WASHINGTON - Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., urged approval Wednesday of legislation to convey 4,800 acres of federal land to Lincoln County.
Lincoln County contains 10,132 square miles but officials say 98 percent of it is owned by the federal government. Because of that, both lawmakers said there is very little room for economic development in the county, which limits local revenues and the county's ability to provide basic services.
Reid said the land is adjacent to the city of Mesquite and will allow that community to grow. He said Lincoln County will get the exclusive right to purchase the land over the next several years and the money received will go to the state, the county and Bureau of Land Management.
Reid said the legislation, which he sponsored, "will provide a much needed chance to stimulate economic growth, expand the local tax base and improve services and educational opportunities for those who call Lincoln County home."
Gibbons told the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management the county's financial situation is critical because so little of its land is on the tax rolls. Once the county has the land, it can sell it to private citizens and businesses.
"In fact, when the land is simply transferred into private hands, it will more than double the annual tax base immediately," said Gibbons.
On Wednesday, the House Resources Committee approved a Senate bill to amend the National Forest and Public Lands of Nevada Enhancement Act of 1988 to adjust the boundary of the Toiyabe National Forest in Carson Valley.
"It is important that the federal government recognizes the importance of enabling Douglas County landowners to work with only one federal agency in these matters," said Gibbons, who recently testified in support of the legislation.
"The tether of bureaucratic red tape must be severed to make way for a better, more streamlined system that benefits all parties involved. This bill helps pave the way to protect the beautiful Carson Valley and its unique way of life."
The legislation is part of what has been called the Lincoln-Douglas exchange, allowing land in Lincoln County to go into private hands while property in Douglas County would go into a federally managed program to preserve agricultural open space.