During a meeting with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell last Friday, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval received assurances “that the federal government will honor existing mineral rights and use Nevada’s updated maps when considering land use restrictions to protect sage grouse” habitat, according to a report by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Sandoval and Jewell met for an hour while he was attending the Western Governor’s Association meeting in Las Vegas.
Prior to the meeting, Sandoval had sent a letter to Secretary Jewell outlining a few immediate and specific concerns with the Approved Resource Management Plan and the Record of Decision and requested the meeting in an effort to find mutually acceptable resolutions.
Among other issues, Jewell did commit to use Nevada’s new maps immediately for project-level decisions that do have some impact on the sage grouse. In a prepared statement, Sandoval said, “This will allow these projects to proceed under the normal development process. The Department is committed to formally adopt the maps in the most expeditious manner possible. All valid existing rights will be exempt from mineral withdrawal and other restrictions designed for sagebrush focal areas, defined as the critical habitat with high-density sage grouse breeding populations.”
The issue of mineral rights and protecting the sage grouse were key issues in the discussions, and the focus of a lawsuit that Nevada State Attorney General Adam Laxalt and nine counties had filed in September seeking to block amended public lands management plans imposed by the federal government as a way to protect the sage grouse habitat and avoid the bird being listed under the Endangered Species Act.
As reported in the Review-Journal, Sandoval also asked Secretary Jewell “what can be done about the wild horse issue, noting the population has caused accidents and impacted landscapes.” The population in Nevada has grown to close to 100,000, but Jewell said killing off the excess cannot be done because federal law prohibits that.
Jewell said the government is focusing mostly on birth control, stating “that will help satisfy people that feel passionately on both sides of the issue.”