Federal Lands

Sharon Rossie

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

When Sen. Ted Cruz came to Las Vegas last month to talk about what he’d do if elected president, Nevada Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman had one question for him.

Pointing to her copy of Solutions 2015, Assemblywoman Seaman asked Sen. Cruz where he stands on the issue of federal lands and what he, if elected, would do to transfer to the state some of the more than 56 million acres of Nevada soil the federal government occupies.

His position, as he explained it, is one I hope all presidential candidates — Democrat, Republican, or otherwise — take: the lands should be transferred to Nevada.

If you’ve been with the Institute for any length of time, you have likely read some of our previous publications and studies on the issue of federal lands and the problems that Nevada experiences as a result of over 81 percent of  its territory being held by an institution 3,000 miles away.

Because the federal government owns a greater percentage of Nevada than any other state, no candidate should leave the state without saying how he or she will allow Nevada and its residents to finally experience prosperity off property that is rightfully theirs. Even with title to just a portion of these federal lands, Nevada could generate millions of dollars a year and tens of thousands of jobs could be created.

An analysis produced by Nevada’s Land Management Task Force showed that local jurisdictions could generate $205.8 million a year if they were allowed to lease and sell just 7.2 million acres currently controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. With access to 45 million acres — leaving National Parks, military bases, Indian Reservations and wilderness areas designated by Congress untouched — local jurisdictions could generate $1.3 billion per year.

Transferring federally held lands to their rightful owners would also save taxpayers from across the country money, considering the amount of tax dollars the federal government wastes managing the acreage. According to the Property and Environment Research Center, for every dollar the federal government spends managing land, it loses 27 cents. States, on the other hand, create an average of $14.51 for each dollar they spend on such efforts.

The list of reasons to transfer the lands to Nevada go on and on (and are something we’ll be delving deeper into in an upcoming publication), but they all boil down to the fact that, as long as the federal government claims title to the vast majority of Nevada lands, the Silver State is helpless to achieve its full potential.

Fortunately, this important issue is not going unnoticed by some Presidential candidates and by concerned groups. Next week, the Black Mountain Institute will be hosting a panel discussion on the issue, aptly called, “This land is your land … or is it?”

The panel will include Gary Snyder, an environmentalist who has been called the “poet laureate of deep ecology;” Timothy Egan, a New York Times columnist and award-winning author; and economist and writer Terry L. Anderson, one of the leading advocates of free-market environmentalism. Virginia Scharff, a Western historian and director of the Center for the Southwest at the University of New Mexico, will moderate the panel.

The event, which I encourage you to attend if you’re in the Las Vegas area, will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 24 in the Philip J. Cohen Theatre at the University of Las Vegas student union.

And, I encourage you to brush up on federal lands issues so if you happen to meet one of the many, many candidates for President, you can ask what he or she would do to make Nevada as prosperous as it can be. I know I will.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President

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