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Land grab

The federal government already controls about 85 percent of Nevada. Now the U.S. Air Force wants to further block activity on a large chunk of real estate.

The Defense Department announced last week that it seeks to add more than 300,000 acres to the Nevada Test and Training Range, which currently spans about 2.9 million acres in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties. Much of the expansion would occur in a rural corridor running west of U.S. Highway 93 and to the north of Las Vegas.

The Air Force says it needs the land for training activities and exercises.

Some outdoor enthusiasts worry that the land grab will limit access to parts of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. “I’m kind of astounded,” local conservationist John Hiatt told the Review-Journal. “This is some of the most pristine land in Southern Nevada in terms of human impact. This would completely change that area forever.”

Ironically, environmentalists usually applaud efforts to restrict the use of public lands — just ask ranchers, loggers and miners, to name a few. Not so much, though, when they’re the ones facing the restrictions.

But Mr. Hiatt’s concerns are justified.

While most of the land the Air Force wants is already under federal management, some of it is not. At the very least, the government should accelerate the timetable for releasing land in the Las Vegas Valley for development in exchange for closing off another wide swath of property to public use.

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