BLM boss opposes Lincoln County land swap as ''sweetheart deal''

RENO, Nev. - The district boss for the Bureau of Land Management says a proposed land swap involving Lincoln County and the Carson Valley is the kind of ''sweetheart deal'' that gave the BLM a black eye in the past.

The proposal backed by Lincoln County commissioners calls for the BLM to sell federal land to developers in Lincoln County to help raise money to purchase easements for protection of farmland in Carson Valley.

But John Singlaub, manager of the BLM's Carson City District, said the proposed deal could result in special treatment for a single developer.

He said it would sideline the so-called Lincoln-Douglas Exchange, an alternative land swap BLM officials and others have been planning for more than a year.

''These kind of sweetheart deals are what BLM has been accused of in the past,'' Singlaub said. ''It would effectively kill the exchange and give preferential treatment to one individual. The purpose never was to benefit one individual developer.''

Lincoln County commissioners have planned a meeting with Douglas County leaders on Thursday to try to win their support for the proposal.

Jacques Etchegoyhen, chairman of the Douglas County Commission, shares some of Singlaub's concerns. Etchegoyhen has been a primary backer of the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange, formerly called the Rural Lands Initiative.

''It gives me a lot of trepidation. I sure don't want to be involved in giving one person a sweetheart deal,'' Etchegoyhen said. ''I certainly wouldn't cut a deal like this for one developer in Douglas County. It makes me real nervous.''

Etchegoyhen had hoped the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange would serve as a model for similar land swaps raising money to protect endangered rural land in Nevada. He acknowledges that delays in moving the proposal forward may have led officials in both counties to consider the alternate proposal.

''Had this been moving faster none of this would have come up,'' Etchegoyhen said.


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