With towns in Northern Nevada growing, the BLM reports more unauthorized uses of federal public land

It’s common to hear about property disputes among neighbors. But what happens when your neighbor is the federal government?

This is a question that occupies an increasing amount of time for Victoria Wilkins, an acting field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Sierra Front division. From a BLM district office tucked away in Carson City, Wilkins says the agency is seeing more issues in the region — from Reno to Gardnerville — over where the federal domain begins and private land ends.

The BLM is charged with managing vast stretches of public land — about 67 percent of Nevada — for a variety of activities, including grazing, recreation, mining, wild horses and conservation. Although much of the agency’s landholdings are expansive ranges located in faraway valleys, many BLM parcels encircle private land or sit adjacent to it. As towns around the region grow, Wilkins said her office has seen more unauthorized uses of BLM land. The intrusions into the federal domain are often accidental (BLM land is not always marked), but they are still illegal.

“The more people we get concentrated in an area, the more these issues seem to be surfacing,” Wilkins said during an interview at the Carson City District before Memorial Day weekend.

Three weeks earlier, Wilkins said the district office caught someone blading a road into public land. Wilkins said the office gets a report like that at least once a month. There are other types of realty trespass too. She pointed to cases where landowners have accidentally built parts of their homes or sheds on public land, often because of faulty surveying. Or there are cases where private landowners will use a public road for private access without proper right-of-ways. A more recent form of trespass has been the construction of fuel breaks, areas of land where vegetation has been strategically removed to stunt runaway fires.

The BLM district has also seen an inexplicable uptick in abandoned vehicles. Where the local BLM officers used to see five or 10 abandoned vehicles, they have reported 47 this fiscal year.

“We don’t know [why],” Wilkins said. “We’re trying to figure that out.”

Across the Mountain West, more and more residents are purchasing homes near undeveloped land, especially as cities and even rural towns push the rural interface outward toward wildland. The trend has often placed more pressure on land managed by the agency. And in some cases, the ownership divide is unclear without a survey or map. In other cases, newcomers to the area can be unfamiliar with the rules governing public land, which can vary between regions.

Bret Birdsong, a UNLV law professor and a former deputy solicitor for the Department of Interior, said that the issues are especially prevalent in areas where human development abuts wildland.

“Part of the big picture is there are a lot of border lands where BLM land is bordering private land,” Birdsong said. “And just as with private land, it’s not all that unusual for there to be disputes or encroachments that occur because boundaries are not always clearly marked.”

The BLM deals with a variety of trespass issues that are not limited to land ownership. In fact, the concept of trespassing on public land is at the heart of the agency’s ongoing legal dispute with Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy. After Bundy stopped paying fees to graze his cattle on public land — the BLM requires ranchers to operate under 10-year grazing permits — a court order found that he was trespassing on the federal domain by illegally running his cattle.

Other cases of trespass include the unlawful removal of minerals, which are managed by the BLM. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a settlement with a Colorado oil and gas company over drilling in a railroad right-of-way without permission from the land agency.

Those cases are different. Those trespasses were willful. The trespasses reported to the BLM’s Carson City District, which includes the growing region around Reno, are often accidental.

Boris Poff, an acting assistant field manager in the BLM’s Las Vegas Field Office, said that more people are reporting trespass because more people are using public land. But Poff, who works in the lands division, said he is not sure that’s correlated to an overall increase in trespass.

“[For] most people we deal with,” he said, “it’s an honest mistake.”

Poff said the agency tries to settle many of the land issues amicably. Still, the BLM’s Southern Nevada division opened up 13 trespass cases over the last year and has 21 ongoing cases.

On May 7, the Carson City District Office sent out a news release reminding residents to check land ownership rules before they build a road, fuel break, fence or other structure. But the news release also cautioned that trespassing could come with consequences, including fines. In some cases, such as when part of a house is built on federal land, the agency can require a property owner to pay the fair market value for the land. When a trespass is willful, the penalty can be twice or three times the market value for the land or the charges for using a public road.

One or two land trespasses might seem benign, but they can add up. Birdsong said there are several issues at stake for the BLM, especially if the trespass occurs in sensitive habitat, like riparian areas. He said the agency also has a responsibility to manage the land for the public. And if the agency does not enforce its rules, it could signal to bad actors that it’s open season.

Wilkins said that she suspects that many trespasses result from a lack of understanding around public land, access and right-of-ways. But it’s becoming such a problem that title companies are aware of the issue, she said. And the office is now considering educating real estate agents.

“[One] thing that we’ve been talking about is doing some educational workshops with real estate agents so that they can help their clients identify potential pitfalls,” Wilkins said. “A lot of people want to live next to public lands, but they don’t always think about the things that can happen on the adjacent public lands — dirt biking, hiking, the horse use, vegetation removal projects, fire.”

Source: With towns in Northern Nevada growing, the BLM reports more unauthorized uses of federal public land


THE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS CONSERVATION ACT – What You Need to Know!

On By Steve Busch

The 2019 Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act  (WCCA) is perhaps the most significant attack on private property rights in decades, perhaps ever.  A simple look at the list of sponsors of the proposed legislation provides plenty of warning about what this new law portends.

The WCCA was introduced in Congress in May 2019. In the Senate, the bill is being led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), and was cosponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen  Don Beyer  (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL).

REWILDING advocates and their minions in Congress are ecstatic over what this “ACT” will lead to once it is enacted.  Don’t be fooled, folks! This legislation doesn’t SAVE wildlife!  Non-endangered species such as grizzly bears and wolves don’t need your private property or more Federal land to survive.

The WCCA is NOT about building “squirrel bridges” over highways so our little furry friends can cross the road safely.  It is NOT about reducing highway collisions between motorists and moose.  It is NOT about reducing “conflicts” between large carnivores and people.

The WCCA provides for a system of “National Wildlife Corridors” which will affect all future decisions regarding Federal land and water management plans and activities.  The Act provides corridors for “existing native species habitat”  and also for “future native species habitat” as required to ensure “species resiliency”.

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The WCCA  seeks to permanently reverse the  “EXTIRPATION” of large carnivore species such as wolves and grizzly bears by ensuring population connectivity in the face of human development and/or any other human-caused factors including “climate change”.    The law will require that land where a species is “currently absent”  but once was historically occupied by a particular species, is “colonized or recolonized by the species” either through “re-introduction or restoration of habitat”.

The new law will empower the environmental lobby even further by allowing taxpayer-funded “Regional Climate Science Centers” and “Landscape Conservation Cooperative Networks” to continue operating outside the legislative process and having a disproportionate influence on land management planning and policy.

The WCCA establishes regional “Wildlife Movement Councils” which will involve multiple NGO’s and various stakeholders.  Private property owners, such as farmers and ranchers, will be allowed a seat at the table, but they will remain in the minority and are included only to add a veneer of cooperation and consensus for decisions they will be unable to successfully challenge.

The WCCA guarantees that rural communities here in the Inland Northwest will increasingly become surrounded by lands identified as “essential” to the movement of large carnivores species (grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, wolverines, lynx, etc.)  These movement corridors will come at the expense of other wildlife species, human safety, and private property rights.

“Grizzly bears need room to roam… Grizzly bears don’t follow human boundaries, and often, our parks are simply too small for this wide-ranging species. When they venture outside of protected areas, they are hunted, hit by cars, or come into conflict with people. But just like how people need highways to get from one place to another safely, grizzly bears, and other species, need wildlife corridors to move from protected area to protected area in search of food and mates. The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would provide these essential paths, protect grizzlies and drivers from dangerous highway collisions, and help to reduce conflicts with people by giving grizzlies a safer route around cities and towns.”   [Wildlands Network]

Yes, highway wildlife crossings are certainly part of the sales pitch.  We all want safer roads.  Nobody in their right mind wants to collide with an animal on the highway.  But the WCCA isn’t about traffic safety!  It’s about adding yet another layer of burdensome regulations affecting thousands of square miles of America and changing how our society functions.

As private property becomes increasingly useless due to new and more restrictive land use regulations, conservation easement programs may eventually become the only viable option for bankrupt landowners.  The “Wildlife Movement Grant Program” and the “Wildlife Corridor Stewardship Fund” as outlined in the WCCA, will help ensure the continued destruction of property rights in America.

For further reading:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/1499/text

http://conservationcorridor.org/cpb/WHCWG_2010.pdf

http://conservationcorridor.org/cpb/WHCWG_2011.pdf

https://wildlandsnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Information-Packet-2019.pdf

https://oldmanoftheski.com/2013/04/08/rewilding-the-interior-beware-the-lccs/

https://oldmanoftheski.com/2017/04/14/rewilding-america-on-youtube/

Source: THE WILDLIFE CORRIDORS CONSERVATION ACT – What You Need to Know!

Nevada AB291 – Rules Suspended, Bill Completely Changed and Passed by The Senate.

AB291 was sent to the Governor late Friday, May 31st, 2019.  The bills final Senate version looks very little like what was passed out of the assembly earlier this month. After suspending the rules, the Senate amended the bill and added the verbiage from two other bills that never made it out of committee, giving them a life they were not supposed to have.  Red Flag and Gun Storage Laws were added to replace all of the Preemptive State Gun Law that was removed.

May 20, 2019 by associated press  CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety says it supported a proposal at the Nevada Legislature that would have allowed counties to pre-empt state gun laws and pass stricter firearm regulations but it became clear that the measure could not pass this year in the face of opposition.

The proposal was part of a broader gun bill moving through the statehouse but the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, released a statement Friday saying she was removing the provision at the request of Everytown and other groups. The provision is expected to be replaced with language creating a so-called "red flag" law allowing police or family members to seek an order to seize guns from people who appear violent or may post a danger. 

Everytown deputy press secretary Zoe Sheppard says "there is a real path" to pass a red flag law in Nevada "that can save lives right away. She says Everytown will try again in the future to pass legislation allowing counties to set their own gun control regulations.

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Saturday, June 1st, Second Amendment supporters rallied with members of the Nevada Republican Assembly Caucus in Carson City as well as Las Vegas.


Briefing in Pahrump water order appeal filings complete

The briefing in the appeal case regarding Nevada State Engineer Order #1293(A) has reached its conclusion.

The documents for all parties involved are now undergoing the process of screening by the Nevada Supreme Court, which will decide whether or not to move the case forward and hold a hearing to allow for oral arguments.

In addition to the Nevada State Engineer’s Office, which is the appellant, and Pahrump Fair Water, the respondent, a third party has joined the battle as well. The Nevada Groundwater Association requested leave to file an amicus brief, taking the side of Pahrump Fair Water in the argument, and the Nevada Supreme Court has granted that request.

The water order has been the source of much contention since it was originally issued in December 2017.

The order restricts the drilling of new domestic wells in the Pahrump Valley unless two acre-feet of water rights have been relinquished in support of the well. For some Pahrump property owners, water rights were already relinquished when their parcels were initially created. However, for many others, this is not the case and the order requires these property owners to first purchase water rights and relinquish them back to the state before they can drill a domestic well on their land.

Pahrump Fair Water, an organization composed of local property owners, well drillers and real estate agents, filed suit to put a stop to the water order. After several months of legal maneuvering, a judge with the Fifth Judicial District Court rendered a ruling in November 2018 in favor of Pahrump Fair Water and overturned the water order.

That was far from the end of the matter, however, as the Nevada State Engineer’s Office took its opportunity to file an appeal, which is the case now before the Nevada Supreme Court. While the case is being considered, the Supreme Court has issued a stay on the ruling that overturned the water order, meaning at the moment, the order is still in effect.

The basic argument between the engineer’s office and Pahrump Fair Water stems from the question of just how far the state engineer’s authority extends when it comes to domestic wells.

Pahrump Fair Water asserts that the engineer does not have the power to regulate domestic wells except in very specific circumstances, which the organization argues do not exist in the given situation. The state engineer, conversely, proclaims that the engineer’s office can, in fact, restrict domestic wells and withdrawals from such if the engineer finds that it would be in the best interest of the health of the overall water basin to do so.

There are several other points argued by both sides in the briefs filed in the case, including those regarding due process requirements and whether potential new domestic wells constitute a vested property right or protectable interest.

Now the case has reached a “wait and see” point, as there is no definite schedule for when the Nevada Supreme Court might decide to hold a hearing in the matter.

“There is really no way to tell,” David Rigdon of Taggart and Taggart, LTD, the law firm representing Pahrump Fair Water, stated when asked about a possible time line for the case. “I’ve seen the screening process take as few as 45 days and as long as seven to eight months. It all depends on their workload. In the order approving the stay, the court stated that they wanted expedited briefing… However it’s not clear whether the court will expedite its screening and review.”

The appeal is filed under Case No. 77722. All associated documents can be reviewed online at www.nvcourts.gov

 

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

Call to action on AB 95

The Nevada Legislative Session is has just three weeks remaining until it comes to a close and the fate of hundreds of bills depends upon the decisions made in these final days.

In a email sent out May 14 to area residents with a deep interest in local water resources, Nevada Assemblyman Greg Hafen II urged the community to reach out to Nevada Senators and ask them to vote “no” on one particular bill, Assembly Bill 95.

The bill calls for changes to Nevada water law that many have been pushing back against. It would require the Nevada State Engineer, “…to continue to allow withdrawals of groundwater from domestic wells under certain circumstances in groundwater basins where withdrawals have been restricted to conform to priority rights,” according to the bill language.

The bill dictates that domestic wells would be allowed to continue pumping half an acre foot of water it times of curtailment but only if the owner installs a water meter. The idea of water meters is something Pahrump residents have been extremely resistant to for years. Many have also argued that the state engineer does not have the authority to curtail domestic wells at all, a belief that is current under debate in a lawsuit between the engineer’s office and Pahrump Fair Water.

A bill very similar to Assembly Bill 95 was before the Nevada Legislature in 2017 and after the public outcry, it ultimately failed to pass.

“I rise today in opposition to Assembly Bill 95. Assembly Bill 95 tramples over 100 years of Nevada water laws to the detriment of all water users,” Hafen stated from the Assembly Floor on May 14. “We heard from many Nevadans during the bill’s hearing about the negative effects of the bill. There was not one person or organization in support.”

“Currently, domestic wells in my district are already only using an average of half an acre foot per year,” Hafen continued. “Conservation is the key to solving Nevada’s water issues and this bill does nothing to promote conservation, but does have a financial burden to well owners by requiring them install a meter. I urge my colleagues to vote ‘no’ on Assembly Bill 95.”

Details on the bill and a list of all Nevada Legislators along with their contact information can be found online at www.leg.state.nv.us

— Robin Hebrock, Pahrump Valley Times

Source: Briefing in Pahrump water order appeal complete