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County: Truckee Meadows lands bill to get congressional vote

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The Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act, or Lands Bill as it is commonly known, has been in development for more than seven years. Washoe County Assistant County Manager Kate Thomas said the bill is getting close to being approved by all local governments and should face a vote in the U.S. Congress by fall of 2023. 

The bill was discussed Wednesday evening at the Spanish Springs Citizen Advisory Board where Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson and Thomas updated the board on the bill. Both Lawson and Thomas outlined the current version of the bill and the benefits it would bring to the Sparks area. Much of the land affected by the bill lies to the east of Spanish Springs. 

The idea behind the bill is to make a new land management plan for Washoe County that will designate the land for different uses. For local government use, there will be about 4,701 acres designated as well as 715,806 acres to be turned into conservation areas. 

Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson.
Sparks Mayor Ed Lawson.

The bill also specifies around 22,415 acres to be given back to the different indigenous tribes of the area.

The most contested portion of the bill has been with the land marked for economic development, where about 14,606 acres will be sold at fair market value. The proceeds of the sale of this land would go back to the county. 

“There were 900 acres sold in Las Vegas from the Forest Service at $100,000 an acre. If we take 14,000 acres for development that’s $1.4 billion,” said Mayor Lawson. “Ten percent of that goes directly to the county, to their general fund, so that’s $140 million over time that would go in. So it’s a huge boost for the county but ten percent of that also goes to the Truckee River preservation so that’s another $140 million that can be used along the Truckee.” 

Lawson said the idea is to make the Truckee more accessible with better lighting and wider paths, and to make it more enjoyable and easier for community use. The City of Reno is already working toward that goal.

Thomas made clear that the lands bill isn’t county legislation, but being decided at the national level.

“I want everybody to understand that as the facilitators of this bill, there are nine governmental entities that are involved in requesting parcels within this legislation to put forward for public purpose. It’s being introduced by Sen. [Jacky] Rosen, it’s going through Congress, it will be done in conjunction with the Nevada delegation so you also have Sen. [Catherine] Cortez-Masto. Congressman [Marc] Amodei is also involved in the process,” she said.     

Some of the issues brought up during the meeting were the disruption to current residents of the areas close to the developmental lands as well as the possibility of losing access to public lands that are used now for recreation. 

“You have the Bureau of Land Management, which is the largest landholder in our area, the Forest Service also owning some of our land here in Washoe County. But the BLM is required to have a management plan and that tells them how to determine the way they manage their public lands,” said Thomas. “And that plan here in Washoe County is about 20 years old. So you can imagine that it doesn’t entirely address the growth and development ideals that we need. It also doesn’t address the preservation of public lands in the North.”  

The Sparks City Council passed a resolution on July 24 in support of  the bill and Washoe County’s Board of County Commissioners is expected to pass its own resolution sometime in late August or early September. Once the bill has been approved by local governments it could be up for a vote in Congress by the fall of this year.   

Mark Hernandez
Mark Hernandez
Mark was born in Mexico, grew up in Carson City, and has recently returned to Reno to continue to explore and get to know the city again. He got his journalism degree in 2018 and wants to continue learning photography for both business and pleasure. Languages and history are topics he likes to discuss as well as deplete any coffee reservoirs in close proximity.

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