By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer
The Nevada Policy Research Institute released a special report last week about the history of federal lands in Nevada. NPRI vice president Steve Miller wrote the report, which looks at the state’s history and makes a case that the federal government should return Nevada’s land to the state and/or private citizens.
The issue of land being returned to the state has come into focus after the passing of AB 227, which formed a task force to research and report on what would happen if Congress turned control of public lands over to Nevada.
“There exists a whole, largely unknown, history of surrounding the terms under which Nevada entered the Union,” Miller said. “The ‘deal’ as it were, which Congress offered the people of the Nevada territory, which Nevadans accepted, and which Congress for 150 years has reneged upon. The consequence is that, because Congress never fulfilled its obligations under that agreement, the people of the Silver State for 150 years have been robbed of most of their patrimony, with their state turned largely into a colony of the eastern states.”
As Miller worked on the report, which can be viewed in its entirety at www.npri.org, he said he became surprised about just how far back his research stretched, and just how long Congress saw its reputation come under fire.
“I was surprised to see how far back in the 19th century one can read, online, the daily journals of Congress,” Miller said. “I was also surprised to see how frequently Congress, even in the 19th Century, failed to keep its commitments to dispose of the lands within the new states’ borders, leading to resentment and protests from those states.”
The NPRI hopes this study will be viewed as a natural companion to the task force created by AB 227, which consists of representatives from across the state.
As the newly created task force begins its mission, Miller said they have a difficult challenge ahead, having to take inventory of all the resources within the state currently under Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service control as well as finding answers to numerous issues.
“First, they will find, actually I’m sure they already know that the tasks set before them are quite daunting,” Miller said. “…Also, the task force has to begin researching all the questions that people who currently have established interest under the feds’ regime will have: What happens to our grazing permits if Congress finally is compelled to make good on its ledges to dispose of the public domain real estate? How does Nevada prepare to begin administering these lands? So much of federal management of the western lands has been environmentally disastrous, so how will Nevada, given the new responsibilities, propose to ensure that its management and administration of those lands is better?”
As the status of public lands in Nevada could be changing in the coming years, Miller said he hopes this report will help shine a light on the history of the issue in the state. And he hopes anyone who reads this report will be encouraged to go out and express their right to vote, no matter who they support.
“Nowadays, we tend to think that Congress’ bad reputation is just a contemporary phenomenon, but reading the old Congressional World daily journals shows Congress has always been a corrupt, haphazard and all too human mess. The Founders, well acquainted with the English Parliament, knew that would be its nature and so they tried to limit its reach. But today, there’s virtually no limit on Congress except for voters, when they can be roused.”
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