‘Stop the swap’ goes after Bently land proposal
A coalition of East Valley residents wary of a proposed land swap by businessman Don Bently plans to collect 5,000 signatures of others against the plan.
More than 80 people packed a hastily-scheduled meeting Thursday to organize efforts to stop the trade.
The land exchange proposed by Carson Valley businessman Don Bently involves 32,000 acres of public land in exchange for 17,000 acres of Bently property.
Participants at Thursday’s meeting said they don’t believe statements by officials that the land swap between the Bureau of Land Management and Bently Family Limited Partnership could take several years.
Rallying behind the cry to “stop Mr. Bently,” residents of Fish Springs, Johnson Lane, Ruhenstroth and other East Valley communities said they were concerned about access issues and possible future development.
Under the direction of Fish Springs residents John Dicks and Jim Evans, who spearheaded the meeting with Peggy Herman, the standing-room-only crowd in a courtroom at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center formed committees to form plans to halt the proposed exchange.
“I reject the idea that Mr. (Don) Bently is interested in the land for agriculture purposes,” said a member of the audience. “He can’t grow anything on rocks.”
Many in the audience said Thursday they left a Sept. 7 county commission meeting with the assumption that most county commissioners looked favorably on the plan.
“Other than Steve Weissinger, I didn’t leave that meeting with a positive outlook,” said Dicks. “We need to impress Mr. Bently, the commissioners, BLM and the Forest Service with more than a rattle of the sword. We don’t want to puncture, but we have to draw out the saber. They have to realize that we are serious.”
Resident Sharon Truax attempted to broaden the scope of the meeting.
“This isn’t just about Mr. Bently,” said Truax, who provided a map of lands that the BLM has designated as “disposable.”
“Look at the larger picture. Ownership in the Pine Nuts is fragmented between the BLM, Forest Service, Indian lands and private ownership. The BLM has already identified land that they want to get rid of. The committees need to keep in mind, they need to realize that we need a workable solution for managing the land, not dealing with just Mr. Bently, but all aspects,” she said.
Agreeing with the concept of proper management, the consensus of those attending the meeting was that private ownership could not achieve the management levels necessary in the Pine Nuts.
“We first need a commitment to stop Mr. Bently,” said Evans. “We want Mr. Bently to withdraw his application and the county commissioners to come out against this land swap.”
Members hit the streets on Friday to ask residents to sign petitions objecting to the land exchange. They plan to gather 5,000 signatures by Sept. 22.
“It’s imperative to get all friends and neighbors to sign these petitions,” said Evans. “This land swap impacts everyone that uses the Pine Nuts. This isn’t just a problem for people living by the affected areas. You have to ask, Why does Mr. Bently really want this land?”
Along with the petition drive, organizers said they plan demonstrations and letter writing campaigns designed as a multi-pronged attack against the land swap.
“Why should we accept four or five limited corridors to cross land that used to be public land, our land?” said Dicks.
“There are many levels of uncertainty that should be the concern of every resident in Douglas, Mono and Alpine counties,” said Evans. “We need to get the message out – Don’t fence us out.”