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County Proposes Selling Northern NV Public Lands

The Buffalo Hills Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Area is among the areas being considered for redesignation under a proposed Washoe County bill. (Bureau of Land Management/Flickr)
The Buffalo Hills Bureau of Land Management Wilderness Study Area is among the areas being considered for redesignation under a proposed Washoe County bill. (Bureau of Land Management/Flickr)
May 7, 2018

RENO, Nev. – In northern Nevada, Washoe County officials are proposing a bill to redesignate or sell off hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands.

Several groups are speaking out in opposition, saying the bill would threaten the environment, and lead to urban sprawl.

The majority of land in Washoe County is federally owned. The bill would impact areas now controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

It would set aside some wilderness and conservation areas, but release 400,000 acres of BLM Wilderness Study Areas for management without designation.

Proponents say the county would benefit from the proceeds of lands sold for development, and the bill would allow for more local control of land.

But Bob Fulkerson, state director of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), says public lands are what make Washoe County desirable.

"We tout this area for the truth of its natural beauty and its wide open spaces, and what's at stake is losing that, not just for a generation, but essentially forever," he states.

The county says the lands are needed because the population is growing and the demand for housing is increasing. By 2030, 100,000 new residents are expected to move to the area.

Fulkerson says a more sustainable approach to urban planning could keep environmentally sensitive areas wild while still allowing for growth.

"Within Reno-Sparks city limits, there's places where we can put the people who are moving here,” he points out. “We don't have to create this Los Angeles County-type sprawl."

The county is currently taking public comments on the bill online. The bill is expected to be presented to the county commissioners in June.

Changes of designation of BLM lands would require an act of the U.S. Congress.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - NV