Multi-use lands resolution offers protective wilderness objectives; creates hope for jobs
Written by Staff Report
Dec 12, 2012 Mason Valley News at rgj.com
Lyon County officials explained during last Thursday’s meeting that they tried to write a resolution relating to the Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act and a proposed wilderness area not to exceed 48,000 acres in the South Pine Grove Hills-Bald Mountain-East Walker River area so the users of that area will be protected as much as possible.
The resolution was billed as a compromise and is subject to passage of the Yerington bill in the 112th Congress as provision makes it null and void if that action is not taken by the “lame duck” Congress.
A video presentation at the opening of Thursday’s commissioner session by County Manager Jeff Page pointed to 9 specific goals included in the resolution which was ultimate approved by the Commissioners on a 5-0 vote. (See related story)
The county included a list of objectives and priorities for the Congressional legislation (Yerington bill) and land management of the proposed Wovoka wilderness area, which would be much smaller than a proposed wilderness area in south Lyon County several years ago.
Those objectives include: 1) Economic development-Yerington bill; 2) Protect local grazing rights in legislation; 3) Implement aggressive fire management plan; 4) Exclude East Walker River from Wilderness; 5) Protect mineral resources in legislation; 6) Prevent listing of Sage Grouse on the Endangered Species List; 7) Maintain public access on existing roads; 8. Maintain recreation–hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, off-highway travel via designated routes; and 9) Recognize reasonable Wilderness designation in “Core” area.
Upon approval, the resolution was forwarded to the state’s Congressional delegation, along with the latest map of the proposed wilderness area.
The county now plans to work with the delegation in an effort to get the Yerington lands bill approved before this current session ends around Christmastime.
The motion for approval even added language to protect authority to manage wildlife and a provision regarding the timing of the ordinance amendment effective date.
County officials said they and others such as Nevada Copper – which hired Resource Concepts, Inc., to conduct a study and analysis of the South Pine Grove Hills area – have been working with stakeholders of that area since Senator Harry Reid announced he wanted a wilderness component in the area in question as part of the Yerington Land Conveyance Bill. This effort included those involved in mining, ranching, recreation, wilderness advocates and others in developing the wilderness area proposed map.
The land bill calls for the City of Yerington-funded by Nevada Copper-to acquire at fair market value over 10,000 acres of BLM land near Nevada Copper’s Pumpkin Hollow copper mining project southeast of Yerington.
In presenting the report on the resolution, County Manager Jeff Page went over each of the nine goals and objectives.
Under economic development, his presentation cited the jobs created to be created as a result of the bill – Nevada Copper has stated it could go into production sooner and in a larger scale if bill passes – to include 700-800 direct mine jobs with an annual average salary of $85,000 along with 1,500-2,000 in-direct jobs in Lyon County, which has high unemployment at this time.
Page also cited what the economy has done to Lyon County government, citing the reductions in staffing throughout the county and budget cuts in recent years. He said the mine would improve the county’s tax revenue and hopefully prevent future reductions in the county budget.
He concluded of this first priority, “How do we get out of the slump? We grow our way out.”
Regarding grazing, Page said there should be no curtailment of current grazing, and the number of livestock permitted to graze in the wilderness area should remain at approximately the same levels. Regarding fire management, the County Manager said this was a big issue and explained the fuel reduction in the pinyon-juniper areas was important to reduce the fire risk. The provision also would enable fire responders to respond with motorized firefighting equipment in the wilderness area in case of fire. In the area of wilderness in the area of the East Walker River, Page said the resolution called for protecting existing access and management for recreation and agricultural use of the water, with any wilderness boundary 1,000 feet away from the river.
Regarding protecting mineral resources, the presentation said all known mineral resource areas were excluded from the proposed wilderness, as some areas with existing mineral exploration are one or two miles from the recommended boundary. There should also be no additional environmental restrictions as a result of the wilderness designation.
In the area of sage grouse habitat and protection, Page said the priority is to prevent the listing of sage grouse on the Endangered Species List. The resolution seeks to maintain maximum flexibility for removal of high density pinyon to improve the sage grouse habitat.
Regarding access, Page noted the entire analysis area is in a travel management plan, designated as roadless, but they want to ensure current designated roads are unchanged, areas with high density of roads were excluded from the wilderness, and to maintain public access on existing roads, especially to popular recreation areas on the East Walker River.
For recreation, the objective is to maintain hunting, fishing, camping and trapping as under current Forest Service Management requirements, and to keep roads open on the west side where there are popular Christmas tree and wood-cutting areas. And off-highway vehicle travel could continue on many “cherry stemmed roads” within the wilderness. Regarding the last item of wilderness, Page said they looked at three size alternatives of 36,000 acres, 66,000 acres and 47,000 acres, with the final one chosen to remain in the core area of Bald Mountain.
“The resolution has clear and specific language to protect existing uses,” Page concluded
The resolution represents a local proposal in an effort to work with Senator Reid following his demand for the wilderness component as an addition to the Yerington land bill. Approval of the resolution or any amendment to the original legislation in the U.S. Senate will require the bill return to the House, where Nevada Representatives provided unanimous delegation support and gained House approval, for action on the amendment.