Lands Bill 2020

There is a new version of the Washoe County Lands Bill (aka Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act) that will provide land from the federal government for various uses by Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County.  There is not a lot of information available, but it looks very similar to the Lands Bill that was proposed in 2018.  This is a huge area: 90,000 acres; halfway to the Oregon border.  It includes Petersen Mountain and Bedell Flats.

In short …

The federal government owns about 85% of Nevada land including some in the Truckee Meadows area.  Some of this land is in lone parcels making a kind of checkerboard pattern of private property, city property, county property, and federal property.  It does not lend itself to logical planning in the area and the federal agencies would rather not be responsible for all these far-flung pieces.  So, the federal government can provide the properties to Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County under certain conditions and for specific uses.  This requires an act of congress (really).  There is a draft bill somewhere to present to congress that includes Washoe County.  In 2018, the bill failed.  There was a lot of public protest in the provisions for various reasons.  The ranchers in the North didn’t like the new wilderness areas that were created which restricted grazing.  Mining interests didn’t like the areas that would be made inaccessible for mining.  In the Truckee Meadows, residents didn’t like the urban sprawl that the newly available properties would likely engender.

Favoring the bill …

  • Rational: it would be more logical to have the properties be contiguous for the purposes of urban planning by the local governments and it would be less of a burden for federal management.  This applies only to a small fraction of the area being considered.
  • Wilderness: large areas would be set aside as wilderness areas which are natural treasures that would be preserved from mining and ranching and destructive recreation (such as ATV’s and target shooting).  Approval of these wilderness areas does not appear to be assured.
  • Open Space: some of the areas would need to be made into recreation areas for hiking, riding, cycling, and other uses.

Drawbacks …

  • Sprawl: the reason the bill is being advanced is that special interests are looking to make a profit.  For all the talk of wilderness and open space, the proponents really want to see more property made available for development in the form of urban sprawl.  This is highly profitable for both local and out-of-state developers especially since the taxpayers bear the cost of the infrastructure.  If you’re not happy with the way the area has grown with increasing traffic and increasing school overcrowding, this Lands Bill will allow the situation to become a lot worse.  Reno routinely approves zoning amendments for destructive new developments that are not compliant with the master plan.  The Lands Bill will give the authorities a lot more acreage on which to practice their malfeasance.
  • Taxes: the developer fees cover less than 25% of the road improvement costs according to RTC.  Washoe County residents are paying for the new schools that are needed to support development.  The taxpayers are being forced to subsidize development that is only profiting the developers.
  • Water: the Truckee Meadows Water Authority is secretive about how much water is available, but always claims there is plenty of water for the next big development.
  • Housing: the local governments claim that much more housing is needed so more property is needed for development.  This is belied by the fact that over 74,000 homes have been approved but are not yet built in the area.  This is roughly sufficient for 40 years of anticipated growth.  So, the housing shortage is not due to a lack of availability of property for development.  The development of sprawl is more profitable, so we see less infill and less development consistent with area master plans.

Local Meetings …

Local Meetings have been set up on short notice to describe the bill and to entertain public “input”.  A good turnout at these events will lend substance to the public voice.


Public Open House:
When: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 from 4-7 p.m.
Where: Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 South Virginia Street, Reno
Why: This public open house is an opportunity to come and learn more about the Lands Bill.

Public Input Meeting:
When: Thursday, February 20, 2020 from 4-7 p.m.
Where: Reno-Sparks Convention Center, 4590 South Virginia Street, Reno
Why: This meeting is an opportunity to provide specific input about the Lands Bill.


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7 thoughts on “Lands Bill 2020

  1. Thank you Steve, this is an excellent summary. If there were a version of this bill that increased wilderness while still preserving the higher-value public land in the “disposal area” for open space, and that was coupled with policies that mitigated against sprawl-based growth I would be all for it, but I’m not sure in it’s present form, this bill would accomplish that, so I am leery.


  2. Thank you so much, Steve, for this info. Quick question, are both of these “come when you can, leave when you must”? Or should every one interested be there from the start at 4? Thank you, I will try to make at least one of these. Judi Kolada


    • Judi, I’m afraid I don’t have more detail about the meeting agenda or format. I strongly suspect that it won’t really matter when you come or leave. I think everyone that shows up will be significant, whether individuals speak or not. The prevailing sentiment is to oppose the bill, so having more attendees indicates greater public opposition. Steve


  3. Pingback: New Lands Bill Gets No Love | Washoe Residents for Appropriate Planning

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