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Commissioners want land swap on agenda

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

Douglas County leaders are planning a September meeting to get more information on a land swap that could involve 25,000 acres on Carson Valley’s east side.

County commissioners Kelly Kite and Bernie Curtis said they’ll invite John Singlaub, manager of the Bureau of Land Management’s Carson City field office, to brief them on a potential land swap involving 32,000 acres of public land and 17,400 acres now held by Carson Valley businessman Don Bently.

“No one really knows for sure what lands are involved and what is going to become of it,” said Kite. “A lot of people are really interested in the details of the land swap. I think what we have decided is to put it on the agenda and see what kind of information we can get.”

A memo from Bently talks of swapping privately held land in Carson City, Churchill, Lyon and Douglas counties, as well as Mono County, Calif. for BLM lands in Alpine County, Calif. and Douglas.

Bently’s proposal shows an interest in acquiring 25,000 acres along the east side of the Carson Valley, plus another 5,000 near Mud Lake and 2,000 in Alpine.

Bently said the transaction would allow him to consolidate his holdings while expanding his agricultural operations.

Kite and Curtis said they hadn’t heard of the proposal until reading about it in local papers. Each said he received several phone calls from residents with comments ranging from the fairness of a swap to preserving access to the Pine Nut Mountains.

Johnson Lane resident Michael Arett organized an informal meeting Monday night that drew about 20 of his neighbors to discuss the proposal. Arett said the participants were concerned about access, the implications of private ownership of the 25,000 acres and public involvement in any transaction.

“Everybody says it’s all preliminary. Basically, we just want to make sure we have input and can be ahead of the curve rather than behind it,” said. Arett. “It affects everybody in the valley.”

He said the group wants any plan for an exchange postponed until a comprehensive plan for managing the Pine Nuts is done.

Singlaub said the proposal is too tentative for earnest discussions.

“It’s just a proposal,” he said. “What we will probably do is look at that and put together something that makes sense on a much smaller scale.

“There are definitely some lands we are interested in and some lands that are suitable for disposal, and we will work something out,” he added.

But he indicated action is not imminent, because the BLM doesn’t have enough staff to take on such a large swap.

The acreage Bently outlined in his proposal for exchange includes 11,000 acres in the Pine Nuts, 900 on either side of the Carson River in north Carson Valley and 2,480 acres in Carson City that straddle the V&T Railroad right of way and part of the Pine Nuts.

He’s also offered 1,920 acres in Churchill County and 1,100 acres at Sonora Junction on Highway 395 in Mono County.

Bently said he plans to use the land for agriculture if the transaction proceeds.