Ever since Nevada achieved statehood in 1864, federal agencies have controlled most of the state’s land, refusing to release more than token amounts for construction of homes, schools, parks and businesses.
There is no shortage of bad news about the Nevada housing market. Local and national business pages rarely give us even a day without a reminder that the housing boom has busted. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, Nevada leads the nation in foreclosures per capita.
For the nearly 150 years since its Civil War-inspired inception, Nevada has played the unfortunate role of the unloved, unappreciated and oft-abused step-child of the republic.
The federal government's tight grip on Nevada's land is causing economic harm – and, in many cases, genuine hardship – to local developers, workers, renters and would-be homeowners.
The federal government has owned and managed land in the United States almost since its inception. The Louisiana Purchase and the conquest of the West put huge tracts of land in its hands. Most of those lands have been sold or granted to states and to individuals, but many lands—one-third of the land area of the United States—still belong to the federal government. Those lands include natural wonders as well as vast, desolate, nearly valueless regions.
In his recent book The Business of Commerce, Chapman University philosopher and Hungarian immigrant Tibor Machan offers a compelling truth: “In a community with a large public sector, people engaged in various projects face a constant risk of intruding on one another and having conflicting interests.” When it comes to land-use issues, Nevadans and our neighbors throughout the West understand Machan’s observation all too well. As the dispute over repairing the South Canyon Road in Jarbidge illustrates, common property is controlled not by market mechanisms but politics.
Since 1996, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has worked to acquire the Torrance Ranch, a parcel of land north of Beatty. Earlier this month the Las Vegas Business Press reported that buying the property will enable TNC’s Nevada chapter to protect "a complex of springs, wetlands and a riparian corridor that included habitat for numerous species, particularly the Amargosa toad." Many people see TNC and other land trusts as welcome alternatives to government land management. That’s certainly the case for locally owned and operated land trusts. National land trusts, however, have strayed from their original mission. Increasingly, TNC and similar organizations act as stalking horses for the federal government. Rather than purchase and maintain land in private hands, the groups buy properties and turn them over to government agencies. Herewith, an examination of the state of America’s land trusts.
Later this month Project Censored, a left-wing media group, will reveal the ten stories it believes were "censored" by the nation’s mainstream press in 1998. The Nevada Policy Research Institute offered its first list of the stories the Silver State’s media ignore last year. Herewith, NPRI’s Second Annual Overlooked Awards. The following are not censored stories but rather topics which got little (or flawed) press coverage in 1998, due to reporters’ laziness and/or lack of understanding—not to mention the well-funded snow jobs often orchestrated by special interests in Nevada.
It is the struggle over federal land policy which will decide the economic future of rural Nevada and the entire intermountain West. The powerful green movement has used government and foundation money, the media and the concerns of well-meaning people to influence policies which do not reflect sound science or the opinion of most Nevadans. But the media and politicians don’t seem interested in getting at the truth. Revealing new studies by Dr. Hudson Glimp and Dr. Tony Lesperance will probably be ignored in favor of Robert Redford or Jane Fonda opining about "saving the land." The question is for what reasons and for whom is the land being saved—and at what price.