Keeping land-sale money in Nevada

What's sold in Nevada should stay in Nevada. We know, it's not quite as catchy as the Las Vegas slogan. But it's important to the future of the state that money raised from the sale of public lands be used to buy environmentally important properties, including several around Lake Tahoe.

Thanks to Nevada's congressional delegation, the attempt by the Bush administration to siphon some of that money apparently has failed. Sen. Harry Reid's spokeswoman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the attempt to divert $700 million away from the Southern Nevada Lands Act is dead.

Don't be surprised if there are future efforts to dip into the till. The idea - sell some sagebrush-covered acres around Las Vegas where development pressure is greatest, use the money to buy land the public would love - caught the real-estate boom on the upswing. It's generating more money than expected.

We don't necessarily disagree with George Bush's idea to use the windfall to help pay down the deficit. It's just that, once Congress or the president get their hands in the cookie jar, it's hard to get them out.

The best use of the money is for acquisitions like the 770-acre Incline Lake property, a Sierra Nevada retreat north of Lake Tahoe that has been in private ownership since at least the 1930s.

As noted by Norman Biltz Nash of Reno, chairman of the corporation that owns it, "This could be the gemstone of the Tahoe program of conservation."

Another possibility is a 3.5-acre piece near Crystal Bay that has more than a quarter-mile of Lake Tahoe shoreline. Opportunities like that don't come along every day.

Those two properties alone add up to more than $100 million. And if there's one thing we can guarantee, it's that land along Lake Tahoe won't be getting any cheaper.

As long as it remains intact, the Southern Nevada Lands Act will be seen 10, 20 and 50 years from now as a mechanism that not only fueled growth, but rescued some of the Silver State's most precious environmental jewels.


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