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EDITORIAL: Local control of federal land

Sometimes, the perfect can’t be the enemy of the good. Although there was much to abhor about the defense funding bill that finally cleared Congress last week — Washington’s sausage factory was in rare form this month — the legislation delivered several land provisions of such importance to Nevada that the policy monstrosity should be celebrated across the Silver State.

Bills that represented years of work from Nevadans and had passed the House were rolled into the Senate defense legislation by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to get them to President Barack Obama’s desk. Among its most important provisions:

— The creation of Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument at the northern edge of the Las Vegas Valley. The 22,650-acre site is a prehistoric marvel worthy of special protection and preservation for future generations.

— The expansion of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area by 1,530 acres.

— The release of 11,500 acres to the city of Yerington to support the development of a copper mine that will transform the area’s economy.

— The release of 660 acres of federal land to Las Vegas; 645 acres to North Las Vegas; 9,114 acres to the city of Fernley; 1,329 acres to the city of Carlin; and 1,745 acres to Storey County for development.

— The release of 1,886 acres of federal land in North Las Vegas for a second campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

— The designation of 1,211 acres in Clark County for an offroad park, and the transfer of 300 federal acres to the city of Elko for a motocross park.

— The creation of new wilderness areas in Humboldt County and Lyon County.

No state in the country has a larger percentage of federal land than Nevada — Washington controls more than four out of every five acres. The transfer of much of that land to local oversight and, eventually, private ownership, is critical to the state’s economic development efforts.

Of course, the defense bill did much more, from streamlining oil and gas permits to expanding logging and mining, in addition to wilderness designations that restrict land use. Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, criticized the bill, but it’s easier for them to do so — Washington owns less than 2 percent of their respective states.

Thanks to Nevada’s congressional delegation and everyone who helped them. President Obama should sign the bill. And Nevadans should be glad when he does.

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