Governor Brian Sandoval announced today, after meeting with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, that a proposed Washoe County school and veterans cemetery may get developed after previously being put on hold because of concerns over sage-grouse.
The two sites were part of why Washoe County joined in a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over its recent land-use plans, which designated these parcels as priority sage-grouse habitat.
“Secretary (Sally) Jewell committed to use Nevada’s new maps immediately for project-level decisions. This assures that projects like Washoe County’s Veterans Cemetery and prospective sites for new schools are now out of the Greater Sage-grouse habitat. This will allow these projects to proceed under the normal development process. The Department (of Interior) is committed to formally adopt the maps in the most expeditious manner possible.”
Sandoval said that Washoe County’s concerns are resolved by the adoption of the state maps.
“I can say that with 100-percent certainty,” he added.
In a phone call with the news media tonight, Sandoval said that he would not let negotiations with Jewell be affected by the lawsuit against the federal agencies, BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, in which the Nevada Attorney General has joined a number of Nevada counties.
The federal sage-grouse habitat maps included parcels, such as a landfill in Eureka County and the two Washoe County locations, that were designated as priority sage-grouse habitat.
Sandoval called the results of his discussion with Jewell “pretty significant.” Jewell, he said, agreed to allow Nevada to conduct a pilot project for its conservation credit system.
““The Secretary recognizes the need for Nevada stakeholders to accrue mitigation credits on public lands through the state Conservation Credit System (CCS),” he said. “During our conversation today, I secured a commitment from the Secretary to immediately proceed with a pilot project to demonstrate this process in Nevada while we work towards full integration of this ability in the CCS.”
Sandoval sounded frustrated about the lawsuit filed by Nevada counties and Attorney General Paul Laxalt, a lawsuit Sandoval opposed.
“(The lawsuit) doesn’t help the situation in terms of trying to get these things done because you add another layer with regard to the Department of Justice and solving those issues,” he said. “(Secretary Jewell) and I both agree that we’re not going to let the lawsuit get in the way of our ability to solve these issues, because if some of these issues that we can solve today are stuck in litigation, it can be years before we have some kind of finality.”
He said that some of the concerns being litigated could be resolved even before Judge Miranda Du issues a decision about the lawsuit, which seeks a preliminary injunction against BLM’s Land Use Plan Amendment, a plan drafted to help keep the sage grouse from being listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, published in September.
When asked how Nevadans can be assured that the results of the negotiations would be enforced, Sandoval said that Jewell will issue an instructional memorandum.
“The Secretary has committed to putting out an instructional memorandum … to eliminate the he-said, she-said surrounding the impact of the listing decision and land-use plans on stakeholders,” he said. “So, yes, I have full faith that the Secretary is going to deliver that instructional memorandum…. (Nevadans) will have the opportunity to have the input as to the contents of that instructional memorandum.
“This is, I think, what what everybody wants, is to have meaningful input and have a document that everybody can work from.”
Mineral exploration in Elko County, a point of contention in the lawsuit, should be able to proceed, Sandoval added.
“(The Secretary said) absolutely, without a doubt, that valid and existing (mineral) rights are not affected by this decision,” he said. “She was crystal clear with regard to that.”
Read Sandoval’s letter to Jewell outlining his concerns, a letter sent December 3, 2015: Sandoval Letter to Sally Jewell.