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East side could be subject of joint planning process

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

The eastern Carson Valley foothill corridor will be the site of a joint planning process instead of a land swap if Douglas County leaders get their way.

The county commission passed a resolution Thursday opposing a potential exchange between the Bureau of Land Management and Carson Valley businessman Don Bently. The measure instead seeks a joint planning effort using county and BLM resources.

“There’s a great deal of community interest in this, and I think with an open public process, some things can get done,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” said Commissioner Don Miner. “I think we’ve reached common ground.”

John Singlaub, manager of the BLM’s Carson City field office, indicated he’s willing to accept the county’s offer.

Word of a potential land swap generated more than 3,500 signatures from residents opposed to the idea, which surfaced in July. In a memo, Bently proposed trading 17,400 acres of land in Nevada and California for 32,000 acres of BLM land, including 25,000 along the Pine Nut range foothills on Carson Valley’s east side. Bently said he would use the land for agriculture.

The BLM never accepted the offer, but the idea was enough to mobilize residents who fear losing access to the Pine Nuts and don’t want the land developed. Residents have formed the Pine Nut Preservation League, a non-profit group to lobby on the issue.

“The interests of Douglas County citizens are much better served by keeping this land public,” said John Dicks, a spokesman for the group.

One resident, William Kelly Jones of Gardnerville, said Bently’s proposal would keep land open.

“It’s just this kind of opposition that makes me believe you are not sincere about saving this Valley,” he said. “I want to see agriculture back in this Valley, which is what Mr. Bently is trying to do.”

Commissioners emphasized they won’t rule out future public-private land exchanges, though they oppose Bently’s proposal.

Singlaub said the proposed joint planning effort would be the third his office has done. The first was in Carson City and another is under way in Washoe County, he said.

The BLM and Douglas County teamed up on a land use plan for 624 acres near the Carson City line. Singlaub estimated the east Carson Valley planning process could take six to 12 months and be combined with an update of a Pine Nut range land use plan that is 20 years old.

He said the effort would also include Carson City and Lyon County, because the Pine Nut range covers all three counties.