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With New Name, Washoe Co. Lands Bill Back In Discussion

A landscape photo with a paved road on the left side and gravel, sagebrush and hills on the right side.
Lucia Starbuck
This land, next to this section of Pyramid Highway, is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management and would be transferred to the Regional Transportation Commission under the The Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act.

The Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act, formerly known as the Washoe County Lands Bill, is back before Congress. It would allow federal land in Nevada to be sold to local government for development and conservation projects. The proposal has received support from the cities of Reno and Sparks, as well as Washoe County, but it has also faced public criticism.

About 80% of Nevada’s land is owned by the federal government and is primarily managed by the Bureau of Land Management. If passed, the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act would allow some of that federally-managed land to be sold to local governments in Washoe County.

Some of the project proposals for the land include a shooting range, affordable housing, a cemetery, an elementary school and conservation projects, such as wildlife habitat protections.

A map of Washoe County that shows who different parcels of land belongs to.
Credit Landsbill.org
The land inside the red border is Washoe County. The red dashed lines and numbers are federally owned parcels that are proposed to be sold to local governments.

You can find this map at Landsbill.org.

Bob Conrad from ThisisReno covered the most recent public input meeting held by the cities of Reno and Sparks, and Washoe County on Feb. 20, 2020 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, to discuss the bill.

“The public meeting that was held a few weeks back, was very, I would say, angry. Of more than a hundred people that came, about four or five spoke in favor, and the rest were pretty vehemently opposed to what the bill is looking like now,” Conrad said.

People in a large room sitting on red chairs.
Credit Bob Conrad / ThisisReno
Community members at a public input meeting held by the cities of Reno and Sparks, and Washoe County, to discuss the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act on Feb. 20, 2020 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.

Chief Executive Officer Don Tatro of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada is in favor of the bill.

“Washoe County is 83% federally owned. This would bring it to 81% federally owned, but it would designate a lot of wilderness. It would do a lot of great things,” Tatro said.

However, there is also a lot of concern about where water will be coming from for the land that becomes relinquished to Washoe County.

Executive Director Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network opposes the bill.

“It just leads us to believe that there's going to be a whole spider-webbing network of pipelines, pumps and effluent ponds,” Roerink said, “The real question is: What's the cost going to be to rate payers and tax payers in the long term?”

This bill isn’t unique. In 2018, Clark County voted on a draft for the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, which is also up before Congress. This bill aims to expand conservation of public lands in addition to development. Similarly, the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, or SNPLMA, was passed in 1998. Conrad said this bill has positively impacted Northern Nevada.

“Lake Tahoe gets a lot of benefit from SNPLMA. A lot of projects go into improving water quality, forest restoration and things like that. So these bills do have some benefits. I think what people in Washoe County are really trying to determine right now is how this could really benefit the county,” Conrad said.

Each parcel of land that are eligible for sale would still need to be reviewed, by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency and the specific agency that manages it, to determine if the development planned for the land is appropriate.

Learn more at ThisisReno.

Bob Conrad, PhD, APR is a media professional with more than 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations, marketing and publishing. He’s the co-founder of ThisisReno.com, a locally owned and operated online news website.
Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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