Clark County officials are quietly floating a plan to open almost 39,000 acres of federal land for development and allow the Las Vegas metropolitan area to spill beyond its current boundaries.
Commissioners are expected to vote later this month on a resolution calling on Congress to free up land for more growth at the outer reaches of the community, including a large swath along Interstate 15 south of the valley. The sweeping proposal also would designate new wilderness and set aside tens of thousands of acres as areas of critical environmental concern for desert tortoise and other protected species.
Officials will host an open house on the proposal from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Clark County Library on Flamingo Road east of Maryland Parkway.
The county provided few details about the proposed lands bill when it announced the public meeting on Wednesday.
A county spokesman later supplied a draft of the resolution up for consideration by the commission. The four-page document outlines 15 separate transactions but does not include specific acreages for any of them.
Areas of proposed expansion
Draft maps obtained by the Review-Journal identify 38,636 acres of federal land that would be made available for auction and development under the proposed lands bill, most of it along the east side of I-15 between the southern edge of Henderson and small community of Jean.
The land is outside the existing disposal boundary established in 1998 as part of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which allows for the sale of federal land within the Las Vegas Valley for private development.
The county also wants to carve out other pockets of public land for what it calls “economic development opportunities” along U.S. Highway 95 and Kyle Canyon Road in the northwest valley and at the southwestern edge of Henderson and in the neighboring Eldorado Valley.
The draft maps also include a 41,000-acre expansion of the Moapa River Indian Reservation, several new or expanded wilderness areas totalling almost 83,000 acres and nine areas of “critical environmental concern” totaling almost 293,000 acres.
Such conservation designations sound good on the surface, said local environmentalist Patrick Donnelly, but the county’s current proposal is unacceptable to desert tortoise advocates.
Tortoise advocates concerned
“Clark County is going after the mother of all Endangered Species Act exemptions here,” said Donnelly, who serves as Nevada director for the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity. “Basically, they are trying to sell off thousands and thousands of acres of public land for development in prime tortoise habitat and then write their own mitigation plan.”
Among the other actions proposed in the draft resolution:
— The county would take ownership of Camp Lee Canyon from the U.S. Forest Service in exchange for county-owned land in the Lee Meadows area of the Spring Mountains.
— The Bureau of Land Management would transfer to local government control several pieces of property on which permanent public infrastructure has been built.
— The Department of Interior would be directed to complete six remaining flood control structures on the Las Vegas Wash and grant a right-of-way to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for a power transmission project in eastern Nevada.
— Federal land would be transferred to the county for a new joint-agency public safety complex on Mount Charleston.
— And a new fee would be collected at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to reimburse the county for police and fire calls it responds to there.
According to county spokesman Kevin MacDonald, the commission is slated to vote on the resolution at its June 19 meeting.