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Stay informed on open space issue

Staff reports

In the next couple of weeks, The Board of County Commissioners will be making some of the most important decisions of the year and possibly the most important decisions since the adoption of the master plan. We will be creating language for the open space plan that will be a management document for the purchase, trade and, I hope, maintenance of open space in this county. The open space plan will provide the basis for an open space ballot initiative.

Currently, between 62 percent and 69 percent of Douglas County is either owned, managed, or controlled by some government entity. We are not talking about that land, however; we are referring to agricultural land, owned, operated, controlled and maintained by the ranchers and farmers and other private property owners throughout the Carson Valley. What we are currently calling “open space” is their land. Let’s be clear about that from the beginning. I believe everyone wants to insure that farm and ranch land stays in farm and ranch land. The big question is how to do it?

Here is where you – the voters and taxpayers – come into the picture. After all, you are the ones who will end up paying the bill. This, I’m sure, will not come as a surprise to you.

There is more involved here than a 1/4-cent sales tax as proposed by the open space ballot ititiative. This is not a plan that should be rushed, short circuited or taken lightly. It needs your input, your help and guidance, your scrutiny and most of all your understanding. It must stand the rigors of community discussion if we can hope to have anything that even resembles a workable, long-term public land use plan.

I encourage you to stay informed, stay active, and be aware. This is our future, and the future of the owners, the ones who have actually kept it green for us for more tan 140 years at no charge. We should never forget that most important part, it is still their land.

Will this guarantee you access to BLM and Forest Service land, or the Carson River? That depends on the negotiations with owners. Remember, this does not necessarily mean your money buys the land. In most cases all that will be purchased are development rights. Call it conservation easements, call it development rights purchases, call it open space, call it anything you like, just don’t forget the rights of the ones who own it and it is up to them as to what is “sold.”

With or without the 1/4-cent ballot issue, this will still be the document that dictates the usage of that land. Remember some 70 years ago the Bureau of Reclamation created the Newlands Project turning the Fallon area into a garden spot. Now that same organization is drying out the area and when asked why, the answer was quite simple, “Our mandate has changed.” We must insure that if our mandate changes, it’s for the good of us all, not just some nameless, faceless bureaucrat who may or may not know where Douglas County is located. If for no other reason, this document must have the blessing of the people. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the draft open space plan and draft ballot initiative, read it and provide us with your comments.

– Kelly Kite is the commissioner for District 5.