Lands bill goes to commission Thursday |

Lands bill goes to commission Thursday

The real benefit of a public lands bill proposed for Douglas County will be a say in what the federal government does with land it plans to dispose of.

Jacques Etchegoyhen said there is a large swath of property controlled by the Bureau of Land Management along the west slope of the Pine Nuts that has been designated for auction.

He said that should the lands bill be approved, it would give the county commission and residents a seat at the table to discuss the sale of the land and the opportunity for the proceeds to be used in the county.

Douglas County commissioners will get their first official look on Thursday at proposals included in a public lands bill.

A series of public workshops on the bill in December drew nearly 150 people who left 132 comments, mostly about the proposal to convert the Burbank Wilderness Study area to wilderness on the east slope of the Pine Nut Mountains..

Etchegoyhen of Legacy Land and Water prepared a report on developing the bill, which he said is the culmination of more than 15 years of efforts in Douglas County.

The latest effort started in 2009 with a public meeting. Etchegoyhen said the county has been meeting with federal, recreational and business representatives about the bill ever since.

The bill identifies five parcels of federal land that could be sold to purchase conservation easements, including the remaining land in the north county, and parcels near Bodie Flats and Topaz Lake.

One parcel located between Target and Best Buy along Highway 395 is surrounded by commercial property.

“It’s nothing but a weed patch and a trash dump,” Legacy Land & Water partner Dominique Etchegoyhen said. “We’d be saving the Forest Service money by ridding it of the parcel.”

Land along the west and east sides of Carson Valley is suggested to aid in recreation and flood control efforts.

Etchegoyhen said proponents have been in contact with the offices of both Rep. Mark Amodei and Sen. Dean Heller to seek help with the bill, once it clears the county process.

During the public process, nearly 50 comments suggested creating a national recreation area in the Pine Nut Mountains.

Etchegoyhen pointed out that much of the land suggested is owned privately or held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

He said that recreation areas are often operated by the National Park Service, which charges fees.

Rather than invite something that might have the unintended consequence of reducing access, the proposal recommends that Douglas work with the federal government to recognize off-highway vehicle use in the Pine Nuts.

Jacques Etchegoyhen said the bill would include a clause preventing the creation of a buffer zone.

“We don’t want any buffer zones created around it,” he said.

County commissioners won’t take action on the proposal on Thursday. The proposal returns to the commission on Feb. 16 for action.