Feds pass over Douglas easement requests | RecordCourier.com

Feds pass over Douglas easement requests

by Susie Vasquez

The $40 million of Bureau of Land Management funding that county officials claim was to be set aside for conservation easements in Douglas County could be used for projects in Washoe County.

County commissioner Kelly Kite said the county master planned and zoned the property to increase the value for the bureau, with the promise made that the money would be spent on easements in Douglas County.

“They were expecting $3 million, but got $40 million from the sale,” he said. “We increased the value 10-fold, and so far, the money has been used to buy land in Washoe County.”

The money was obtained through the sale of 144 acres of Bureau land in north Douglas County in 2002.

“That frustrates a lot of people,” said county commissioner Doug Johnson. “There isn’t a single person in our local government that isn’t upset with the process. It seems to me when make a deal, you should stand by it.”

County Manager Dan Holler said he was extremely disappointed that the Douglas County conservation easements weren’t funded.

“Those dollars had a priority for expenditure in Douglas County,” he said. “Right now, we’re looking at protesting the current allocation.”

Officials from the Bureau’s Lands Program said approval of any expenditure rests with the Secretary of Interior and Secretary of Agriculture. No one in the Bureau has the authority to determine which projects will be chosen for this funding, through the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.

Nominations are evaluated based on set criteria, including public access and whether the Federal government takes title to the land.

“Based on the criteria we have, the (Douglas County) conservation easements as proposed didn’t stack up,” he said.

Mark Struble, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, said the recommendations are preliminary and the executive committee will meet concerning these issues at the end of January.

“It’s not like these easements will never get funded,” he said.

In a report released Dec. 8, the Bureau of Land Management recommends the purchase of four properties in Washoe County.

The Winters Ranch, Ophir Creek, Sierra Hunter Creek and Galena Forest properties in Washoe County have been recommended, a total of about 473 acres at a cost of almost $49 million.

The 450-acre Mack Ranch, 119-acre Knox Johnson Ranch and 370-acre Ranch 1 conservation easements in Carson Valley were passed over. One Douglas County property, a 40-acre parcel known as Cave Rock Summit at Lake Tahoe could be approved for $10 million.

Signed into law by Congress in 2000, the Facilitation Act provides revenues from the disposal of public land nationwide. Ninety-six percent of the funding, generated from land sales or exchanges, is deposited into the FLTFA account. The remaining 4 percent is distributed to the state.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.