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Southern lands act won’t work in Douglas

by Sheila Gardner, Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said Thursday the Southern Nevada Lands Act can’t be modified to include the purchase of conservation easements in Douglas County and Northern Nevada.

He said most likely the area’s congressional representatives will have to redraft separate legislation that would allow proceeds generated from public auctions of Bureau of Land Management property to buy environmentally sensitive lands in the north.

An earlier attempt to draw up legislation failed.

“Our original Northern Nevada Lands bill was designed to give the local governments more input and that didn’t work. We need to pattern something very similar to the Southern Nevada Lands bill,” Reid said Thursday.

Douglas County voters rejected a quarter-cent sales tax increase in November that would have funded the purchase of conservation easements as a means of preserving agricultural land.

“I was sorry to see it fail,” Reid said.

He will be the senior Democrat on the Environment/Public Works Committee when the new congressional session begins in January.

Reid was in Douglas County Thursday for the dedication of the Faye-Luther Canyon trailhead.

Earlier in the day, he participated in a ceremony at Thunderbird Lodge in Incline Village to commemorate passage of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which authorizes $300 million over the next 10 years for environmental improvements.

Reid is heading back to Washington Dec. 5 to finish up the current session and prepare for the next.

In the leadership position of Senate minority whip, Reid said he’s fielded dozens of telephone calls from constituents, colleagues and news media on the presidential election stalemate.

“People around the state were much more interested last week than this week. People feel it’s winding down. They know it is in the courts. What’s interesting is that the candidate who won by a quarter-million popular votes is probably going to lose, and the Electoral College system is flawed, but is not going to change. If we’re just patient, this thing will pass soon,” said Reid, a supporter of Vice President Al Gore.

Reid also said he will miss U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan when the fellow Las Vegas Democrat retires at the end of the year.

“Senator Bryan and I started out together in 1963 when we took the bar exam. We are inseparable friends. We tried cases together and we were elected to the Nevada Assembly together in 1968. His retirement is a deep personal loss for me,” Reid said.

The senator said he will probably run for re-election in two years.

“If I feel as good as I do today, I will run for four more years,” said Reid, who turns 61 on Sunday.