Washoe contemplates possible land transfers and Sage Grouse

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Washoe contemplates possible land transfers and Sage Grouse

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Gary Kramer

A conservation group is calling for a federal judge to halt the Bureau of Land Management from removing sage grouse habitat and other native vegetation from eastern Nevada.

Washoe County is looking into public land initiatives and the prospect of transferring federal lands to the county.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide whether to list Sage Grouse as an endangered species by 2015. In response, Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller are considering federal legislation to prevent that from happening. They're looking into a way of designating already protected lands as special habitat for the Sage Grouse. That would stop land in counties from possibly being restricted from development because it's reserved for Sage Grouse.

As a supplement to that legislation, Nevada counties are looking at how to possibly take over other public lands for economic development.

Commissioner Vaughn Hartung says some counties like Lincoln say they would want all federal land in their county turned over, but that may not be feasible for Washoe.

"We have a lot of lands to control in Washoe County...more than we know what to do with."

Hartung says he's concerned the county could not afford to manage all the lands turned over, especially for issues like wildfire. The county could also lose out on federal dollars that are paid in lieu of taxes. The proposal could be even more costly if the Sage Grouse becomes endangered and the county then has to manage more sensitive lands for that purpose. Hartung reiterated that the county ultimately has no control over what the federal government decides in respect to the Sage Grouse.

Commissioners voted to schedule a workshop so the public can comment on the proposals.