Tule Springs bill hits minor snag in Senate

WASHINGTON — A bid to designate fossil beds outside Las Vegas as a federally protected national monument has hit a minor snag in the U.S. Senate.

A bill to set aside land at Tule Springs on the northern outskirts of Clark County was removed from the agenda as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met Thursday to pass a series of public land bills.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said committee staff raised technical questions during a late nuts-and-bolts review prior to the meeting. The questions concerned land conveyances not related to the national monument provision, he said.

“This is nothing major,” Heller said. “This bill will happen.”

Besides creating a national monument, the wide-ranging bill would redesignate public land in other parts of the valley and offer more than 600 acres apiece to Las Vegas and North Las Vegas for economic development.

The holdup, though, comes as Congress nears the end of this year’s session in a few weeks.

“As far as legislative priorities moving through, we are reaching a slowdown here,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowsi, R-Alaska,

A lobbyist following the bill who asked not to be identified said Senate committee leaders have promised Heller and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to attach Tule Springs to other legislation if necessary to move it along.

Officials from Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Congress have testified before Congress that the legislation was a priority to help fuel economic recovery in Southern Nevada.

Meanwhile, a House version of the Southern Nevada lands bill remains tied up in the House Resources Committee. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., said this week he is uncertain when it will advance.

“Unfortunately there haven’t been as many opportunities to have bills brought up as I would like,” he said.

While the Tule Springs bill was sidelined, the Senate panel did advance a Nevada bill to clean up and redevelop the Three Kids Mine in Henderson. The action positions the bill for final passage before Congress adjourns.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.