ST. GEORGE – Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 227 into Nevada law Tuesday, approving the creation of the Nevada Land Management Task Force. The signing of AB 227 makes Nevada the fifth state to look into the movement initiated by Utah lawmakers that urges the federal government to transfer management of public lands over to state control.
In a press release issued by the American Lands Council, Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison, the primary sponsor of AB 227, said, “Gov. Sandoval and our state legislature have taken the first step in fulfilling our responsibility to our children and for the future of our state in making congress honor the same promise to Nevada that it made and kept with Hawaii and all other states east of Colorado.”
The “promise” that Ellison refers to is what is referred to as a state’s “enabling act,” which is basically a statehood contract. When a state joins the country, part of its lands are held under federal jurisdiction – which land transfer proponents argue was only meant to be a temporary arrangement. While lands management was transferred to many states that lie east of Colorado, in the west this did not come about.
On March 23, 2012, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law House Bill 148, known as The Transfer of Public Lands Act. HB 148 was spearheaded by Rep. Ken Ivory and demands the federal government transfer control of the public lands to the state by the end of 2014.
Like the Utah bill, Nevada’s AB 227 does not include national parks and other lands that have a similarly protected status in the proposed transfer. Public lands currently cover an estimated 70 percent of Utah, and over 81 percent of Nevada.
It has also been argued by public land transfer advocates that putting the lands back under state control will help create jobs, grow local and state economies, and help better fund education. This would be accomplished by the states opening up previously locked-out areas where oil, natural gas, and other natural resources can be accessed and harvested for use. Taxes collected from the public use of those lands would also provide additional funding to state educational spending.
Currently, the federal government provides “Payment in Lieu of Taxes,” or “PILT” monies, to the states as a substitute for these funds. These funds are given to the state which then distributes them across the state to the counties and school districts.
Previously, Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner told St. George News that money derived from the use of public lands would be many times more than what the county and school district presently receives via PILT funds.
“There’s so much revenue potential out there,” Gardner said.
- Public lands transfer resolution moving through Washington County
- New Mexico legislator proposed house bill similar to Utah’s Public Lands Transfer Act
- ‘Where’s the line? Ivory’s crusade to return public lands to the states
- Lee responds to Salazar’s comments on Utah lands
- Gov. Herbert signs public lands transfer act
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