Rep. Amodei Introduces Bill To Speed Public Land Transfers

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., today introduced legislation to accelerate the process for transferring small parcels of federal land to local communities.

The “Small Lands Tracts Conveyance Act,” H.R.4976, is aimed at reducing the decade-long process that now exists for many land transfers in Western states, even those that are noncontroversial, he said.

Amodei, who represents the 2nd Congressional District covering much of rural Nevada, said that while such transfers need to be scrutinized, the bureaucratic regulatory maze and slow legislative process are the main culprits in dragging out the transfers.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“Why should it take more than 10 years for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to transfer the lands they don’t want to local stakeholders who do?” asked Amodei. “What’s needed is an efficient process that promotes community-directed uses and reasonable economic development. In Nevada, where the federal government controls more than 85 percent of the land, these administrative and legislative delays are a wet blanket on our economy and our conservation efforts.”

The bill defines a “small tract” as 160 acres or less and would limit the transfer process for such lands to 18 months by establishing firm deadlines for the BLM and USFS to meet. It would exclude lands with established federal protection for cultural, biological, or endangered species issues.

If parcels are purchased by private entities for fair market value, 50 percent of the revenues from the sales would go to the county governments in which the lands are located, with the other 50 percent going to the federal treasury. If non-private entities purchase lands, such as county governments, 100 percent of the revenues would go to the treasury.

“This bill is a win-win-win,” Amodei said. “It would save the taxpayers, BLM and the USFS the expense of managing an excessive portfolio of federal lands. It would generate revenue for local and federal government, which could be used for deficit reduction. And most importantly, it would give states like Nevada the freedom to determine how best to use our own lands, whether it’s for economic development, farming and ranching, or conservation.”

The legislation would not apply to another measure sponsored by Amodei and other members of the Nevada Congressional delegation seeking to transfer approximately 10,000 acres of BLM land to Lyon County and the city of Yerington for industrial, recreational and cultural development.

The transfer would allow the governments to leverage the substantial infrastructure investments being made by Nevada Copper at its nearby Pumpkin Hollow project.

The Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act had a hearing earlier this month.

Amodei told the Reno Gazette-Journal he is optimistic about getting the bill through the House by the summer, although its future in the Senate is less certain.

Control of federal lands in the West was one subject of a Friday conference sponsored by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Gov. Brian Sandoval attended by phone.

Following the meeting, Sandoval said in a statement: “I was pleased to join part of today’s Rocky Mountain Roundtable discussion via phone. Now that we’ve begun the discussion, I believe we should work together and have a strategy as issues pertaining to Western states arise. I suggested regular conversations and I look forward to continued partnerships among Western states.”