Interior secretary releases disputed Nevada public land funds

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reversed Trump administration efforts to slash a Nevada public lands program Wednesday and released nearly $106 million for recreation and wildfire programs in the state.

Forty-seven new projects will be funded as a result through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, established by former Sens. Richard Bryan and Harry Reid, both Nevada Democrats, and then-Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev., in 1998.

The funding comes from the sale of public lands in the Las Vegas Valley, with the proceeds earmarked for improvement and conservation programs in the state and in the Lake Tahoe Basin of California.

“This program is a concrete example of the department’s continued commitment to being a good neighbor through increased recreation opportunities and access,” Bernhardt said in a statement.

Program targeted for years

The Trump administration and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tried to slash the program in past years.

Trump’s first two budget blueprints called for cuts to the program. The administration then sought to take the funds, but that move was blocked by Congress.

Bernhardt’s announcement that funds would be released to Nevada entities or U.S. agencies to spend on projects in the state marks a significant turnabout for the administration, said Rep. Dina Titus, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation.

Titus had demanded that Zinke and Bernhardt release the funds collected under the program, which is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

She called Bernhardt’s announcement “good news.”

“I fought the Trump administration for two years to give us this money that is rightfully ours,” Titus said.

Titus said she would continue to defend the program for Southern Nevada “residents and visitors who chose to hike, swim and play in our parks and open spaces.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., hailed the decision. “I’m glad these long-overdue funds are finally being returned to the state and invested in projects that will make Nevada healthier and more sustainable,” she said.

Bernhardt called the announcement an example of the Interior Department “creating a legacy of conservation stewardship.”

The funds from land sales in the Las Vegas Valley will be used for a variety of programs and projects that include trail and habitat restoration, conservation, capital improvements and the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands.

Where the money will go

Entities that will receive money for projects include Clark County, the cities of Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas; Lincoln County, White Pine County, the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

The Interior Department noted that BLM will use $4.45 million of the funds to buy 419 acres of agriculture conservation easement on the historic Van Sickle Station Ranch near Genoa in Douglas County.

The purchase will protect local wildlife, migratory bird habitat, groundwater recharge and open space. In addition, the owner will donate two multi-use trail easements to provide the public with additional recreation opportunities, according to the Interior Department.

The BLM also will use $1.45 million in program funds to build between 40 and 65 miles of multi-use trails, trail heads, parking and campgrounds and camping areas in the Highland Range area of Lincoln County.

Lincoln County, the city of Caliente, the Nevada Division of State Parks, the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the Back Country Horsemen of America and the Wilderness Society and regional and local proprietors are part of the collaborative project.

Since the Act passed in 1998, the program has generated $3.6 billion for projects in the state that include the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitor center, renovation of Lorenzi Park in Las Vegas, public areas at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and landscape restoration in Eastern Nevada.

By law, the state of Nevada General Education Fund gets 5 percent of proceeds and the Southern Nevada Water Authority receives 10 percent, according to BLM.

Breakdown of the funding
The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act has provided $3.6 billion in project funds in the state of Nevada since 1998, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced and additional $106 million in projects.
• Parks, trails, and natural areas, $26.7 million.
• Capital improvements, $27.7 million.
• Conservation initiatives, $13.2 million.
• Environmentally sensitive land acquisitions, $21.6 million.
• Hazardous fuels reduction and wildfire prevention, $5 million.
• Eastern Nevada landscape restoration project, $6. 1 million.
• Special account reserve, $5 million.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Land Management

 

Source: Interior secretary releases disputed Nevada public land funds


WESTERN WATER: Judge on landowners’ plight: ‘I won’t say the word “screwed”‘

Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter

There, government lawyers urged the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to toss a lawsuit from Nevada landowners who say a federal restoration project stole their water and flooded their land.

At issue is Patch of Heaven, a Christian camp on private land nestled within the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.

The Nevada church Ministerio Roca Solida bought the 40-acre site in 2006 for $500,000. At the time, a stream called the Carson Slough flowed across the property, feeding plants and a small pond and sometimes serving as a site for baptisms.

In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages all of the surrounding land, rerouted the channel in a restoration project to help the Ash Meadows speckled dace, an endangered fish that lives in the area’s warm springs.

Annette and Victor Fuentes, who own Ministerio Roca Solida, say the government owes them compensation for eliminating the stream from their property — except for a trickle of water the site claimed through a state permit — and rerouting it in a way that causes repeated flooding on another part of the parcel.

The couple teamed up with the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation and attracted the support of Westerners opposed to federal land management, including the Bundy ranching family infamous for its conflicts with government agencies.

Speaking at a boisterous rally at Patch of Heaven last year, Ryan Bundy offered to demolish the FWS project himself (Greenwire, April 23, 2018).

The mood was decidedly tamer during yesterday’s hearing, where just five spectators — including one reporter and one court employee — listened to more than two hours of technical arguments involving property rights, water law and hydrology.

Judge Elaine Kaplan must decide whether to grant the government’s motion for summary judgment rather than allowing the case to proceed to trial.

The church’s claims are twofold: that the government’s elimination of streamflow on the land without payment amounted to an unconstitutional taking of vested water rights, and that the diversion project’s contribution to flooding was also a taking.

Justice Department lawyers yesterday disputed both claims. The government contends the landowners are not entitled to the water rights they claim, and, in any case, that issue should be adjudicated by the state of Nevada, not the Federal Claims court.

The two lawyers from DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division also attempted to poke holes in the Fuenteses’ flooding claims, dismissing the plaintiffs’ expert testimony as unsubstantiated and noting that the broader area is prone to flooding.

“Plaintiffs would like this court to believe … that there was never flooding on that part of the property,” DOJ attorney Davené Walker said, adding that the area is part of a flood zone and has a well-documented history of such events.

Walker explained that to win a takings claim against the government for flooding, the plaintiff must show that FWS caused the flooding and intended or expected it to happen. Ministerio Roca Solida has offered no evidence to support either prong, she said.

Mountain States Legal Foundation lawyer Zhonette Brown, in turn, questioned the evidence presented by the government.

Kaplan, an Obama appointee, agreed with the government that Ministerio Roca Solida’s expert testimony appeared “a little thin,” but she questioned whether it would be appropriate to resolve the case in favor of the United States at this stage, without allowing the church to make its case at trial.

She also empathized with the Fuenteses on their loss of the stream, regardless of whether FWS’s project was lawful.

“I won’t say the word ‘screwed,'” she said of the landowners, eventually landing on the word “injured.”

The judge added that she’s never heard a water rights case or a flooding case before and will need some time to consider the competing evidence.

“Your Honor’s more than welcome to come out to the property,” Brown said, “so you can make your own conclusion.”

Dried-up baptimisal pool. Photo credit: Jennifer Yachnin/E&E News
The former baptismal pool at the Patch of Heaven camp in Amargosa Valley, Nev. A “legal evidence” sign refers to the camp’s owners’ lawsuit with the Fish and Wildlife Service over diverted streams and flooding. Jennifer Yachnin/E&E News

Source


Household hazardous waste disposal event set for May 18 in Pahrump

May 8, 2019 - 7:00 am ~ Pahrump Valley Times

Nye County and U.S. Ecology are teaming up for the county’s very first Household Hazardous Waste Collection event, and residents will want to mark May 18 on their calendars.

Members of the Pahrump community and the surrounding area will be able to pack up all of the household waste that they cannot dispose of for curbside trash pickup and haul it to the Pahrump landfill to have it properly disposed of by U.S. Ecology.

Old paint is just one of the many items that will be accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Collection event set for May 18.

“The Hazardous Household Waste Collection event is something that has been talked about for years but never executed,” Nye County Public Information Officer Arnold Knightly said of the effort.

“U.S. Ecology does these events with its community partners around the country. This event came out of a site tour of their facility last year. Nye County Manager Tim Sutton placed the event as a priority, and Nye County Public Works Director Tim Dahl has been in close contact with U.S. Ecology representatives, who live here in Pahrump, in organizing the event.”

Knightly said events of this type are important to communities as they provide a safe, proper method of disposal for all sorts of products used in the home, ensuring they do not harm the environment.

Electronics, including computers and cell phones, can be taken to Nye County's upcoming household hazardous waste event so it can be properly disposed of by U.S. Ecology.

“There is always a concern that hazardous household waste will end up in our beautiful desert through illegal dumping and will damage the ecosystem. Whether it is animals digesting items, killing or slowing the growth of plants, or waste that ends up in the groundwater, this event is to give an outlet to people to get rid of those items in their garage they don’t know how to get rid of,” Knightly detailed.

U.S. Ecology will have large trucks on site which will run continually throughout the day, with all hazardous waste bound for disposal at the U.S. Ecology site just south of Beatty.

Acceptable waste

Many of the items commonly found stockpiled around homes, awaiting disposal, will be collected as part of the household hazardous waste event.

One of the most common household products and something that generally should not be thrown in the regular trash is batteries. Those made from lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, lithium metal, lithium ions, mercury, and alkaline will be gathered and disposed of properly.

Hazardous liquids will be taken as part of the event as well, including used oil, antifreeze and paint-related materials, such as latex or water-based paints, oil-based paints, lacquers and thinners, and lead-based paints.

Pool chemicals can also be disposed of, so long as they are in their manufacturer’s original packaging and contain a legible label.

Aerosols, both flammable and non-flammable, will be taken, along with electronic waste such as televisions, computers, printers and cell phones.

Mercury and sodium bulbs will also be accepted, as will equipment containing mercury, such as thermometers and thermostats.

Unacceptable waste

There are a variety of items that cannot be accepted at the upcoming disposal event.

Propane cylinders, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors will not be collected, and residents may not dispose of fireworks, flares or flammable liquids. Household cleaners are also on the unacceptable list, along with acids, bases, oxidizers, pesticides or herbicides.

Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, are unacceptable waste products, as are illicit drugs. Epoxies and resins, appliances, home furnishings, and explosives will not be accepted either.

The Household Hazardous Waste Collection event will take place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18 at the Nye County Landfill, 1631 E. Mesquite Ave. in Pahrump.

Source: Household hazardous waste disposal event set for May 18 in Pahrump


Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime

by Thomas Mitchell

Despite all the evidence that it will do more harm than good, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Nevada is still wending its way through the halls of the Legislature in Carson City.

Assembly Bill 456 would raise the minimum wage 75 cents per hour each year as it climbs from the current $7.25 per hour for those receiving company health insurance and $8.25 for those not insured until it reaches $11 or $12 per hour.

In his State of the State speech, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak called for raising the minimum wage and declared, “It’s impossible for an individual, let alone a family, to live on $7.25 an hour,” ignoring the fact almost no one “lives” on minimum wage. Fewer than 3 percent of workers are paid the minimum wage and most of them are under age 25 and working part-time. Most are supplementing family income rather than being self-supporting.

In fact, raising the minimum wage often results in jobs being cut and/or working hours reduced. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Now, a recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that raising the minimum wage can harm even those who are not being paid the minimum wage.

Using national crime data from 1998 to 2016, the study found “robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16- to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind.”

The study projects that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would result in approximately 231,000 additional property crimes, costing the nation $1.3 billion. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would generate over 410,000 additional property crimes and $2.4 billion per year in additional crime costs.

“We conclude that increasing the minimum wage will at best be ineffective at deterring crime and at worst will have unintended consequences that increase property crime among young adults,” the study authors concluded. They said that previous studies that projected a decrease in crime due to raising the minimum wage ignored the possibility of hours being cut and jobs being lost.

Don’t ignore the costs imposed on everyone when the minimum wage is hiked. A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

The Congressional Budget Office in 2014 estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

Without those entry level jobs younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay for a lifetime.

Still another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

It’s the immutable law of unintended consequences. Lawmakers should abandon their support for this bill, which would cause more harm than good.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Source: Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime