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Reid, Ensign mark land act milestone

Ten years after passage of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, the senators who laid the foundation for it marked the occasion Thursday, saying it will still provide funding for parks, trails, habitat and education despite the state’s economic downturn.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the legislation that has generated more than $3 billion for projects in Nevada from the sale of public lands around the valley hasn’t run its course despite a lag in sales.

“It will pick back up. We’re just having a lull in a our economy right now, but this thing will generate a lot of money in the future,” Ensign said after the celebration event at Springs Preserve, one of the projects that has benefited from land sales.

“Land values have been plummeting,” Ensign said. “You don’t have the demand. You have to wait for the demand to come back up and then you start selling land again and you get the good prices for it, which allows you to do all these wonderful things.”

When asked how long that will take, Ensign said: “Developers tell me we’re at least a year away.”

He said he was optimistic when it passed that the land act would generate $250 million. “We’ve raised that much in interest in the account.”

Reid told the gathering that more than 20,000 acres still are available for future growth.

“Now we know future growth is going to have to wait until we get the inventory of all these homes out of the way and it’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said.

The senators were joined by former Sen. Richard Bryan, who co-authored the legislation with Ensign.

“The genius of this legislation is that the money … remains in Nevada but is not subject to the appropriation process.” Bryan said.

“It does not have to compete with every other congressional priority recognized and advocated by others who represent congressional districts in states across the country,” he said.

Reid credited Ensign and Bryan for installing flexibility into the act rather than auctioning off a fixed amount each year. That would have driven random real estate prices even lower because of lack of interest, or it could have driven prices higher if there wasn’t enough land available for sale.

In all, 34,498 acres have been conveyed under the land act. There have been 26 land auctions conducted with 568 parcels offered and 496 sold for a total of $2.78 billion.

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