After facing a number of obstacles in 2018 that prevented a successful outcome, Washoe County officials have restarted and rebranded the discussion they hope will lead to introduction of a public lands bill in Congress by mid-2020.
Washoe County led the process and discussion in 2017-2018, but is now partnering on a more equal footing with the cities of Reno and Sparks. What used to be called the Washoe County Economic Development and Conservation Act is now called the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act.
Their ambitious timeline, goals, and guidelines for the discussion are outlined in this document provided by Washoe County/Reno/Sparks staff.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness participated in a November 1, 2019, stakeholder meeting with local government staff and other conservation groups. It’s our understanding that similar meetings are being held with other stakeholders such as sportsmen, ranchers, Native American nations, the mining industry, economic development groups, and outdoor recreationists. We will post new information as discussions progress, so please check this page for the latest news.
Friends remains committed to securing permanent wilderness designation or other highly protective designations for hundreds of thousands of acres of the most wild and remote land in northern Washoe County stretching from just north of Pyramid Lake to the Oregon border.
These public lands, specifically Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs) retain high value as conservation lands:
- Wildlife habitat and wildlife corridor connectivity – especially for the Greater Sage-Grouse
- Watershed protection
- Airshed protection
- Cultural resource protection
- Dark Sky protection
- Dispersed outdoor recreation
As Friends continues in good faith to reach agreement with local government and other stakeholders, we will remain true to several basic principles:
- Intact ecosystems such as those found in WSAs and LWCs are under constant threat. Only permanent conservation status can preserve the values they provide.
- WSAs are federally-managed lands owned by the American people. The disposition of these lands can and should be determined only by the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Clearly, Washoe County residents have a voice in the decision-making process, but so do all Americans.
- Wide open public spaces are unique to the West. Nevada is adorned with relatively undisturbed lands that attract those who seek thrills, solitude, the beauty of a natural landscape, and physical and spiritual renewal. People come to live and play in Nevada because of the access to public lands. As the population grows in Washoe County, so will the demand to access these lands. This is a quality of life issue.
- WSA designation has preserved these special places. Widespread removal of wilderness protection would dramatically and permanently alter Nevada’s landscape.
Given our history of working on public lands bills over the past 20 years, and with these principles guiding us, Friends will continue to work with the the local governments and other stakeholders in hoping to reach final agreement on conservation protections in Washoe County.
We want to clarify that what Washoe County/Reno and Sparks proposal will likely include two main sections.
One will address what is commonly called the “disposal area.” Refer below to the most recent draft maps produced by the local governments. The disposal area is a broad rectangle stretching from Washoe Lake north to Red Rocks. There are numerous scattered blocks of BLM and Forest Service public lands that are being identified for "disposal". The stakeholder discussion will focus on which of these sections of land should logically be sold or transferred from the BLM for uses such as housing, schools, waste treatment, local parks, etc. We encourage everyone to carefully look at these maps. There should be public meetings later in the year on these disposal proposals.
The other part of the public lands bill will address permanent designation for the more wild and remote lands in northern Washoe County that are WSAs or LWC’s currently managed by the BLM or by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. These lands all lie north of Pyramid Lake and stretch to the Oregon border. They have next to no value for traditional urban or suburban development. However, as WSAs and LWCs, they remain vulnerable to other potential disturbance such as mining, drilling, powerline or pipeline construction, and new roads. Friends will concentrate on preventing the possibility of these types of disturbances on wilderness-quality lands and instead preserving them with permanent conservation designation.
Keep scrolling below to read more details about these special places and how Friends has been fighting for permanent conservation protection.
A HUGE thanks to our Nevada Legislators who passed Assembly Joint Resolution 2 with nearly unanimous bi-partisan support! This resolution opposes the military expansion into more of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. A special thanks to Assemblywoman Cohen who championed Assembly Joint Resolution 2 and Senator Scheible for Senate Joint Resolution 3. Both resolutions were similar and in the end, leadership decided to move only one of them, AJR 2 to passage.
AJR 2 - Urging congress to oppose the expansion of the United States Air Force into the esert National Wildlife Refuge
AJR 2 - click here to read final 3-page resolution
Thanks to all the folks who turned out in large numbers to attend the hearings in March. Everyone spoke in favor of the resolutions! The resolutions were quickly and unanimously passed out of the committees.
Action Requested: Please take a few minutes to thank the AJR 2 sponsors (Assemblywomen Cohen and Peters and Assemblyman Watts) and the joint sponsors (Senators Scheible, Ratti, Brooks, Ohrenschall and Parks).
As the military proposal to takeover much of the Desert Refuge grinds on, we've been working hard with our elected leaders, state and federal, to educate them on the issue. We've been providing tours to the Refuge so they know exactly what is at stake. We have been working with many diverse stakeholders along with the media to help tell the story of the Refuge. Congress will now be tackling this issue most likely in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Your Voice was heard…
In May, 2019 the Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Joint Resolution 7 - "Expresses the opposition of the Nevada Legislature to the proposed expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex." The resolution was introduced by the Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining but a special thanks goes to Assemblywoman Peters for her work championing this resolution. A huge thanks to all of you who called, wrote and attended meetings at the legislature!
Click Here to read the final AJR 7.
The military wants to shut you out of more than 350,000 acres of valuable public land YOU own in order to expand the Fallon Naval Air Station bombing range across six counties in Nevada. Will you sign our petition asking your members of Congress to turn down this current proposal from the military?
The Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex is seeking to withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 606,685 acres of public lands managed by the BLM - and closing 359,928 of those acres to the public. If successful, this will increase military-controlled lands in the area to nearly 1,000 square miles - quadrupling their area of control from 239,575 acres. Their proposal includes the elimination of 74,400 acres of Wilderness Study Areas in parts of the Clan Alpine Mountain, Job Peak and Stillwater Range WSAs. We think Wilderness designation is a better option for conservation AND the military! Rather than getting rid of portions of WSAs, urge the military to support full Wilderness designation for the five WSAs surrounding their proposed expansions.
This is military over reach. Please tell your elected representatives the Navy needs to come back with a measured proposal that protects national defense while preserving the resources we value in Nevada.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been working through the military EIS process sending in comments, attending meetings and meeting with the Navy. We hope to bring other stakeholders together find a way to protect our Wilderness Study Areas and ensure public access.
Read more for details below.
Watch the Stealth Land Grab Video (produced prior to the draft EIS release- there have been some changes) to see what's at stake!
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been participating with Clark County staff along with other conservation organizations, to provide information on Wilderness quality lands that need protection in Clark County.
Clark County developed a draft resolution on what they would like to see in a public lands bill. On June 5, 2018 they held a public open house to allow the public to review their draft proposal. The county had a 7-day public comment period that ended on June 12. On June 19th, Clark County Commissioners voted unanimously to pass that resolution to urge the Nevada Congressional delegation to begin drafting legislation regarding public lands development and conservation.
The County Commission has agreed to include about 82,000 acres of high value Wilderness in their proposal. This includes the Mt. Stirling Wilderness Study Area as well as expansions of a number of existing Wilderness areas such as Eldorado, Ireteba Peaks, South McCullough, and Muddy Mountains.
The resolution requests that our federally elected leaders consider expanding the disposal boundary of the Las Vegas Valley by about 44,000 acres and protect about 290,000 acres of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in the valley to help balance development.
Shortly after passage, Senator Cortez-Masto released a press release stating, “I look forward to working with the Commission, members of our Congressional delegation, and stakeholders across Nevada to develop balanced federal legislation that meets the county’s needs, prioritizes smart growth, and invests in conservation.” Friends of Nevada Wilderness and other conservation organizations have been working with county staff to identify conservation measures and appreciate their outreach and partnership. You can read her full statement by following this link.