76°F
weather icon Clear

Bush proposes moving Interior Department to a Western state

RENO — Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush unveiled his plan for western lands management Wednesday, calling for moving the Department of Interior out of Washington, D.C., and giving more control to states to determine appropriate land uses and management.

The former Florida governor announced his western lands priorities during a roundtable discussion with ranchers and elected officials at Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno.

"There should be a shared use of the land," Bush said.

Much of the West falls under federal control. More than 80 percent of the land in Nevada is managed by federal agencies, the most of any other state.

"I think they ought to be out living amongst us," Bush told a few dozen people who attended the hourlong event, which was not open to the general public. He said the Department of Interior should relocate to a Western city to be closer to those most affected by its decisions.

Of the 635 million acres owned and managed by the federal government 582 million acres or 90 percent are in the West, he said.

Increasingly, the federal government does not treat Western states, local governments, tribes and land owners as equal partners, Bush said.

"I think these lands have to be managed in a true partnership," he said, adding that public lands "should be viewed as something that creates economic activity, can create cultural values, create wins for citizens and residents of the West."

"The federal government needs to be a better partner for sure," he said, adding, "the federal government for the land that it owns needs to take better care of it."

Bush also proposed adopting "states first" wildlife conservation policies for managing species such as the greater sage grouse.

He advocated reducing the time it takes for issuing permits for land uses such as mining to no more than two years; managing forests to decrease the threat of catastrophic wildfires; and redirecting some funds for federal land acquisition to reduce the backlog of $11.5 billion in maintenance projects at national parks.

Bush also said funding, studies and permitting for water projects such as water storage should be expedited to address the devastating drought in the West. He said he would stop the "Waters of the United States" rule, currently on hold by court order, that seeks to broaden the federal government's oversight of interior ground and surface water.

About a dozen protesters demonstrated outside the event, holding signs that read "Public land patriots," "Don't fence me out," and "Keep our public lands in public hands."

Control of western lands has been a flashpoint at various times in Nevada over the years, most recently in April 2014 when Southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and scores of armed supporters confronted Bureau of Land Management officials who tried to confiscate his cattle for nonpayment of $1 million in grazing fees. The standoff ended when federal officials left the area out of public safety concerns.

Many conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts fear giving states more control would cut off access to millions of acres now open to the public.

"When presidential hopefuls from both parties visit the West, they must understand the importance of public lands to the people who live here," said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities.

She said it is important to preserve access to public lands for hiking, hunting and fishing.

Bush agreed, saying he would establish a goal of "no net loss" of sportsmen's access and encourage the enjoyment of America's outdoors.

Bush also spoke in North Las Vegas, where about 300 people attended a forum organized by the LIBRE Initiative at the College of Southern Nevada, Cheyenne campus.

It was moderated by Daniel Garza, executive director of the non-partisan organization, which has the goal of educating Hispanics about issues that include limited government and free enterprise.

Bush was asked about immigration reform, first in Spanish, then English. Bush, who is fluent in Spanish, answered in Spanish.

"We need to control the border," Bush said. "We need to make legal immigration easier than illegal immigration. There needs to be a path to legalized status where people come out from the shadows, where they pay a fine, where they pay taxes, where they work, where they don't commit crimes."

He stressed this is not a big requirement for people because "that's exactly what they do," adding it allows them to be "treated with dignity and respect."

Bush, who championed school voucher programs when he was governor of Florida, praised Nevada's education savings account program, which allows parents to put their child's public school funding toward tuition at a private school.

"It is one of a kind in the country," Bush said, calling it "incredibly ambitious."It is very provocative. It's bold. It's the kind of reform you seldom see anymore."

He said the federal government should work as a partner with states to provide supplemental federal dollars for such programs.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1. Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

THE LATEST
Plan for medical waste treatment plant draws public outcry

A proposal by MediWaste Disposal LLC to bring a medical waste treatment facility to the valley has touched off a wave of public unrest, with a crowd of Pahrump residents flocking to the latest Nye County Commission meeting to express their displeasure.

3 motorcyclists killed in US 95 crash near Goldfield

Three motorcyclists who died in a crash along US 95 about 2 miles south of Goldfield last week have been identified as Benny Hall, 52, of Tonopah; Jeffery Hicks, 72, of Goldfield; and Frank Winkler, 54, of Linton, Ind.

How Pahrump is remembering its heroes this Memorial Day weekend

Though it has become widely known as the unofficial kickoff of summer, two local veterans’ organizations are helping ensure the real meaning of Memorial Day is not lost among the fun of pool parties and cookouts.

Groundbreaking set for new Tonopah elementary school

A ground-breaking ceremony is set for the construction of the new $25 million Tonopah Elementary School beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29

Nye schools seek retirees to fill some critical vacancies

Even as school officials announced the retirement of more than a dozen teachers and other personnel on Monday night, they hope some veteran workers and retirees will consider returning to fill essential roles in the district.

GALLERY: Pinkbox Pahrump grand opening

When asked why Pahrump, owner of Pinkbox Stephen Siegel responds with, “why not?”

Fire destroys property, vehicles on Our Road

No injuries were reported after fire consumed two structures and vehicles on Sunday, May 19, just after 12:30 p.m.

RENDERING: Rhyolite Ridge gains formal county support

The Bureau of Land Management published its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Rhyolite Ridge Lithium-Boron project in April, triggering another crucial step forward for the planned mining operation – the public comment period. The deadline to submit is June 3.