Lands Bill in Congress

Thanks to Kyle Roerink of the Great Basin Water Network for this guest post.

Last week Rep. Mark Amodei signaled that he will be pushing federal legislation that sells off 90,000 acres of public lands in Washoe County into the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Amodei has not been shy about wanting to move the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act and other “lands” bills this Congress. But the mad dash to get something done in the NDAA undermines the defense authorization process and ignores the needs of the region.

The Truckee Meadows proposal sprawls the north valleys of Reno without adequately addressing demands on social services, emergency response teams, roadways, schools, and utilities. Nothing in the measure addresses climate change or the long-term future of our water supply. We must demand that this public-lands sell-off not move forward for now. The public needs more time to engage with officials, planners, and scientists to look at the impacts of a bill that will invite hundreds of thousands of new people to the region in the coming years.

What makes the NDAA attractive for the lands bills’ proponents? The NDAA is a rare bill that passes every year.  But this year is extra special for Nevada. By 2021, the Navy must legislatively reauthorize its Fallon Range Training Complex and the Air Force must reauthorize its operations at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The NDAA is the vehicle to do that. Since the Navy and Air force reauthorizations have to move this year, developers, local officials and other pro-bill interests think they can hitch a tangential wagon to a bill that will inevitably pass.

But let’s be clear: The Truckee Meadows proposal has nothing to do with the military. Right now, it is a pro-sprawl bill.

Including the military bills, Washoe is one of 12 Nevada lands proposals that’s in the NDAA conversation. All said, the total amount of public land lost to the military or to be put up for sale is about 3 million acres.

My organization, the Great Basin Water Network, recently joined with groups like the NAACP, League of Women Voters, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the Center for Biological Diversity and others to tell the Nevada Congressional Delegation to slow down the process for the Truckee Meadows measure.

The Truckee Meadows proposal will define the future of our communities in Washoe County. Especially in the face of a public health crisis, let’s be prudent, slow down, and get this right.