March 24, 2004
COURT DECISION STALLS NEVADA FEDERAL LAND SALE
Reno, NV--The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada has ruled against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on a plan to dispose of thousands of acres of public land in eastern Nevada. In a ruling filed on March 22, 2004 the Court found in favor of plaintiffs Western Land Exchange Project (Seattle), Committee for the High Desert (Boise), and Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson). The groups were represented by Western Land Exchange Project staff attorney Christopher Krupp.
The land disposal scheme stemmed from the Lincoln County Land Act (LCLA), passed by Congress in 2000. The LCLA authorized the BLM to sell a total of 13,000 acres of federal land in Lincoln County, Nevada—northeast of Las Vegas and just north of Mesquite—over five years.
The Court held that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by:
? neglecting to analyze the impact of pulling water from nearby basins to supply development of the federal land;
• failing to develop mitigation plans sufficient to protect five threatened and endangered species;
• ignoring the cumulative impacts of the LCLA combined with other planned development for the region— additional land privatization, a power plant, and a new Mesquite regional airport. Together, the actions would open more than 36,000 acres to development and would support 200,000 people in the Mesquite area.
The decision prohibits BLM from further attempts to sell the lands until the agency has prepared an environmental impact statement addressing the issues raised by the plaintiffs.
“BLM acts as though its role is to expedite the rapid development of southeastern Nevada, but this decision says that's not the case. Development can’t go forward until the BLM takes an honest look at its consequences,” says attorney Christopher Krupp.
The issues of development and water use in Lincoln County are about to become even more critical: a new plan is underway to build enormous pipelines to deliver water from the rural county to Las Vegas. As part of the same plan, Nevada Senator Harry Reid is formulating legislation that would privatize an additional 80,000 acres in Lincoln County. Experts admit that actual water availability remains an unanswered question.