Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
January 16, 2024
Washoe County may soon see a boost in development and construction after Nevada’s junior U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen announced a new federal land bill on Tuesday.
As the state with the highest percentage of public land in the nation, Nevada relies on federal legislation to increase land available for development.
The Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act introduced by Rosen would make nearly 16,000 acres of public lands in Washoe County eligible for sale at fair market value to spur economic development.
Washoe County and federal land managers will jointly identify parcels of land suitable for sale. Parcels considered suitable for sale will have to undergo a review by the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service before being sold.
Another 3,467 acres of public land will be awarded to local governments in Washoe County for public use, including parks, water treatment facilities, a public shooting range, public schools, and roadway expansions. The University of Nevada, Reno would also be awarded one acre of public land for public use, including a campus expansion, according to the bill.
Under the bill, 30 acres of public land will be reserved for affordable housing. Federal land managers will also need to consider if any of the 16,000 acres of public land for sale is suitable for affordable housing before approving the sale.
“As Washoe County continues to grow, the lack of housing available can increase home prices at a time when inflation is already hurting Nevada families,” said Senator Rosen in a statement.
The bill would also set aside about 774,000 acres of public land as Wilderness and National Conservation Areas to prevent further development. Nearly 174,000 acres of public land will also be designated as “withdrawal areas” under the bill, meaning they will be open for recreation, but settlement, sale, or development of the land is prohibited.
Some conservation groups, like the Friends of Nevada Wilderness, praised the bill’s conservation measures, calling it “a milestone in the history of public lands conservation in Nevada.”
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this legislation for Washoe County and the entire state,” said Shaaron Netherton, executive director of the Friends of Nevada Wilderness. “The conservation, recreation and cultural values of our public lands are increasingly under stress by climate change and the growing demand for public access to our open spaces.”
If passed by Congress, the bill would also expand more than 21,000 acres of land held in trust for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.
Daryl Gardipe, the recently elected chairman of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, applauded Rosen and her staff for collaborating with the tribe on the final draft of the bill.
“This has led to the introduction of a lands bill benefitting all parties in an equitable fashion,” Gardipe said. “We are pleased with the support we received from multiple stakeholders to preserve our culturally important areas, while also allowing the surrounding cities to continue their growth.”
Rosen said she has been working on her Truckee Meadows public lands legislation for years with a wide range of affected groups. Earlier this year, Rosen unveiled a working draft of the bill and collected feedback from hundreds of Nevadans during a public comment period, which she incorporated into the current bill draft.
“My bill strikes a balance between responsible development, permanent protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of Nevada’s public lands, and local community growth. I’ll keep working in the Senate to make sure this legislation becomes law, helping to shape a better future for our state,” Rosen said in a statement.
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