Commissioners back land grant nominations

There were no arguments at the commissioner's meeting Thursday when it was time to garner support for Round 7 nominations, federally-funded land easements used to protect agricultural and other environmentally sensitive lands in Douglas County.

Funding for these easements has been set aside through the sale of land in Las Vegas, the program administered by the Bureau of Land Management, through the Sierra Nevada Public Lands Management Act.

More than 3,000 acres have already been approved for these easements and this year's nominations would bring that total to 4,300.

The first easements were approved in October of 2003.

Jim Stobaugh, realty specialist for the bureau, said an easement for the Hussman property should close in the next month, but to date not one project has been funded.

Commissioner Kelly Kite said land preservation in Douglas County was set back 10 years after residents failed to pass a sales tax specifically for these easements.

"That meant 10 years of acquisition that would have happened and didn't," he said. "We need to cajole and tackle the BLM until they release that funding."

Commissioner David Brady suggested sending bureau officials a letter every week if necessary.

"I'd ask the BLM to accelerate their timetable and make that part of the motion," he said.

The three parcels included in applications for this round are:

n The Mack Ranch, one of the oldest ranches in Nevada. Management practices have enhanced wildlife and conserved water use, in addition to securing a significant habitat and wildlife corridor in the region, according to officials at Terra Firma.

n Ranch No. 1, the oldest ranch and homestead in Nevada, which surrounds Genoa. A working cattle and hay ranch, nearly all the property is irrigated, creating many acres of riparian habitat for wildlife.

n River Ranch straddles the East Fork of the Carson River for about two miles in south Douglas County on the California border. The river itself is being considered for federal "Wild and Scenic" designation. The area supports a complex of wetland types, ranging from ponded emergent vegetation and sedge-dominated wet meadow to aspen/cottonwood riparian zones.

In addition to the preservation of wildlife and aquifer recharge open spaces provide in Douglas County, water rights are maintained through these conservation easements. Once the transaction is completed, they're tied permanently to the land, Etchegoyhen said.

One percent of Nevada is considered agricultural, the smallest quantity in any state, and the state has lost 25 percent of that in the last 10 years, Etchegoyhen said.

"The impacts are profound for every issue Douglas County residents hold near and dear," he said. "One of the very few things we all agree on, is the protection and conservation of our agricultural lands."

People drive past the commercial area in north Douglas County and know it's an advantage for residents because of the generation of tax dollars, but the most lasting legacy is Carson Valley's irrigated lands, Etchegoyhen said.

"We've already lost more than we'd like," he said. "God isn't making anymore."

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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