RENO — Backers of a plan to force the federal government to turn over control of millions of acres of land to Nevada are gearing up for new efforts in Congress and hoped-for support from President-elect Donald Trump.
They’re starting with plans to convince a skeptical public that state control of nearly 7.3 million acres under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wouldn’t disrupt hunting, wildlife and off-highway riding — or stick taxpayers with big bills for fighting wildfires.
“If they put this on the ballot today it would fail,” said Nevada state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who supports the effort.
“We are just looking for the opportunity to showcase the state can manage these lands better,” he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The most detailed plan is a former bill sponsored in Congress by U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., called the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864.
The bill, which expired with the end of the session, included two phases of land takeovers.
The first would cover nearly 7.3 million acres, including about half within a checkerboard pattern traversing the state from Sparks to Wendover. Property the government has “designated for disposal” was included.
The second phase would transfer millions more acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation “upon request by the state or local governments.”
Designated wilderness, conservation areas, national monuments, wildlife refuges, land managed by the defense and energy departments and American Indian reservation land would be exempt.
All told, Amodei’s bill could have reduced the percentage of land in Nevada owned by the federal government from about 87 percent to 75 percent. Critics called it overreach, compared with consensus land bills that tend to focus on smaller transfers and specific properties.
“It is nothing like the lands bills the state has done in the past,” said Kyle Davis, a consultant for the Nevada Conservation League and opponent of the concept.