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Feds urged to act on county’s public lands issues

A split Nye County Commission voted 3-2 on Oct. 7 to request Congress to act on a number of public lands issues, with the division occurring over language about wild horses.

Nye County Commissioner Butch Borasky, who introduced the item, said it was modeled after resolutions passed by Elko and White Pine County. But County Commissioners Donna Cox and Frank Carbone voted against.

“I was really impressed it was starting to push the issue of government responsibilities, particularly for sage grouse,” Carbone said. But he said if there wasn’t language about horses and burros it would be an excellent resolution.

The resolution states the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service implemented interim management measures for the greater sage grouse without public hearings, which has the potential to cause millions of dollars of lost revenue and hundreds of jobs in Nye County. The county asks Congress to remove the sage grouse from consideration as an endangered species, the listing could take place in 2015.

“Proven data supports that sage grouse habitat loss has been primarily caused by mismanagement of public lands by the federal land management agencies due to forced reduction of livestock grazing, resulting in wild-land fires and the burning of millions of acres of sage grouse habitat. Additionally, the prohibition of effective predator control has resulted in a tremendous over-population of predators that prey on sage grouse, primarily the raven,” the resolution states.

It notes the raven population has increased six-fold in Nevada as a result of federal government protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty. Nye County Commissioners previously voted to declare the raven a public nuisance.

The other litany of complaints includes complaints about plans by the BLM to implement travel management plans on public land.

The resolution states, “the federal government has and continues to severely reduce grazing, resulting in catastrophic fires that destroy millions of acres of wildlife habitat and wildlife while producing hundreds of millions of pounds of pollution.”

It adds, “the federal government has refused to obey and enforce congressional requirements to remove excess wild horses from Nevada.”

Nye County asks Congress to pass a bill requiring the BLM and forest service to remove thousands of excess wild horses from Nye County and maintain appropriate management levels.

The county complains the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to introduce regulations to control all the waters in Nevada, which would cause great economic, cultural and environmental damage. The resolution asks Congress to immediately halt the attempt by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to gain more authority over waters of the U.S. and require the EPA to adhere to the Nevada water law.

The resolution includes a request to “empower the state of Nevada and individual counties under specific circumstances to remove certain federal agents/employees within the state or counties that threaten the health, safety, welfare of the citizens and the economy, culture and wildlife.”

Nye County asks Congress to stop any further creation of wilderness and revert all wilderness study areas back to full multiple use, and to transfer public lands from the federal government to the state as recommended by a Legislative task force.

“I did get a request from someone in the audience to weaken it and dilute it. I’m sorry I can’t do that,” Borasky said.

Priscilla Lane, a member of the Spring Mountain Alliance, read a letter from Arlene Gawne, the president of America’s Wild Horse Advocates, urging the BLM to instead use darts to inject wild mares with a contraceptive to hold down population growth.

“I ask you to rethink the portion of the resolution that applies to wild horse control in Nye County. Please do not erase wild horse viewing opportunities and the resulting tourism in Nye County,” Gawne wrote.

Lane added, “they can spend the millions of dollars for helicopter cowboys to round them up, why not spend the money to put them back where they belong?”

Nye County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, from Big Smoky Valley, told Lane she should consider the vast majority of Nye County outside of the Spring Mountains where there are too many wild horses. Wichman in particular complained about an overpopulation in Fish Lake Valley.

“If it’s so viable for tourism I’d like to see it. I haven’t seen people stepping forward taking pictures,” County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen said. He liked Wichman’s suggestion to relocate wild horses to national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

In another resolution, Nye County Commissioners urged Congress to provide full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes in the 2014-15 fiscal year. The program was created in 1976 to offset the costs incurred by counties for the cost of public lands. The PILT program was funded at $425 million through a farm bill for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but Nye County said without congressional action PILT will revert to a discretionary program subject to the annual appropriations process.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced in June Nye County would receive $3.07 million in PILT payments this year, out of $25 million for the state of Nevada. But the PILT program expired at the end of September. The payments are based on the population of a county, the percentage of federal land and other factors.

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