EDITORIAL: This land is our land

As a general rule, Congress does more harm than good. If the opposite were true, the legislative branch wouldn’t have an approval rating that’s fast approaching single digits. But federal lawmakers can still do some good when they focus on giving Americans opportunity instead of telling them what they can’t do; when they enable economic freedom rather than stifle it through taxation and regulation.

On Monday, the House passed legislation that will create jobs. No subsidies. No mandates. Just Washington getting out of the way. And the benefits will be reaped right here in Nevada.

A package of seven bills, passed by voice vote, opens 23,000 acres of federal land in rural Nevada to development. The most important component of the legislation allows the city of Yerington to buy 10,000 acres around the Pumpkin Hollow Mine. The transfer of control of that land will lead to investment and job creation — up to 2,500 jobs in mining, construction and supporting businesses.

Washington owns about 85 percent of the land in Nevada, far too much for the federal government to manage effectively, leaving far too little private land to lure businesses and bolster property tax rolls. The Yerington legislation is a good start toward giving cities, counties, the state and, eventually, private citizens ownership of more of Nevada’s land.

Of course, the bills included conservation measures, too. Unfortunately, getting Washington to give up direct control of some land requires giving the government even more control of other land. The package of bills passed this week, which is expected to win Senate approval as well, will create nearly 73,500 acres of new wilderness areas in Nevada. That’s another way of saying Washington will never hand over those lands.

It has taken more than a year to get these bills passed. Bravo to Reps. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Mark Amodei, R-Nev., for working together to create bills that could actually pass and make it to the president’s desk.

We hope it’s just a start. After all, if freeing such a small amount of federal land will create this many jobs, how much more opportunity would exist if Congress handed over 100,000 acres, or a half-million acres, to local control?

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