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BLM largely ignores desired airport

Scarce mention of the Pahrump airport is made in the resource management plan proposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, but that doesn’t mean the project is dead.

The only mention of the Pahrump airport site on the list of public land proposed for disposal for development on 3 million acres of public land for the next 20 years is Alternative 4, the most pro-development alternative.

Mark Tanaka-Sanders, assistant field manager for the bureau’s Pahrump Field Office, said the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting an environmental impact statement on the Pahrump airport project that’s separate from their resource management plan currently open for public comment.

The bureau is a cooperating agency on the administration study, he said.

“(The FAA study) may be completed before the final (resource management plan) is published,” Tanaka-Sanders said. “At this point no decisions have been made. All options are on the table for the public to look at at this point. If the (plan) isn’t done by the time the FAA is ready to go, then the Pahrump airport environmental impact statement they’re working on, that can amend the (plan).”

Tanaka-Sanders said the lack of mention does not mean the airport is not on the bureau’s radar.

“The idea for an airport is in there,” said Tanaka-Sanders, referring to the resource management plan. “There’s things like mesquite and buckwheat that need to be protected and one of those is through an (Areas of Critical Environmental Concern). We want to make sure no species get listed.

“The (plan) is just trying to leave room for an airport to go somewhere in Pahrump that would be the least impact to the environment.”

Pahrump Town Manager Susan Holecheck said the town prefers Alternative 4, but wonders why the bureau is barely mentioning the airport.

“(The BLM) have known about that since the late 80s,” Holecheck said. “I don’t know why it’s not on the disposal list. We’re still trying to figure out why they did what they did.”

The BLM previously asked the town to move an access road to the airport five miles north because of a mesquite grove, which will require more bore testing and soil samples, Holecheck said. She said consultants Landrum and Brown, drawing up the environmental impact study for the Federal Aviation Administration, could even propose a new airport site.

Tanaka-Sanders said Alternative 3 is drawn around the site originally identified for a Pahrump airport. But he said, “when they get the environmental impact statement done for the airport itself they’ll be determining where the airport will actually be.”

The preferred Alternative 3 proposes offering 16 sites totaling 42,513 acres of public land for disposal. In addition, that alternative proposes to designate 20 new Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. One of them would be the 41,770 acre Pahrump Valley Mesquite Woodland, located on the southwest side of Pahrump Valley, near the airport site which straddles the California state line. That area would be set aside to protect neotropical bird habitat, the Pahrump Valley buckwheat and relic plant communities.

A Pahrump Town Board member would like to see the current planned area of the airport remain.

“The BLM would like us to move the airport to a different location,” Bob Adams said . “I don’t know why. I can’t think of a better location.”

On another aspect of the plan, most of the wilderness areas proposed in the resource management plan are added in Clark County. Adams said public land advocates have been trying to reduce the Mount Sterling Wilderness Area but instead the new plan suggests expanding it.

He had butterflies in his stomach over this resource management plan and what it could put into effect.

“That’s scary because of what (the bureau) can do administratively,” Adams said. “In the past it took Congress to do that.”

Holecheck said she was meeting with federal officials and representatives this week to discuss the town’s concerns.

“I think the thing is there’s going to be appeals probably on all of this,” she said. “We are going to file our comments for Alternative 4, we meaning the town.”

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