By American Exploration and Mining Association

Recently, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) released it latest land use plan amendments for eleven western states. These plans were drafted with the intent of saving an already flourishing Sage-grouse population. In 2011, DOI Secretary Salazar invited eleven western governors to draft collaborative solutions to conserve Sage-grouse habitat in a manner in which the states can lead. Nevada, and the other states stepped up in true western fashion. After years of hard work and millions of dollars the end of the process has come, and the time to deliver on that promise by the secretary is now.

To the surprise of the west and its governors, and in violation of federal law, the BLM land use plan amendments unilaterally rejected the efforts of the states. DOI unleashed a paradigm that removes more than 10 million acres of land from economic public access…a lifeline in the west. Including over 2.8 million acres in Nevada.

No longer can Nevadans travel the public lands without far reaching travel restrictions. No longer can new technologies be deployed on public lands to develop the next energy resource. No longer can those acres remain available to responsibly drive the Nevada economy in ways it has for over 150 years.

DOI has delivered one of the largest federal land grabs in the history of the US, in the shortest order and with the least deference to the leadership and residents of Nevada who depend and recreate on these lands.

It is noteworthy that seven of the bi-partisan western governors filed formal protests, including Governor Sandoval whose protest to BLM said “The one-size fits all approach does not assure greater conservation for sage-grouse and does not allow for adaptive management in a dynamic biological system.”

It is without question these land use plans have charted a costly course to litigation. In the federal government’s rush to completion, the cost to the taxpayer will be enormous as they stand in a courtroom defending the indefensible.

We now must turn to Congress to abate this legal collision course. There are multiple efforts in Congress at this moment, prohibition language in spending bills and stand-alone legislation. These efforts to keep public lands open and stave off costly litigation have champions in Nevada’s own Rep. Mark Amodei, and Sen. Dean Heller. They are on the leading edge of driving solutions to address the greatest threats to Sage-grouse — wildfire and invasive species. Sadly, their message and that of the governors were largely passed over for massive land use restrictions that do little to address either.

It is important the efforts of Rep. Amodei, and Sen. Heller and Gov. Sandoval continue. The BLM’s outright rejection of the governors’ consistency review conclusively demonstrates that the Federal Government has no interest in listening to the voice of states. The result is the single greatest assault on multiple-use and access to federal public lands for recreation and economic growth from which Nevada may never recover.

The American Exploration and Mining Association is a 120 year, 2,500 member, non-profit, non-partisan trade association. AEMA members are in 42 states including over 600 members in Nevada.