County still wants to pursue land exchange |

County still wants to pursue land exchange

by Christy Chalmers

Representatives for Lincoln and Douglas counties and the Bureau of Land Management say a proposed land exchange is back on track and can’t happen soon enough.

Though the process apparently was delayed by some confusion over what exactly was intended and who would be involved, officials for both counties said Thursday the exchange remains the priority.

“The mechanism for doing it may be less important than doing it,” said A.C. Robison, a consultant to Lincoln County. He noted county policies need to be reflected in any forthcoming agreements, and “From our perspective, that policy needs to be that we move forward as expeditiously as possible.”

Formally known as the Lincoln-Douglas Exchange, the proposal would allow Lincoln County to buy federal land, then resell it. Some of the proceeds would be used to buy conservation easements in Douglas County. Conservation easements would permanently block the development of open land, such as ranches.

Separate bills to allow the transaction have been introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. But some confusion resulted because Reid’s bill didn’t specifically list Douglas County as a recipient of funds.

John Singlaub, manager of the Carson City BLM office, said several details need to be resolved.

“I think we’ve worked out, at least in concept, what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “We’re coming closer together. They’re (objectives) not really reflected in either of the legislation that’s on the table now.”

He said the groups will work together.

“Hopefully, this will go a long way in putting us back on the same page,” said Douglas County Commissioner Kelly Kite.

Lincoln County Commission Chairman Dan Frehner said there’s no deadline for the exchange, though the county has several developers interested in obtaining land and would like to see the transaction complete by 2001. The federal government owns over 98 percent of Lincoln County’s land, and the county needs economic development.

The officials did not address the role of the American Land Conservancy in the exchange. The Land Conservancy originally planned to coordinate the process, but Thursday’s meeting indicated the BLM and the counties will handle it.

Douglas County Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen said the Land Conservancy is welcome to coordinate the purchase of conservation easements in Douglas.

“We’d love to have their continued involvement, because that expedites the process on our end,” said Etchegoyhen.

Ame Hellman, vice president of the Land Conservancy and a member of the Douglas County planning commission, said the group isn’t clamoring to lead the process.

“We’ll take our lead from the partners,” she said. “Ultimately, the big issue is getting the land sold, and we’ll take our role from there.”