The Bureau of Land Management is giving the public an extra month to review its sweeping new resource management plan for Southern Nevada, but that isn’t likely to satisfy those with concerns about the document and the agency behind it.
Clark County officials initially suggested the public comment period should be extended for a year, while some commissioners in Nye County seem to want nothing at all to do with the plan — or the BLM.
Amy Lueders, the bureau’s state director for Nevada, announced the time extension Wednesday. The comment period for the Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement was set to close Friday but will now remain open until March 9.
At a special meeting Jan. 21, Clark County Commissioners approved a resolution requesting a one-month extension, though the original version called for the comment period to remain open until Feb. 5, 2016.
One day earlier, the Nye County Commission narrowly passed what it called “A resolution saying ‘no’ to the Bureau of Land Management.” In it, Nye County condemned the BLM, declared the resource management plan “repugnant” and said it threatens to cause “further economic and environmental damage” to the rural county.
Though the county was a cooperating agency in the development of the plan, its comments and requests were “largely ignored by BLM,” the resolution states.
Four years in the making, the bureau’s plan will guide management of 3.1 million acres of federal land in Southern Nevada for the next decade or two. It represents the first major overhaul of the BLM’s plan for the area since 1998.
Though the plan would open more land for development, the bureau’s preferred alternative seeks to protect sensitive wildlife habitat, cultural and archaeological resources and unique scenic landscapes on 277,915 acres by expanding existing Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or by creating new ones.
More than 25,000 acres would be designated for new solar energy projects under the same preferred alternative, which BLM officials said balances resource protection with expanded use and development.
This marks a second 30-day comment extension since the updated management plan was released last year.
Clark County officials cited the document’s length — estimated at 2,200 pages — as a key reason for seeking additional time.
Commissioner Tom Collins said many people could be impacted by the plan, including hikers, hunters, off-roaders, ranchers and environmentalists. Those interest groups need to submit concrete concerns and specific suggestions, “not just object,” he said.
Like it or not, the plan is going forward, so everyone needs to “get out of the weeds and follow the process,” Collins said. “Thirty days is plenty of time.”
The proposal has drawn stiff opposition and even protests in Pahrump, where some residents and elected officials reacted with anger and frustration after the BLM hastily canceled a public meeting on the plan in November.
The meeting was never rescheduled and apparently won’t be, according to BLM spokesman Paul McGuire.
There is a long history of tensions between federal land managers and residents of the nation’s third-largest county by area, where well over 90 percent of the land is under government control. The current planning process has rekindled those tensions.
In 1995, Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver landed on the cover of Time magazine, the words “Don’t Tread on Me” emblazoned in red across his portrait, after he bulldozed open a road closed by the U.S. Forest Service.
Today, some in Nye County are embracing the current figurehead of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion: Cliven Bundy. The embattled Bunkerville rancher, whose standoff with federal authorities last year made international news, was recently invited to address county leaders about the BLM’s plan, and he played a role in drafting Nye County’s resolution in response to it, according to the Pahrump Valley Times.
But not everyone in Nye County is saying no to the federal government.
Commission chairwoman Lorinda Wichman, who cast one of two votes against the resolution because of its incendiary tone, said she has a good working relationship with several BLM offices in Nevada.
She added that Nye County staff has worked closely with the bureau over the past four years as the new management plan was developed.
Wichman said the extended comment period should give the county the time it needs to flesh out its wide-ranging input on the document.
“Every extra day we can get is a benefit,” she said. “I have every confidence in the world that we’ll be able to come up with something we can all live with.”
Contact Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.