Nevada Lands Bill Would Create Monument, and Encourage Sprawl

Nevada Senators Reid and Heller introduced a bill (S. 3346) on 27 June that would designate a new national monument, but the legislation would also allow the construction of a new transmission line through that monument and give away significant swaths of other public lands to developers and utility companies throughout the southern Nevada region.  The legislation is being touted in the press as a significant conservation bill, but the national monument may only be a sweetener to accompany compromises that will facilitate Las Vegas' continued sprawl into desert wildlands.

Disposal of Public Lands
Residents of southern Nevada have fought for years to establish the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, and the bill would indeed protect 22,650 acres of the area and transfer that land to the National Park Service.  But the "Las Vegas Valley Public Land and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument Act of 2012"  would provide significant benefit to developers and industry by amending the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act of 1998 to expand the amount of public lands available to transfer to private use.  The total number of acres to be added to the "disposal" area is not stated in the legislation, but a study of available maps suggest the amount is in the thousands of acres, including major parcels of mostly intact desert habitat along the western border of the proposed monument, additional lands along the northeastern stretch of I-15, and more parcels of land along the eastern boundary of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Lands within the disposal area are subject to sale to private developers.  Other modifications to the "disposal" boundary in the southern region of Las Vegas are unclear since only one map is currently available.



More Transmission Lines 
To the chagrin of monument proponents, the legislation would let utility companies build a transmission line directly through the national monument.  That proposed transmission line would connect to existing lines near the Harry Allen Generating System and run toward the Pahrump Valley, probably to cater to a glut of solar applications there that threaten to deplete local aquifers and destroy ecologically intact public lands, ignoring the more efficient alternative of distributed generation within Las Vegas' own boundaries.

The bill would withdraw 16 square miles of desert habitat from wilderness study in order to facilitate the approval of another transmission line into eastern Las Vegas from desert wildlands beyond the sprawl.  Once constructed, the transmission line would encourage more industrial development on public lands further from the city, probably including BrightSource Energy's proposal to build the massive "Apex" solar power project next to the Muddy Mountains and Hidden Valley ACEC.

Below, one of the maps accompanying the Las Vegas Valley Public Lands and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument Act of 2012 showing land transfers and designations in the North Las Vegas region:



Fly to Ivanpah, Drive to Vegas
The legislation also turns to the besieged Ivanpah Valley to ask it for yet another sacrifice to make way for the Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport -- also known as the Ivanpah Valley Airport.  The airport would bring Vegas' visitors to a remote swath of desert 40 miles south of the city's downtown area, forcing them to add an 80 mile round-trip drive to their trip.  Congress initially sacrificed public lands to this ill-conceived idea with the Ivanpah Valley Airport Public Lands Transfer Act passed in 2000, which would transfer nearly 10 square miles of desert habitat there to Clark County to build the airport.  The new bill would hand over additional public lands for flood control purposes.

The airport has been fiercely opposed by conservationists over the years, and construction has been delayed as a result of the economic slowdown and a decision to invest 2.4 billion dollars to expand Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. The McCarran expansion added a new terminal with 14 new gates just minutes from the city's hotels and suburbs, but the city foresees additional expansion of its hotel capacity and suburbs, even though it is running out of water.

[Click image to expand] The proposed Ivanpah Valley Airport would force visitors to endure a wasteful and expensive 80 mile round trip to and from the hotels and the airport.

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