts about the BLM. In Nevada the agency manages 48 million surface acres in Nevada and 59 million acres of sub-surface. The federal government manages 82 percent of the state.
“We have some of the largest programs in the BLM as relate to mining and fire,” said Ruhs. “We have the most public lands available for grazing.”
“We are pretty proud of the fact that this last year we have worked with the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW to provide some public opportunities to talk about sage grouse land use amendments and what they mean to the grazing program. A lot of work still needs to be done.”
Wild horses and burros issues also dominate a large part of the Nevada BLM and Ruhs went on to talk about the difficulties in wild horse management.
“We are somewhere in excess of 37,000 horses on the rangeland that is a big priority for us and it’s one of the things that I hope in the new administration that we will see some changes that will finally allow us to get some work done on the ground,” said Ruhs.
He then talked about a little bit about the new administration and his meeting last week with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
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“The five high profiles that this administration is focuses on is making America safe through energy independence; making America great through shared conservation stewardship; making America safe and restoring our sovereignty; getting America back to work; and serving the American family,” said Ruhs.
Last week the Secretary of the Interior talked to the public lands council in Washington, D.C., he said.
“I think Secretary Zinke is going to be a good asset for us. He is going to provide us with some pretty strong leadership,” said Ruhs.
He talked about infrastructure and the importance of the balance sheet. He also mentioned reorganization of the BLM.
“He said that people are going to be happy with where we go with the sage grouse plan,” said Ruhs.
Ruhs did not have any specific information of what this alludes to.
Answering a question from the audience, Ruhs said Zinke is not in favor of transferring public lands to the state.
Ruhs was the first speaker of the BLM Tri-RAC meeting.
“Once a year the three Resource Advisory Councils in Nevada that advise the BLM state office come together in an annual meeting,” said BLM Public Affairs Specialist Greg Deimel. “This year it’s here in Elko.”
The meeting, known as the BLM Nevada Tri-RAC, is a gathering of minds from the Northeastern Great Basin, Sierra Front Northwestern Great Basin, and Mojave Southern advisory teams.
About the value of the meeting of the Tri-Rac, Ruhs said, “The Resource Advisory Councils are important to the BLM in Nevada. They provide us feedback and input on how the public in general, which is who they represent, would feel about rules and planning processes. They help shape where we go.”
Each group normally has 15 members that are nominated through the Nevada Governor’s Office and then go to the Washington D.C. office. The Department of the Interior Secretary then appoints them.
The Northeastern Great Basin RAC has done a lot of work with wild horses and burros, grazing, and the sage grouse,” said Deimel. “That is kind of what Elko is about.”
Early in the day the Mojave Southern Great Basin RAC subgroup met over several issues. On Wednesday there will be a public comment period from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Turquoise Room.