Pershing County Lands
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 Written by Karen Wesner
Pershing County Lands Bill Summary:
or over a decade, Pershing County and its citizens have sought to resolve land issues within the County. The Pershing County Lands Bill (the “Bill”) offers solutions to those problems by authorizing:
- land conveyances for public purposes,
- land sales to operating mining projects,
- land sales and land exchanges in the checkerboard area,
- the release of Wilderness Study Areas,
- and the designation of areas as Wilderness.
Benefits to Pershing County:
Seventy-five percent (75%) of Pershing County is owned by the Bureau of Land Management (the “BLM”). Much of this ownership is in a checkerboard pattern.
- Land conveyances and sales proposed in this Bill will bring increased economic development to the County, by:
- Decreasing the acreage of BLM ownership and increasing the acreage of private ownership.
- Consolidating the checkerboard area through privatization of public lands and land exchanges.
- Increased private ownership will lead to:
- increased economic development in the County,
- increased payroll, net proceeds, sales and use, and other mining-related taxes and,
- long term high-paying jobs.
- Increased private ownership will lead to:
- Preserving the mining future in Pershing County through sales of federal lands to current claim holders.
- Solidus Resources, LLC, Coeur Mining, Pershing Gold, and EP Minerals will have the ability to purchase the federal lands where their mining claims are located.
- Removes the BLM’s jurisdiction over the projects;
- Permitting and development of an asset on private land re-risks the investment and provides greater financial certainty (allowing for a more efficient and less expensive permitting process, which in turn would expedite the creation of jobs and the payment of higher mining-related taxes to the County);
- Greater certainty in mining projects means a greater willingness by companies and investors to invest in these projects resulting in economic welfare for the area.
- Increasing sale proceeds for the County as follows:
- 10% of land sale proceeds will be paid directly to the County.
- 5% of land sale proceeds will be paid to the State of Nevada for education.
- 85% of land sale proceeds will stay in Nevada BLM as opposed to being sent to Washington DC which will be used for:
- land exchange facilitation,
- drought mitigation,
- wildfire prevention, and
- sage grouse restoration.
- Authorizing conveyance of the lands to Unionville for cemetery purposes.
- Authorizing conveyance of other lands identified by the County.
- Wilderness Designations:
- The legislation will designate approximately 160,590 acres of Wilderness under the 1964 Wilderness Act.
- The legislation will also release 120,000 acres of BLM wilderness study areas.
- Wilderness study status is permanent until Congress acts through legislation (in this case, through the Bill).
- Wilderness study status is much more restrictivethan designated Wilderness.
- Under the Bill, grazing within designated Wilderness Areas is protected under the law.
- Grazing is not protected under wilderness study status.
- Current wilderness study areas do not have the protections for grazing that are detailed in the Bill.
- The Bill would put into law House Report No. 101-405, which states that:
It is the intention of the Committee that these guidelines and policies be considered in the overall context of the purposes and direction of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and this bill, and that they be promptly, fully, and diligently implemented and made available to Bureau of Land Management personnel at all levels and to all holders of permits for grazing in the wilderness areas designated by this bill.
The guidelines and policies are as follows:
- There shall be no curtailments of grazing in wilderness areas simply because an area is, or has been designated as wilderness, nor should wilderness designations be used an excuse by administrators to slowly "phase out" grazing. Any adjustments in the numbers of livestock permitted to graze in wilderness areas should be made as a result of revisions in the normal grazing and land management planning and policy setting process, giving consideration to legal mandates, range condition, and the protection of the range resource from deterioration. It is anticipated that the number of livestock permitted to graze in wilderness would remain at the approximate levels at the time an area enters the wilderness system. If land management plans reveal conclusively that increased livestock numbers or animal unit months (AUMs) could be made available with no adverse impact on wilderness values such as plant communities, primitive recreation, and wildlife populations or habitat, some increases in AUMs may be permissible. This is not to imply, however, that wilderness lends itself to AUM or livestock increases and construction of substantial new facilities that might be appropriate for intensive grazing management in non- wilderness areas.
- The maintenance of supporting facilities, existing in an area prior to its classification as wilderness (including fences, line cabins, water wells and lines, stock tanks, etc.), is permissible in wilderness. Where practical alternatives do not exist, maintenance or other activities may be accomplished through the occasional use of motorized equipment. This may include, for example, the use of backhoes to maintain stock ponds, pickup trucks for major fence repairs, or specialized equipment to repair stock watering facilities. Such occasional use of motorized equipment should be expressly authorized in the grazing permits for the area involved. The use of motorized equipment should be based on a rule of practical necessity and reasonableness. For example, motorized equipment need not be allowed for the placement of small quantities of salt or other activities where such activities can reasonably and practically be accomplished on horseback or foot. On the other hand, it may be appropriate to permit the occasional use of motorized equipment to haul large quantities of salt to distribution points. Moreover, under the rule of reasonableness, occasional use of motorized equipment should be permitted where practical alternatives are not available and such use would not have a significant adverse impact on the natural environment. Such motorized equipment uses will normally only be permitted in those portions of a wilderness area where they had occurred prior to the area's designation as wilderness or are established by prior agreement.
- The replacement or reconstruction of deteriorated facilities or improvements should not be required to be accomplished using "natural materials", unless the material and labor costs of using natural materials are such that their use would not impose unreasonable additional costs on grazing permittees.
- The construction or new improvements or replacement of deteriorated facilities in wilderness is permissible if in accordance with these guidelines and management plans governing the area involved. However, the construction of new improvements should be primarily for the purpose of resource protection and the more effective management of these resources rather than to accommodate increased numbers of livestock.
- The use of motorized equipment for emergency purposes such as rescuing sick animals or the placement of feed in emergency situations is also permissible. This privilege is to be exercised only in true emergencies, and should not be abused by permittees.
In summary, subject to the conditions and policies outlined in this report, the general rule of thumb on grazing management in wilderness should be that activities or facilities established prior to the date of an area's designation as wilderness should be allowed to remain in place and may be replaced when necessary for the permittee to properly administer the grazing program. Thus, if livestock grazing activities and facilities were established in an area at the time Congress determined that the area was suitable for wilderness and placed the specific area in the wilderness system, they should be allowed to continue. With respect to areas designated as wilderness prior to the date of this Act, these guidelines shall not be considered as a direction to reestablish uses where such uses have been discontinued.