LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) --
From the air, the Las Vegas metro area is house after house, but just outside the valley are tens of millions of acres of federally owned desert land.
The cattle grazing standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government has reignited talks about "land rights" in Nevada. The federal government is the biggest landlord in the Silver State, controlling 86 percent of the land in Nevada
. The only state where the feds own a greater percentage is Alaska.
Elko county commissioner Demar Dahl says we’re losing out on potential revenue by not taking control of our federal land. Dahl presented a report to the legislative committee on public lands today in Tonapah. Preliminary findings show the feds are taking a huge bite out of Nevada’s economy.
The report says the state could bring in $371 million per year by taking over land controlled by the bureau of land management. Land in neighboring states of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah brings in an average of $223 million per year. This money goes back into the individual states, some of it going to public schools and universities.
"We’re going to recommend anything you can do now, you will be able to do then, except we will own it," Dahl said. "All access available now, we think the state would do a better job guaranteeing access."
But assemblyman Paul Aizley, chairman of the committee, says there are still questions about whether Nevada can afford to take control of our federal land.
"It would have to be gradual." Aizley said. "We can’t take over existing federal jobs now. We don’t have funding for that and it’s not clear that’s the direction we’re going in."
There’s no guarantee that taking control of BLM land would spur new developments across the state. Aizley says Nevada is limited because of its lack of water.
"It’s speculative what we can do with the land when we get it," Aizley said. "You can have all the land you want, but if there’s no water, you can’t do anything with it."