Strong opposition voiced against the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act – a catalog of comments

Some 250 citizens gathered in the Reno Sparks Convention Center to offer comments on the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Act on February 20, 2020 - image - CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Bob Tregilus Photography

Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks held a public input meeting on Thursday February 20 in the Reno Sparks Convention Center to accept feedback on a detailed and multi-faceted proposal, the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act.

Following an open house earlier in the week at the Convention Center where officials presented the plan and answered questions, some 250 citizens appeared on Thursday to respond to the detailed plan that would designate certain federal lands within the southern part of the county for privatization and development. According to proposal authors, proceeds from the sale of the lands would be spent to further develop regional infrastructure to include parks, trails, hazardous fuels reduction and the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands.

A dozen Wilderness Study Areas in northern Washoe County first established in 1991 are being reconsidered as part of the plan as well.

For details on the proposal see www.landsbill.org. Also see our primer that includes an interview with Washoe County assistant manager Dave Solaro.

The Scene

For the public input session, the trio of governmental agencies arrayed large maps at the front of a conference room in the Reno Sparks Convention Center.

Doug Thornley, assistant city manager/legislative liaison for the City of Sparks made brief opening remarks. Then citizens made comments to the group from a lectern while Doug Thornley, Washoe County assistant manager Dave Solaro, and Reno spokesperson Dylan Shaver heard comments without speaking.

A citizen offers comments on the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act. City of Sparks assistant manager Doug Thornley, Washoe County assistant manager Dave Solaro, and Reno spokesperson Dylan Shaver listened to citizens’ comments – image – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Bob Tregilus Photography

The Ally recorded ambient audio of all 53 comments offered during the meeting. Four were in support and came exclusively from representatives of the real estate development industry. One comment was neutral, and 48 were in opposition.

Each commenter had 3 minutes. Washoe County said it made a direct recording of the comments and would release the file on Friday February 21. The County has yet to do so.

The Ally selected 20 comments for transcription that best represent the diversity and depth of the remarks. When broadcast quality audio is available, we will publish a complete catalog of comments as discrete audio files.

Against:

I’m Craig Smyres from Reno. The vast areas proposed for auction are mostly far from urban borders. These parcels are the most destructive forms of sprawl, skipping over open land to develop distant wild lands. New roads and developments scattered over southern Washoe County that skip over private land is the quickest way to wipe out native habitat.

This is not about housing. The same citizens surveyed as part of the recent recently created regional plan to show that we want to compact growth not hours of commuting. The proposed Washoe County lands bill completely ignores the housing people want and the absorbent costs of sprawling infrastructure and services.

The environmental impacts are completely overlooked. We don’t want this land developed. This bill is nothing but a giveaway to developers. These disposable lands are only about power and greed. The impacts of habitat destruction and global warming are decimating wildlife. Even with the best management, these pressures will only increase.


For:

Matthew Harrison, a 36 year resident of Washoe County and outdoorsman, a commercial real estate broker and the past president and current board member of NAIOP (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association northern Nevada chapter). NAIOP is the nation’s leading commercial real estate development association. I thank you for the opportunity to publicly voice my support the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act and I pledge to do my part to keep northern Nevada competitive.

Access to Nevada’s wilderness areas and open space are near and dear to my heart. My expectation is that the Washoe County planners and the agencies assisting them in this process will do right by the citizens of Washoe County, and many visitors that the area attracts. Please work together to create a healthy mix of these critically important areas for all of us who love the outdoors to enjoy.

The biggest critics of this land management act are those citizens who have lost faith in the planning process. They no longer trust our government to use today’s technologies and best practices to solve critical issues facing our communities. I’m here to offer my support and the support of the NAIOP chapter members to get this done correctly. We are the community’s resource and we promote and support quality developments.

We trust Washoe County to do what is required to protect the well-being and support the continued success of our citizens here in Washoe County. Passage of this act is critical to the long term success and well-being of the residents of Washoe County and state of Nevada. To maximize our productivity, more than 100 years ago, a standard of highest and best use was established for our lands here in the west The passage of the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act will assist us in moving towards that standard by increasing the productivity and prosperity of all of our citizens. I urge you to all do your part to keep Nevada competitive. Thank you very much.


Against:

Note: Jeanne Herman is Washoe County Commissioner for District 5, which encompasses the entire northern part of Washoe County.

Well, as the commissioner of this whole 89 percent of the county that we’re talking about here tonight, I was not in on any of that planning. I was completely left out of that. I want you to know that I’m not responsible for that. I’m responsible to you. I am responsible to watch out and keep this county and district at least something to leave to future generations.

You know, Reno’s not behind this, according to some of the City Council people that I talked to.

So I’m going to be short here. These gentlemen are really not the major cause of this (gesturing toward the representatives of Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks). These gentlemen sitting here are doing their jobs. They were hired to do a job. It’s their line of work.

I wanted to say that the people responsible for this are your elected leaders. There is something you can do in an election year, and you can change some of that. It’s up to us to do our job. To be Americans and love our state.


Against:

Heather Cockerel from Cedarville, California. A lot of you probably wonder why a California person would be interested in this. Well I represent 25-plus ranching families that run livestock in very northwestern Washoe County, so it would be your very top, all up through northern Washoe County. We run out there six months out of the year. Also, I represent the county, the community of Cedarville, Eagleville, Lake City and Fort Bidwell, which lies in Surprise Valley.

These communities are host to many travelers hunters, miners, four wheel drive recreationalists and dark sky stargazers. As Surprise Valley is one of the biggest gateways into northwestern Nevada,  it seems as though you guys are drastically sidestepping and ignoring the impact issues to surrounding communities when implementing wilderness designations, as there are restrictions that come with designating areas as wilderness.

We utilize these lands for livestock production. They are a necessary part of our annual production cycle. We live near, work and recreate on public lands in Washoe County and adjacent counties. As operators upon the users of public lands within our community, we ask that these lands remain open to full access for sustained livestock and resource management. To help keep our BLM rangelands viable, we need these following points addressed.

The restrictions on wilderness areas would have a negative impact on our already fragile economy and affect the livelihoods of the ranchers or allotment owners who ran in these areas. Most all travelers to northwestern Nevada utilize hotels, gas stations, restaurants and other merchants in Surprise Valley and surrounding areas. There needs to be language in the bill to allow for mechanical means of managing for water, fence, predator control, sage grouse monitoring, horse removal, Juniper removal and firefighting.

There also needs to be the tool of flexibility in your final decision. There is much uncertainty on this current proposal within the proposed wilderness designations.  Last, due to time restrictions, I will ask you not to forget this very important fact, grazing rights have been property rights expressly recognized by Congress since 1875. We want to see wilderness at an absolute minimum.


Against:

My name is Norm Harry. I’m a former tribal chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe and I stand in opposition to this … I’ll just call it what it is, a land grab.

When I was in office back in the ’90s, I actually worked with Senator Reid and we marked up our map because at that time it was called the Washoe County Lands Bill.

And so we were looking at protecting primarily our water resources around the reservations looking for areas that promote economic development for the tribe because we have geothermal activity. Also protecting our natural resources as well too. So I don’t see any of that on here on these maps, and so, what I would like to emphasize to our Congressional folks, we as a tribe have been impacted by colonization, putting us on lands that barely could keep our people alive.

And I just have to remind everyone, that if it wasn’t for the tribe and its water battles where the states of Nevada and California divvied up the waters of the Truckee River … also try to remember the Truckee River Operating Agreement. You wouldn’t have the water that you have right now.

And I want to remind everybody, that’s how important these agreements are. You guys probably didn’t realize that here on the south end, Plumb Lane was really the end of the town. I remember Oddie Boulevard to the north, was the end of town. And now you take a look at all of the encroachment through growth. It’s going to cost the taxpayers a lot of money. So, when it gets back to water, TMWA needs to identify the water sources for that area that is being proposed. They also need to identify how much effluent is going to be created because if TMWA’s existing facility is designed for 41 or 42 million acre gallons a day, how much more of an increase is that going to be for everyone else? And then everyone’s gonna have to chip in and take care of that as well.

I remember times when you were talking about Swan Lake, it had been dry for several years, so what’s going to happen with all this new infrastructure they were looking at to put back to Biddell Flats, and all of a sudden they go back to a drought again, and that’s just typical here in Nevada. Four or five years of drought, maybe longer, or two years are wet years, and then we’re back into the drought cycle again.

The second thing I wanted to emphasize is within this legislation or within the maps, there’s no protection from cultural resource sites. So I would ask real quickly to consider federal legislation to withdraw those areas, so federal cultural resource protection laws are implemented. Thank you.


For:

Ladies gentlemen. My name is Kyle Rea. I’m a Reno resident and native Nevadan, and I work in real estate. First, I just want to say that this process is super important. And it’s really critical that everyone’s voices are heard, especially when local plans are involved. I think one thing that was touched on a little bit earlier is important to understand is that the availability of land generally is absolutely critical for affordable houses.

And as our urban areas continue to grow, it’s important that affordable housing is considered when thinking about land supply adjacent to urban areas. Affordable housing means more good paying jobs for the least, the least resourceful number of communities. And so it’s been mentioned that why don’t we just do infill? Why don’t we just build a 30 story tower?

Well, the people who depend on affordable housing can’t afford to live in those big huge urban infill projects that are in San Francisco. So I think it’s worth considering a quote, ‘all of the above approach” when thinking about affordable housing. ,

It’s not just about infill. It has to be appropriately and responsibly growing our urban areas. So I think this process important and that everyone needs to be happy that was heard and thanks for the opportunity.


Against:

My name is Anne Macquarie. I’m a 30 year resident in northern Nevada. I’m also an active volunteer with the Toiyabe chapter of the Sierra Club and I’m here speaking on my own behalf. My comments are about the disposal boundary. I think the disposal boundary is flawed, both in the excessive amount of land inside the disposal boundary and in the whole concept of a disposal boundary. I’d like to make four points about the justifications for the ultra large disposal boundary. Two of them are from the white paper and from what I heard on Tuesday.

Apparently they’re looking for something that will address housing demand and affordability. They’re looking for something that will encourage infill development, maximize utilization of existing infrastructure. According to the staff I spoke to on Thursday and the disposal map, I was told that urban development within that boundary would increase tax revenue. I was also told that the Washoe County Lands Act is a lot of work, so they don’t want to ask for another. The presenter explained to me that the disposal boundary would accommodate 50 to 60 years of urban growth. My points is to say that making such an excessive amount of land available for urban development when you encourage infill development and maximize utilization of existing infrastructure is simply not true.

In fact, the sprawling disposal boundary would allow and encourage sprawling development north of the existing city. Urban infill development is encouraged by strategies such as transit oriented development, inclusionary zoning and other focused policies, not by making a lot of land available for the same old sprawl.

Likewise, excessive amount of land available inside the proposed disposal boundary wouldn’t maximize use of existing infrastructure as they assert. Instead, development in that area would require new expensive infrastructure.

Second, addressing housing demand and affordability, there’s nothing in this proposal that would address housing affordability. Except if you make the assumption as the proponents seem to be doing that housing demand will be for large lots far from the city marginally served by public transportation. This isn’t the way housing demand is evolving in the 21st century, in Reno, or anywhere else.

Younger generations want to live close to transit, schools, entertainment, jobs and their friends and family. The jurisdictions should implement strategies to encourage housing close to the urban core to meet this demand, not by an act like this that would encourage sprawl.

Moreover, close in development served by a robust transit system is more environmentally sustainable, generating fewer greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The point was made by the presenter that the large disposal area was needed to allow the urban growth that provides taxes that pay for municipal services. And that property tax system does not provide enough funding to adequately cover city services.


For:

Thank you, for the record Tray Abney here today representing NAIOP of northern Nevada. And we are in strong support this process and the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act. I’d also like to thank staff. You folks have a tough job, and you’re handling yourself well. Thank you for your service to our community.

And frankly, in a state where over 85 percent of our lands are owned by the federal government, we must take steps to control our own destiny. We hear a lot about infill, yes, we must do it. We’ve heard a lot about increased density. Yes, we must increase density. These are not mutually exclusive. With what’s before you today. We need the ‘all the above approaches as my friend Kyle (Rea) mentioned before.

You cannot say that you are concerned about affordable housing, and then oppose a process that will build more houses. You cannot say that you are concerned about emissions, climate change, and stick with the status quo that is requiring people to live here and drive miles and miles outside of this county to work. You can’t say you’re concerned about quality of life, and then oppose a process that will provide housing, jobs to people who live here and who will move here.

The bottom line is this. We cannot stop people from coming here. We cannot roll up the red carpet. I know some folks think that God created the earth with their house on it, and everything after that was sprawl. It’s not true.

If Washoe County is good enough for you and I to live and work here, it also should be good enough for our kids and grand-kids to live and work here, and we need to provide those opportunities for them to do so. Thank you very much.


Against:

I’m Kyle Roerink. I’m the executive director of the Great Basin Water Network and I’m also a Reno resident. And I just want to make one thing clear is that there’s no way that this proposal is ready for prime time. That should not be attached to the NBAA or any other type of Congressional vehicle anytime soon, especially the fact that there’s no bill language in front of us. I mean, it’s absolutely absurd.

My organization, we fought the Las Vegas pipeline and are continuing to fight that proposal. We’ve done so for decades, and we see some similarities, and I think we just wanted to come here tonight and say that lands bills have consequences. You know, the Las Vegas pipeline got a lot of life in a lands bill years ago. So we wanted to send that message and it’s a message of cost. What is the cost for new infrastructure going to be?

I mentioned that because when we look at hydrographic basins in the region, Lemon Valley A and B, zero water available for appropriation; Cold Springs Valley, zero water available for appropriation; Long Valley, zero water available for appropriation; Warm Springs Valley, zero water available for appropriation; the Tracy segment, zero water available for appropriation, Cold Springs Valley, zero water available for appropriation, the Truckee River adjudicated.

So where’s it going to come from? Is there going to be a network of pipelines and pumps and effluent ponds around all the subdivisions in the North Valleys. Is that what we’re in for here? Is that what 90,000 acres of public lands being sold off will get us ultimately. And then we have to ask will the proceeds from these public lands sales meet the costs of this infrastructure?

Another thing I heard the other night was, you know, down in Las Vegas, there’s what’s called indirect use, and indirect use of water is essentially … you’re drinking the water that was in your toilet yesterday. We don’t have that here right now. And we all know you go down to Vegas, you’re not drinking tap water necessarily, ‘no that’s gross,’ but this is something that we need to talk about here is just what are the infrastructure costs? Are we ready for these things? And that’s really all I wanted to say. Thank you for this opportunity, but there’s no way that this is ready for prime time.


Against:

Good afternoon my name is Kevin Conway. I’m a geologist with 30 years’ experience of mineral exploration in Nevada. I moved to Washoe County in ‘87. I’m also a member of NMEC the Nevada Mineral Exploration Coalition. And NMEC is opposed to any proposal that removes public lands from the opportunity to explore for minerals and extract those resources. More specifically, NMEC believes that no wilderness designations be made in lands with mineral exploration potential. This includes areas with identified mining districts, such as the Sheep Head mining district and the Dry Valley Rim WSA, the Cotton Wood mining district and Fox Range WSA, the Lone Pine districts and the Massacre Rim WSA and the Depot Mining District.

Areas with favorable mineral alteration and mineral resource data should also not be made into wilderness and we have this data compiled digitally and have recently supplied it to the city and county and our federal delegation and would hope that they would use this information to preserve these areas that have mineral potential. On the release of the WSAs, upon passage of the bill, former WSAs should be open for immediate mineral entry and claim location. No study period should be allowed dictating where mineral location may or may not be made.

All existing roads, two tracks, ways and other trails should be open for motorized access immediately. In short, if I can drive on it, it should be open. Designation of off-road trails on appropriate maps will limit this, and we’re opposed to that. WSAs should not be converted to National Conservation Areas. NCAs are not open to mineral entry, and from the exploration and mining perspective are no different than a WSA or a Wilderness Area, and any areas identified as potential NCAs or ACECs must be fully transparently evaluated for such designation and be minimally sized to protect only the values of concern.

And on a final note, I want to point out, because I never hear this mentioned, that existing wilderness, this is existing wilderness in Washoe County, the High Rock complex, 147,000 acres of wilderness, the Mount Rose wilderness 31,000 acres of wilderness. Washoe County currently has 178,000 acres of wilderness and I’m not even counting and NCAs or anything else, so I think we need to consider that as well. Thank you for your attention.


Against:

My name is Brent Estafield. My family and I are the only livestock operators in the Dry Valley Rim, Burrow Mountain, Twin Peaks on the west side of the total wilderness study areas. We’ve been in this area for well over 60 years. I’ve worked with Friends of Nevada Wilderness several years ago trying to draw realistic lines for permanent wilderness areas and to release the rest of the land back to BLM for multiple use. Nothing was ever mentioned at that time about a National Conservation Area.

We were fairly close to an agreement over wilderness boundaries and the communication stopped. Now wilderness is brought up again, but many of the wilderness boundaries, the lines that we were close to agreement on change. I cannot agree to the conservation areas that are on the maps now. I cannot agree with putting the rest of the county in the NCA. The justification for an NCA, from what I understand, is to keep development to be allowed, such as wind farms, pipelines, etc.

If any of these actions are requested, they will have to be permitted by BLM anyway. Chances are, in these areas, due to the rock and terrain, these actions will be denied. The NCA will include a new land use plan, a resource management plan done by the BLM. This is gonna cause much paperwork for them to be doing, for the  BLM people to be doing. I would much rather have these people on the ground monitoring and improving the range lands rather than sitting in an office doing more paperwork.

We deal with federal government enough. I don’t think that we need to have anymore. The NCAs have not put more hardship on us with more rules, more regulations that we do not need. I don’t understand what the need is for the NCA? What are the objectives of the NCA? Until some of these questions are answered, I cannot support it. Thank you.


Against:

My name is Beverly Harry, I work as the native community organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Something that I want to let everybody know that I oppose the 2018 Washoe County Lands bill, this bill that we’re talking about right now. I also want to state that with the wilderness organizations, they should be directly working with tribes to see whether there’s objection. You should be working with tribes to see if there’s any objection and respectfully work with their desired input.

So when the federal government took these lands and renamed them public lands, this is how ancestral lands have been taken from Northern Paiutes, Washoe, Southern Paiutes, Western Shoshone and Goshute. So I want to reiterate that the new delineated boundaries of municipal, county, state, and federal jurisdiction historically belong to Northern Paiutes and Washoe. Where are they here? Are you serving them?

So this is how Indian lands continue to be stolen. So put that in your backpack! Think about it. So let’s continue with these issues that are unresolved within the Truckee Meadows. The Truckee River is under TMDL review and continues to be impaired. Trash is littered. Fish are not spawning. Where is the deer and where is the antelope?

Is this what is considered to be respect of the lands? I don’t think so.

Additionally, hasn’t climate change triggered any type of synapse to make those neural transmitters collide? We are in a climate urgency and we need to do something about rather than continue on this train, a gravy train for developers.

And finally, I want to just say that the attention should be on the water purveyors. The LAWP is here.


Neutral:

Good evening my name is Scott Carey. I’m with the Nevada Division of State Lands. On behalf of the Division and of the State Land Use Planning Agency I wanted to provide these comments for the record. As this process moves forward, the state doesn’t have an official position on this bill. At this time. We thought these comments may be helpful as this process moves forward. We’re tracking this bill along with nine other public lands bills here in the state, so it’s a busy time.

We’re happy to see the commitment for 5 percent of the land sales to the state of Nevada General Education Fund. What we will be asking as this moves forward that you make sure that the bill legislation states 5 percent revenues will be deposited into the State of Nevada Permanent School Fund.

As with other land bills around the state, the state likes to see and have an opportunity in the future to obtain additional lands for to provide essential state services. In the future, as Washoe County and these lands develop, we’d like to make sure that we have an opportunity to obtain lands to build things like a DMV, state licensing offices, Highway Patrol substation, National Guard, and other state services.

We’d like to see a model that’s typically done in Southern Nevada right now. With this land reservation process we feel that this process, which allows administratively, the state and other agencies to obtain lands for future public needs is a good model to use if this legislation is enacted.

At this point, we do support the proposed changes to the Massacre Rim WSA and the Dry Valley WSA. At the stakeholders meeting last month we mentioned there may be a concern of a potential impact to the state school trust lands located near Vya and Flanagan. Taking a closer look at the proposed changes, it doesn’t appear that there is an impact on the proposed change from WSA to multiple use. We feel that the change to multiple use  will allow the state to more effectively utilize those state school trust lands to get their highest and best use in order to support education in Nevada.

Moving forward in this process we ask that the parties continue to take a look at any state-owned land and any state school trust lands that may be impacted by the proposed land changes. We look forward to participating with local governments here in Washoe County as this bill moves forward. We reserve the right to comment in the future. Thank you.


Against:

Gentlemen, thank you for your time. Thank you for this opportunity for public comment. For the record, my name is Brian Beffort. I’m a staff member for Sierra Club, however tonight, my comments are my own. I was born in this town. My son was born in this town. I’m raising him here. I am deeply invested in this community. And this is a deeply personal issue for me. And I can only have compassion. We may disagree on this stuff, but the fact that you guys are up there enduring the slings and arrows of public opinion, you have my respect.

That’s the third or fourth time I’ve heard Sandra Mack do that presentation, and I still have not heard an official response from the county or from the cities on why we’re planning more housing when there seems to be enough already. I would love that response sometime.

To move on to a different topic, and Beverly Harry thanks for bringing it up, sixty-two percent of Nevada’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, commercial buildings, residential buildings, and industries. This bill is going to increase emissions on all of those fronts. At a time when climate scientists tell us we have 10 years to act to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Not once during this process have I heard a single word from any of the bill’s proponents until our friend from NAIOP stepped up about climate, about emissions or trying to do anything about them.

Last year, the UN issued a warning that more than 1 million species are at risk of extinction. The causes? Habitat loss, global warming, and the toxins that spew out the tailpipe of our economy. Those are not things that happened only in headlines or elsewhere on this planet. All of that is happening right here. And efforts like these are the cause.

On November 22 last year, Governor Sisolak stood just a couple miles away and issued an executive order directing the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is a net-zero carbon economy by 2025. That’s not too far away. How will this bill help those goals? And if these goals aren’t on your radar, why not?

Reno is the fastest warming city in the United States. Rising temperatures are not only a serious threat to human health, but they intensify water stress. Where’s that water going to come from? Every year wildfires destroy entire communities. People die just a few miles from here. And it’s only a matter of time before wild fires come here. The American Lung Association in 2019 State of the Air Report gave Washoe County an F for ozone and a C for particulate pollution. How will this bill affect our air quality? In 2016, more than 3000 people were hospitalized for asthma in Washoe.


For:

Thank you. My name is Don Tatro with the Builders Association of Northern Nevada. I just kind of want to dovetail on the last commenter (not a reference to Brian Beffort above). They’re up here tonight to support using these funds to improve the Truckee River corridor, improving things on Peavine Mountain, wildfire prevention and different conservation initiatives, for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands, parks and trails, natural areas, sage grouse habitat, doubling the amount of conservation areas in the county from 350,000 acres by another 350,000 acres, and supporting that by using 2 percent of the 4.5 million acres owned by the federal government, similar to the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act that purchased the east range in the Washoe Valley and put $360 million dollars into Lake Tahoe clarity.

Using economic development incentives to support attainable housing such as the hundreds of acres to be used for attainable housing the Reno Land Trust.

Currently they’re about 3,100, 3,200 finished lots in the county, about 2,100 final maps, 6,000 tentative maps, and 23,000 under a PUD, 10,000 of which can’t be developed because of constraints. So the hundred thousand number, the 70,000 number, I don’t know where that comes from. I’ve never seen an accurate map. I know we saw this with a lot of red, but our numbers show a drastically different outlook.

In 1998 or ‘94, we had 2,800 single family permits. ’95, 2,400; 2004, 4,900; 2005, 5,300; last year we had 1,947. The problem is it’s taking so long, three and a half years, to get through planning. So the attainability factor gets further and further away. So putting jobs next to houses, using the infrastructure that could exist that can help bring this all together, increase attainable housing, and do all these great things for the natural environment. I’m all for it.

Thank you, and thank you to staff for your long hours and countless time away from your family listening to all the wonderful opinions. Thank you.


Against:

Good evening. My name is John Hadder. I’m a resident of Reno, Nevada. I’m the current director of Great Basin Resource Watch. We focus on extraction and monitoring the mining industry. I work with communities to help protect their land, air and water. And I want to bring up something I haven’t heard yet, and that is, how is the National Environmental Policy Act going to figure into this process?

There will be a what they call a NEPA review of the transfer. That’s typical of land transfers, however, how the land is used afterwards, there may not be an environmental review of that. And this could be a problem, something to consider, so a cautionary note in terms of these kind of land transfers and what kind of environmental review they get.

I’ll give you an example. We were concerned about a land transfer that happened in Yerington, Nevada. The land was transferred from the BLM to the city of Yerington for economic development, and we were told that there will be a National Environmental Policy Act review. Yes, there was at the transfer, but not of the mining project that was imminent and still exists in that area. So that mining project where there was no environmental impact statement for their expansion plan. So that, in general, I think that will not occur for these lands, after they are disposed, unless there’s specifics in the bill that requires additional NEPA analysis. And that is something I think we have to be really careful of because in Nevada, we do not have a Environmental Quality Act, which means that we cannot do what California does. We cannot do what Washington State does and do our own environmental impact statement on these projects. And there’s some key aspects to a National Environmental Policy review in the EIS process. One is cumulative impacts and foreseeable actions in the future.

Our state permitting process does not cover those in general. So there are important reasons why it’s good to have an EIS on the details of not only the transfer, but how the land is to be used in the future. So that there could be a full analysis. It can be a useful process that increases the transparency to the public.

At this time, our organization cannot support this proposal. We have not seen details. We’re not going to support something, if we don’t know what’s really going to happen with it. As I said, in the case of the Nevada copper project, we were told NEPA would be covered, don’t worry. Well, the devils in the details folks, so we got to see the documentation first, so on the record, we cannot support this act because as far as we know, that’s all we can see. Thank you very much for your time.


Against:

Good afternoon my name is Kent Ervin, and I came to the area 30 years ago for a job and I’m still here for the outdoor areas, the mountains, and the desert. I was involved in the Peavine trail safety critical review a few years ago.

The basic compromise of preserving some lands close in for development and preserving some of the outlying plans is right. But the devil is in the details. I’d like to do though, what von Seggern said about preserving access to open space. Just with the population we have now, the need for high quality open space is critical, and we just have to preserve high quality open space.

A commenter a few minutes ago, and what I’ve heard from county officials is, ‘a lot of this land isn’t going to be developed anyway, because of such and such restriction like the slope. Well, if you look at the maps and the slope, it’s just a little bit of these areas. If you develop everything else up into those valleys and up to those slopes, you’ll fragment the area for both high quality open space and for wildlife, so the bill, whatever bill comes out of this really has to have guarantees for access and preserving high quality open space.

The whole disposal area in the north is a real overreach from Peterson to Bidell Flats over the Dog Skins and to Winnemucca Valley. That’s just way too far out there and takes some lands that are remote now and shouldn’t be part of the disposal.

I’ve enjoyed being able to explore all over Nevada, really all over the northern Washoe County area. There’s lots of opportunity to drive on roads, to have access for all the grazing and mining, for off road vehicles.

But the road-less areas we have now, once those start getting roads and use, those disappear forever. You’ve got to preserve what you have, high quality wilderness areas, the road-less areas where wildlife is. We have to reserve those for future generations. And that’s what I hope this bill will do when we finally get to seeing a bill.

So I’m not opposed to what the bill becomes, but you’ve got to take care of all these things in this process.


Against:

Good evening, my name is Nick Coe, supervisor in Modoc County, California, your neighbor to the west. And it’s interesting, Reed (a rancher who spoke earlier) and I just happened to stand up about the same time and get in line. But truthfully, we did not compare notes beforehand because many of my comments are going to follow right along with what Reed had to say.

This proposed lands bill pushed by Reno and Sparks is for the economic development of your immediate area, but it comes at the negative economic impact to the largest single private economic engine in far northern Washoe County and Modoc. I would urge you to strongly follow the recommendations of the 1991 Record of Decision or ROD, which was a public process developed with input from all stakeholders over a lengthy period of time to evaluate the wilderness study areas in the northern portions of Washoe County.

The recommendation was to return the majority of these wilderness study areas back to multiple use, as they did not meet the minimum requirements laid out in the Wilderness Act. So please honor that ROD.

In response to comments earlier about grazing, grazing is provided for in wilderness lands and NCAs. Yes, it’s allowed, but it ends up, over time, being regulated and litigated out of existence. I’ll use as an example, Marble Mountain Wilderness Area in Siskiyou County, California. I grew up next door to it on a ranch. As a young child I would go in with neighboring ranches taking cows into that wilderness area. They were all permitted grazing permits that were in existence when that wilderness area was created in the mid-60s, right after the Wilderness Act was enacted.

At that point, there was 25 to 30 different family ranches that all utilized grazing permits in that wilderness area. Just 30 years later, the mid-90s, there were three families still able to have utilized grazing permits in that wilderness area. The rest were all out of business because of restrictions applied to them. So with that I’ll close and say as a neighboring county supervisor, commissioners of Washoe County, please look out for our economies too, thank you.


Against:

My name is Bob Fulkerson. I’m a fifth generation Nevadan speaking on my own behalf, and my biggest question now is when is the next meeting? When will be the next public meeting?

See, nobody knows. This is the end of the public process people. This is it. And it’s designed, it looks to me, to purposely keep the public in the dark, and it’s no wonder they want to rush to close the process. If more people knew about it, they would rise up and kill this thing, just like we did each time this outrage has been proposed. In 2005 when Ensign proposed it. In 2012, when Reid tried it, and 2018 when developers tried to revive it again. We in northern Nevada will always fight like hell against those who would convert us to Las Vegas or Los Angeles with these outdated master plan giveaways bills.

Cherishing our wild and open spaces isn’t some vapid idea on a Chamber of Commerce cocktail napkin, it’s why we live here. The bottom line is the public does not trust local governments to manage the feeding frenzy of developers at the public lands trough that will result from this bill. We don’t trust the double digit billions of dollars in infrastructure costs will not be foisted on working class and low income communities that can barely afford to live here. We don’t trust that once this bill goes through and 90,000 acres of our wild and open lands from south Reno to Pyramid Lake are sold to developers and paved over, and that somehow, like Trey said, magically the cost of housing will come down, and Reno and Sparks will once again become affordable because developers have decided to finally build affordable housing.

And we will certainly go trust the water profiteers about groundwater availability. Sprawl from here to Pyramid Lake will be surrounded by one big pile of sand. The groundwater dependent communities of desert plants and animals will be gone forever.

Every surface right has been allocated. The Truckee River is over-allocated. Groundwater is over-allocated and exceeding recharge now.

And thank God for Lassen County and Bob Swerbach came down here and told Washoe County, ‘No, you’re not going to steal our water.’ And then we try to do the Honey Lake project and that Silver Snake project. So I’m glad that you know our neighbors are up here trying to keep our county in-line a little bit.

And I also appreciate the local governments are strapped for funding and are eager to see an influx of free money from selling off public lands. And I see that the state now also wants its 5 percent cut because we don’t fund education adequately.

When I was a city of Reno lifeguard in the ‘70s, there was more public swim time available than there is now. Tax giveaways to billionaire corporations like Apple, Switch, Tesla, Google ensure that none of them are going to pay a dime for basic services that their workers use. So where do we get the money? In closing, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to end this insulting and outrageous effort.

For corrections, write social@sierranevadaally.org.