Lyon County land bill reworked to add wilderness

WASHINGTON – Nevada’s senators introduced a bill Thursday that would create 48,000 acres of federal wilderness in Lyon County at the same time it makes roughly 12,500 acres available for development to support mining.

The measure, a reworked version of a land bill that passed the House in June, would allow the city of Yerington in Northern Nevada to buy federal land near Pumpkin Hollow, a mine site being developed by Nevada Copper.

The city plans to develop a business park for mine-supporting companies and a recreation area, amphitheater and other improvements.

The earlier bill stalled after Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., demanded that wilderness be added, triggering negotiations among city, county and federal officials and conservationists.

The lull was broken after county commissioners agreed over the weekend to the designation of what would be called the Wevoka Wilderness, named for the American Indian spiritual leader who was born in the area.

The mix of wilderness and land opened for development follows in the path of earlier Nevada bills that have reconfigured federal land uses in Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties.

Only days remain in Congress, with few opportunities to pass federal lands bills that customarily come under close scrutiny.

The bill could be reintroduced in the new congressional session, which starts in January.

The measure opening land for development has been seen by local officials as a shot in the arm for the rural county.

“Lyon County has the highest unemployment rate in the state, and this legislation will bring more than 800 jobs to the area,” said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

“For the first time in a long time, Yerington is going to benefit from mining,” Reid said.

At the same time, he said, the areas to be set aside as wilderness “are worth of a high level of protection so future generations can continue enjoying them.”

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

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