Nevada could reap millions of dollars by taking over vast expanses of rangeland currently controlled by federal agencies, according to a report being prepared for state lawmakers.
A preliminary report prepared with the help of a consultant for the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force is due for review Thursday in Tonopah by the Legislative Committee on Public Lands.
It says the transfer of 4 million acres currently administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management could bring in $31 million to $114 million a year to the state, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
According to the draft report, 81.1 percent of Nevada is controlled by various federal agencies.
The analysis looked at the states of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah, where federal lands make up less of the total, from 34.7 percent in New Mexico to 66.5 percent in Utah. It found average annual net revenues to the four states from 2008 to 2012 from the trust lands ranged from $518.8 million in New Mexico to $41.9 million in Idaho.
Talk about public land transfers in Nevada has increased due to an ongoing cattle grazing dispute between Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM.
Bundy claims that he doesn't recognize federal authority over lands his cattle have grazed for years around his Virgin River melon farm and ranch, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
The BLM claims the cattle are trespassing on fragile Gold Butte habitat set aside for the endangered desert tortoise, and that Bundy has racked up some $1.1 million in fees and penalties since 1993.
The task force was created last year by the state Legislature to study transferring property from federal to state jurisdiction. Its final report is due Sept. 1.
Demar Dahl, an Elko County rancher and task force chairman, said an Intertech Services Inc. analysis shows the state could reap revenues from the sale and lease of resources on the lands, including mining and grazing.
But David von Seggern, chairman of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, asked during a presentation last November how the state would replace hundreds of federal workers now working in Nevada and whether the state could provide firefighting services or assistance to support mining, grazing and energy production.
The task force isn't recommending the transfer of lands controlled by the U.S. departments of Energy or Defense, current wilderness areas, national conservation areas, lands managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the National Park Service.
Dahl said it would likely take action by Congress to allow for a large scale transfer of public lands. Nevada is working with Utah officials on the issue.