Pershing County Lands Bill

Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act

Beginning over a decade ago, Pershing County has sought to resolve the status of checkerboard lands, wilderness study areas, and other public lands issues within the county. Seventy-five percent (75%) of Pershing County is owned by the Bureau of Land Management (the “BLM”). Much of this ownership is in a checkerboard pattern. The goal of these efforts has been to provide new opportunities for economic development and protect areas of significant ecological value.

After the Pershing County Commission unanimously approved a resolution requesting that the Nevada Congressional Delegation introduce the draft public lands bill at a June 1, 2016 special commission meeting, Senator Heller and Congressman Amodei introduced S.3102/H.R.5752, with the support of the entire Nevada Delegation.  Additional background information can be found on the Pershing County website at http://pershingcounty.net/index.php/Lands-Information/pershing-county-lands.html

Before the 114th Congress adjourned in December of 2016, the Delegation was able to secure a legislative hearing on the bill at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, positioning the bill well to advance in the new Congress.  More information on that hearing can be found here. Senator Heller’s testimony introducing the bill to the committee can be found here.

On February 16, 2017, Senator Heller and Congressman Amodei reintroduced the Pershing County bill in the 115th Congress.  Introduction of S.___ is just the next step of the legislative process.  The Senators will continue to work with Nevada stakeholders to improve the proposal moving forward. 

Overview of the Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act:

 Disposal of Specified BLM Lands – Title I

In the Winnemucca District Office of the BLM’s resource management plan, over 300,000 acres of BLM lands in Pershing County have been identified for potential disposal. The sale or exchange of these lands will create important economic development opportunities for Pershing County. This bill would allow the sale land of up to 150,000 acres identified for disposal. 

Pershing County and the Secretary of the Interior would jointly select lands for disposal. The land will be sold through a competitive bidding process, unless otherwise determined by the Secretary, for no less than fair market value. The Secretary will offer lands for sale annually until the county needs are met.  Lands that the County plans to nominate include:

  • Specified lands along the I-80 corridor;
  • Specified lands east of Rye Patch State Recreation Area;
  • Land between two parcels owned by Humboldt River Ranch south of Rye Patch Dam;
  • Specified lands in the West Humboldt Range; and
  • Checkerboard lands throughout Pershing County.

Additionally, the Secretary is authorized to make acre for acre swaps as long as the lands the federal government would be acquiring has important conservation values, increase public recreational opportunities, or improve overall manage efficiencies.  Any transfers conducted via exchange do not count towards the 150,000 acre cap. 

MAP: 02092017 Pershing County Title I Map - Checkerboard Resolution Area

Disposition of Proceeds – Title I, Section 104

The proceeds from the sale of BLM lands under both Title I and Title II will distributed as follows:

  • 5% will be paid to the State of Nevada for education;
  • 10% will be paid to Pershing County; and
  • 85% will be placed into a special account dedicated to facilitating trades and swaps, the conservation and restoration of sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat, drought mitigation, and wildfire prevention.

Covered Land Conveyances – Title II

Specified lands identified in maps will also be made available for sale. These conveyances include a variety of requests submitted by mining companies with proposed projects in the county that would consolidate land ownership. 

Pershing County will also secure the conveyance of the Unionville cemetery. The Unionville cemetery was established in the 1870s and has been in continuous use ever since. At some point, it was discovered that the cemetery lies on BLM land and the BLM is now prohibiting new burials there. Conveying the BLM lands containing the cemetery to the County would uninterrupted use of the cemetery.

MAP: 02092017 Pershing County Title II Map - Covered Conveyances

Designation of Specified Wilderness Areas – Title III

In the early 2000s, Pershing County participated in an effort to resolve the status of wilderness study areas and other BLM lands with wilderness character in Pershing County. Through this effort, county stakeholders reviewed existing and potential future land uses on the county’s wilderness study areas and other wilderness character lands and made recommendations for future management of these lands.

These recommendations include wilderness designation for the following areas:

  • Mt. Limbo – this area includes 11,855 acres of the Mt. Limbo Wilderness Study Area.
  • North Sahwave – this area includes 13,875 acres of wilderness character lands in the northern Sahwave Range. 
  • Bluewing – this area includes 24,900 acres of lands with wilderness characteristics in the Bluewing Mountains north of the Sahwave Range.
  • Selenite Peak – this area includes 22,822 acres of the Selenite Mountains Wilderness Study Area.
  • Fencemaker – this area includes 14,942 acres of lands with wilderness characteristics in the north end of the Stillwater Range.
  • Grandfathers’ – this area includes 35,339 acres in the Tobin Range, including most of the China Mountain Wilderness Study Area, a portion of the Tobin Range Wilderness Study Area, and wilderness character lands along the crest of the Tobin Range between the two wilderness study areas.
  • Cain Mountain – this area includes 12,339  acres of the Augusta Mountain Wilderness Study Area.

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Selenite Peak

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Grandfathers'

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed N Sahwave

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Mt Limbo

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Blue Wing

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Fencemaker

MAP: 02092017 Pershing Co Proposed Cain Mountain

Release of Selected Wilderness Study Areas – Title III, Section 304

As part of the process undertaken in the early 2000s to study wilderness study areas and other wilderness character lands in Pershing County, stakeholders identified lands that should be released from wilderness study area status back into multiple-use. These lands have been managed as wilderness for years.  This provision releases portions of the Augusta Mountain, China Mountain, Mt. Limbo, Selenite Mountains, and Tobin Range totaling 48,600 acres. These areas are identified in each individual wilderness map.