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Nye County calls out BLM on omissions

Nye County has chastised the Nevada Bureau of Land Management for its omissions in delineating conflicts between approved county plans and proposed land use actions in its draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

Officials clocked in their written opposition to various proposals ahead of the Feb. 6 public comment period deadline at a county commission meeting held on Feb. 3.

Following the meeting BLM announced that it has extended the public comment period until March 9.

The extension, the second issued, addresses one of many complaints Nye County voiced in formulating written comments – the lack of time to adequately address all of the options listed in the voluminous 2,400- page proposal.

Four alternatives were suggested by the BLM with a goal of resolving conflicts among uses.

Alternative one is to take no action. That will continue the current management adopted in the 1998 Las Vegas Resource Management Plan. That alternative, however, could be modified by current laws, regulations and policies.

The second alternative would take action to protect resources, including wildlife habitat, plants, and water quality, while preserving wilderness and paleontological sites. This alternative would allow commodity use consistent with current laws. Access to and development of resources within the planning area could occur with intensive management and mitigation of surface-disturbing activities.

Alternative three provides opportunities to use and develop resources within the planning area while ensuring resource protection. This is BLM’s preferred alternative.

Similar to the third alternative, alternative four will allow use and development of resources and would provide for motorized access and commodity production with minimal restrictions. This alternative relies on existing laws, regulations and policies, rather than special management or special designations, to protect sensitive resources.

A prominent objection to the plan was BLM’s proposal to withdraw up to 1,384,236 acres of land from mineral and other forms of entry from multi-use designation, citing adverse socioeconomic impacts.

The county also criticized BLM’s proposal to include areas of critical environmental concern as “excessive and unwarranted.” The locations and designation of those areas conflict with county approved planned projects, infrastructure development and maintenance which would result in a direct adverse impact to the local economy and public finances through the imposition of requirements and restrictions which the county characterized as “burdensome and unnecessary.” Although, the county did lend its support for the consideration of a portion of Stewart Valley for woodland and vegetation protection.

The county also criticized BLM for their proposal to designate all public lands in the Southern Nevada District Office study area as special or extensive recreation management areas. Nye County said that specific designation is not warranted to protect recreational opportunities in the Pahrump, Amargosa or the Big Dune area north of Highway 95 and criticizes BLM officials for failure to provide any data to the contrary. Non-designated recreation status, Nye County said, is the most appropriate classification of public lands in those areas.

The proposal, the county said, is intended to hamper all forms of right-of-way through avoidance measures. Those measures adversely impact Nye County by giving the BLM discretionary authority to deny right-of-way applications as non-conforming with designations and additional requirements of mitigation measures for rights-of-way for small-scale utility companies, radio communication tower placement, roads, flood detention basins and other infrastructure that the county deems critical.

Under proposed alternative 2, 3 and 4 would also adversely impact the county by requiring increased infrastructure siting, development and maintenance costs and will impinge on the ability of the county to conduct environmental testing to protect groundwater from potential deleterious effects of nuclear testing.

Many of the restrictions, the county stated in its written comments, decrease the county’s ability to generate revenue and develop infrastructure to promote public health and safety.

Limiting mining activities and renewable energy development were also cited as adverse impacts to the local economy.

Additional written comments on the proposal can be made to: BLM Southern Nevada District Office, Las Vegas/Pahrump Field Offices Draft RMP/Draft EIS, 4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130; by email at sndo_rmp_revision@blm.gov; via fax 702- 515-5023 or through the website comments form at http://tinyurl.com/qzvaht7.

Printed copies of the land management plan are available in Nye County at Pahrump Community Library, Beatty Library and Amargosa Valley Library.

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