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Grazing exemption gets bogged down Tonopah expansion discussion

Seeking to keep its commitment to concerned Nye County cattle owners, the town of Tonopah is revising a proposed resolution to allow grazing in a wide swath of newly annexed land.

The town board was poised on Oct. 26 to adopt the measure requested two weeks earlier when the board voted 4-0 to annex 515 square miles of rural land.

The measure called for exempting residents within the Tonopah Taxing District but outside a four-mile radius of the original courthouse in the center of town.

The town board held off on the exemption measure after concerns about its wording were expressed Oct. 26 by Durk Pearson, a 25-year Tonopah area resident.

Pearson, who referred to the issue as the “no cow zone,” suggested changes. He said that he and his wife own about 40 acres a little less than three miles north of the courthouse.

“This is agricultural property, and there’s a lot of other agricultural property up there,” Durk Pearson said.

He requested that the exemption specifically state it would apply to those both “living and/or grazing livestock” in the specified area.

“Because a person doesn’t necessarily have to live in that area to raise livestock in that area,” Pearson said.

“I live here in Tonopah,” Pearson said. “But I do hope in the not-too-distant future to be grazing livestock out there on that 40 acres.”

Proposed changes outlined

Citing a map, he also said the town’s proposed four-mile exemption “does not exclude my grazing property out there.”

“What I’d like to do is suggest you make it four miles east-west and two miles north-south of the courthouse …or at least two miles north of whatever you want south,” Pearson told the town board.

“If you notice, that would exclude all of Sierra Vista and Tonopah from the excluded area,” he said.

“In other words, Sierra Vista would be protected from grazing,” Pearson added. “Tonopah would be protected from grazing.”

Citing the map, Pearson said that through his proposed changes, “not only would all of Sierra Vista be in the no-grazing area but also all of the patent mining claims north of Sierra Vista would also be in the no-grazing area.”

“But they would still exclude my 40 acres there and the 160 acres adjacent to it,” Pearson said.

Back and forth

Town Board Chairman Duane Downing questioned whether the issues raised by Pearson were separate from what the town board had addressed earlier in the fall.

“No,” Pearson responded. “This is the same issue. I’m not asking to be left out of the town. I’m just asking to be exempted from the no-grazing town ordinance.”

Addressing potential boundaries, Pearson said the town would not want to “exclude grazing from a larger areas than necessary to keep the cows out of the town and people not having problems with horse apples (manure) scattered in their backyard.”

Town board member Don Kaminski mentioned that the ordinance’s original aim was “to keep from people from having livestock in town proper.”

That is why Tonopah’s Horseshoe Heights animal area 6 off U.S. Highway was developed, Kaminski said.

People ‘afraid’

Because of all the changes in the proposed resolution, the town board does not plan to vote on the grazing exemption until the wording is revised with defined parameters.

“Regardless of what we do here, Nye County code is still in effect,” said Chris Mulkerns, Tonopah administrative manager. “Because our code is the exact same as their code, word for word.”

“So they would have the jurisdiction over everybody anyway,” Mulkerns said. “Then, the NRS (Nevada Revised Statute) has laws that would be in effect above and beyond what we are doing here today.”

The proposed exemption aimed to appease “the people who were afraid,” she said.

“I think when we were thinking of it, we weren’t thinking of people who were already within town property,” Mulkerns said. “We were thinking of people who were about to become part of town property with the annexation” area.

Pearson said, “Technically, I’m illegal if I have a cow, and I’d rather not be that way.”

Downing said that’s “not accurate.”

“If you have a cow on your personal property, it’s not ‘at-large’,” Downing said.

Town board member Tom Seley, a longtime U.S. Bureau of Land Management official, said that Pearson’s interpretation was Pearson’s.

Later, Pearson said that he “would still feel a lot safer” with a town exemption.

“I don’t want somebody (motorist) to run into a cow and then sue me…and (say) ‘Look. It says right there, you can’t have a cow out there, in the Tonopah town ordinances.’”

Earlier, Downing said the exemption resolution was “something we told everyone we would do.”

“We would come up with a resolution to help alleviate some of the fears, even though I don’t think this resolution is needed …” Downing said.

Town board member Jerry Elliston offered similar sentiments.

“I’m not sure it’s 100 percent necessary,” he said. “But don’t see any downside to it …I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it.”


■ The Town Board voted 4-0 on Oct. 12 in favor of the annexation, which is estimated to result in the town gaining a projected $250,000 in annual revenue that could be used for services to residents.

■ The projected $250,000 annually to Tonopah would be through additional tax revenue from the rural land in the newly-annexed area, including from SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes solar plant and from possible future mining ventures.

■ Through the annexation, the town is growing from approximately 67 square miles to about 583 square miles, making it one of the largest communities in land size in the continental USA.

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com

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