WASHINGTON — A bill reintroduced in Congress this week would broaden the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to spend profits generated by federal land sales in Lincoln County.
A 2005 BLM auction of 13,500 acres near Mesquite raised $47.5 million, and the agency is authorized to sell up to another 90,000 acres in the eastern Nevada county where the government controls more than 90 percent of the land.
The legislation would enable the BLM to direct profits into environmental and development projects not envisioned when Congress passed county land bills in 2000 and 2004, said Mike Baughman, executive director of the Lincoln County Regional Development Authority.
In the ensuing years, “we discovered there were things that worked and things that don’t work in the land bills,” Baughman said. The new effort “to a large extent makes technical amendments to make them work better.”
For instance, the agency would be allowed to use money to thin more than 700,000 acres of pinyon juniper to reduce wildfire threats and enhance habitat for sage grouse in Lincoln and White Pine counties. The risks were identified in a 2008 land management plan.
Money could also be spent on environmental studies to fast-track the Dry Lake Valley North Solar Energy Zone designated by the BLM last year.
The law also would let the BLM consider applications to explore for minerals in five sections of a utility corridor in the county’s northeastern segment. That’s in an area where Meadow Bay Gold is developing its Atlanta Mine.
By law, 85 percent of the proceeds from land sales in Lincoln County flow to the government while the county gets 10 percent and Nevada gets 5 percent for education purposes. Baughman said the new bill would allow the county to steer its share into a broader range of economic development projects.
The bill was introduced in the House on Wednesday by Reps. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who pushed a similar bill last year. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is preparing to introduce the measure Monday, his office said.
“This legislation will give more flexibility to local officials to prioritize the needs of Lincoln County,” Horsford said Thursday.
Heller said the bill will help protect wildlife habitat while giving Lincoln County more opportunities for economic development.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.