On Friday, January 17, U.S. Representative Steven Horsford invited stakeholders to discuss three major Nevada environmental issues with pending federal legislation: Yucca Mountain, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and the Clark County Lands Bill.
With him was Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee.
Representatives of Nevada's environmental, recreational, and resort groups, along with several tribal leaders, weighed in — particularly on the lands bill, which drew a lot of criticism.
Overall, the 20 or so stakeholders at the meeting did not support the county's plan, which would change how and which pieces of county land could be up for development.
One of the biggest complaints about the proposal, which is now in the hands of the Nevada Congressional Delegation, is that it has not been vetted by the public.
The public comment process has been closed for more than a year and a half. Horsford also wanted to bring the topic up before Rep. Grijalva in case a bill about the land plan comes before his committee.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has introduced what she called a discussion draft of the Clark County Lands Bill, and it contained some key changes from the version that the county sent to D.C.
She is instituting several revisions that the conservation community had wanted to see in the bill, including taking out Southern Nevada Water Authority permissions that opponents said would have opened the door for the controversial water pipeline project.
The conservationists at Horsford's event said they were pleased with Sen. Cortez Masto's effort, but they still had concerns about the bill.
The group discussed the other compromise effort that the senator has worked on, involving the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
The compromise bill offers a way to allow the Department of Defense more land for training but preserves more wilderness and allows for continued conservation.
Most of the conservation community liked the compromise. The exception was the Native American tribes involved in the discussions. They are concerned about the Air Force plans because they feel it would be an incursion on their lands and potentially harm the area's bighorn sheep, which are an intrinsic part of their culture and subsistence.
Heidi Kyser, Desert Companion writer, State of Nevada producer
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