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BLM plan to swap public land for development rights open for discussion

by Jeff Munson, Staff Writer

A plan by the Bureau of Land management to swap 440 acres at the Carson-Douglas line for easements on prime agricultural land could keep thousands of acres in the Carson Valley open, some close to the ranching industry believe.

“The conservation easement is an incredible planning tool that could have an enormous impact for the Carson Valley,” said Dan Kaffer of the Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now through May 21, county residents can comment on the plan. The BLM has proposed swapping public land for development rights from private, agricultural land.

It is the second phase in a joint effort between Douglas County and the BLM that would open up land for development in an area that is targeted for growth and protect prime agricultural land from development.

Conservation easements would allow ranchers to remove development rights from the land and continue to farm, while getting income they would otherwise get by selling it entirely for development, Kaffer said.

The value of an easement “allows the land to remain open so that it can continue to provide production of beef and forage, continue to recharge the groundwater aquifers, provide flood plain, habitat and keep our community rural,” Kaffer said.

In all, 624 acres make up the North Douglas County plan, with 440 acres of that belonging to the BLM. The land is located between Sunridge Drive and the county line.

The BLM plan identifies 346 acres of BLM land for sale or trade for development, 64 acres of land for recreation areas and 30 acres to be transferred to the Washoe tribe. The proposed plan was approved by Douglas County commissioners in September 2000.

“I think we will see a lot of activity with this,” said Jacques Etchegoyhen, a Douglas County commissioner, former ranch manager and the Nevada director of the American Land Conservancy. “We’re really hoping that the BLM can generate some dollars to cut a wide swath of land in the Carson Valley.”

Acquisition of large blocks of land easements will depend on whether the ranchers want to participate. Etchegoyhen and Kaffer say they plan to lobby area ranchers to consider the easement option.

“Conservation easements were not around 30 years ago when Reno was developing, so consequently they have no agricultural land left,” Kaffer said. “Here we have a chance to save some of what’s left, and the ranchers can get real income doing it.”

Work on the north county plan began in May 2000 and included public workshops and assistance from a consultant. The zoning change was done in cooperation with the BLM to make the property more attractive to ranchers and developers.

The proposed BLM plan must be adopted before the land easement program can take place.

Douglas County would also see the benefit of planned growth in action if the process succeeds.

“We’re excited because the location is good for development,” said County Planner Pete Wysocki.

Work on the north county plan began in May 2000 and included public workshops and assistance from a consultant. The zoning change was done in cooperation with the BLM to make the property more attractive to buyers. The proposed BLM zoning change amendment is required before a land swap can take place.

In the county version, commissioners approved plans to include space for offices, business, houses and public facilities. However, commissioners rejected a separate plan that would have allowed up to 64 acres to be used for apartments.

The plan can be reviewed at the BLM Carson City Field Office, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City, 89701.

The public is invited to attend a public hearing on the proposed plan amendment at 6 p.m. April 12. The hearing will be held during a regularly scheduled Douglas County commission meeting in the old courthouse at 1616 Eighth St., Minden.

Representatives from the BLM and Douglas County will be available to answer questions regarding the proposed plan amendment.

For information on the plan, contact Mike McQueen, planning and environmental coordinator, at 775-885-6120.

Details

The plan can be reviewed at the BLM-Carson City Field Office, 5665 Morgan Mill Road, Carson City, NV 89701.

For information, contact Mike McQueen, planning and environmental coordinator at 775-885-6120