Someone tell the feds: We Nevadans deserve to control the land in our own backyard

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.

Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the federal government should consider returning federal lands to the states.

The retired neurosurgeon isn’t the first presidential hopeful to talk up an issue near and dear to Nevadans’ hearts. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have also weighed in, arguing the Federal government holds too much land in Nevada and throughout the western states.

But even with three high-profile presidential candidates taking public stands on the federal government’s control over large swaths of the American west, the issue hasn’t really received the kind of national publicity it deserves.

With more than 80 percent of the land within Nevada’s borders under the command and control of federal government agencies — most prominently the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the issue should be front and center every time national politicians show up in the state. 

Ultimately, it’s simply bizarre that we Nevadans only control less than 20 percent of the land within our state. It almost smacks of pre-Revolutionary colonial times, when British commanders could take citizens’ homes for their own personal use.

No wonder the Revolutionary War ensued.

Today in the American West, a similarly avaricious governmental elite incessantly drives for more and more control over other people’s livelihoods. Virtually any excuse will do. Citing an alleged need to protect the greater sage grouse, the BLM and Forest Service this year unilaterally decided to restrict access to millions of acres of Western land.

The federal government claims it must micromanage land in the west to protect ecosystems, species and sprawling landscapes from exploitation. The end result, however, is that westerners (and Nevadans in particular) are stripped of the economic and natural benefit of our own rural backyard.

An analysis produced by Nevada’s Land Management Task Force showed that local jurisdictions could generate $205.8 million a year if they could lease or sell just 7.2 million acres currently controlled by the BLM. Upping that acreage to 45 million — leaving national parks, military bases, Indian reservations and congressionally designated wilderness areas completely untouched — those jurisdictions could generate up to $1.3 billion per year.

Instead, we’re repeatedly told by the federal government that Washington will decide what can and cannot be done with the soil under our own feet.

The presidential debate coming to Las Vegas on December 15th is a natural opportunity to press the candidates on how they would address the issue of federal lands. Getting some of the presidential hopefuls (in both parties) talking about it could prove to be a good first step toward gaining more control over our own backyard.  

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President

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