The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act 2004
Following the passage of the “Clark County bill” in ‘02, Nevada’s senators turned their attention to the north and east. Using the same basic template found in the Clark County legislation, the delegation sought to address the myriad of public land and growth issues facing Lincoln and White Pine counties. Initially, White Pine County seemed the next in line for congressional action, but Lincoln County jumped to the head of the pack. The senators responded by requesting that various interest groups provide Congress with their vision of the county.
The Nevada Wilderness Coalition, spearheaded by NWP, was ahead of the game in some respects. We had already field-inventoried and proposed land in Lincoln County as part of the Citizens’ Proposal for Nevada’s Mojave Desert Region. There was much work left to do, however, and ultimately we released a report, Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal: Lincoln and White Pine Counties, in June 2003.
The report recognized both the likelihood that White Pine County might be addressed after any Lincoln County legislation and our resolve to look at broader ecological implications for Wilderness, as opposed to just county-boundary implications. We were concerned that a “county process” was not the preferred way to address Wilderness in the state. We reserved the right to not participate in this legislative effort if we felt wilderness was not being given a fair shake.
The challenges faced by public land in Nevada are great, so it is no surprise that legislation dealing with these challenges represents a continuum of uses, some of which are most decidedly not based in conservation. Like the Clark County legislation, Lincoln County was NOT a wilderness bill. The bill provided for release of some wilderness quality land, conveyance of public land for private/local uses and legislated rights of way for water to be provided to fuel the growth of Las Vegas. We testified before Congress in opposition to the rights of way for water pipelines and while we recognized the right of the county to seek land for future growth, we opposed the amount of land identified for disposal.
In the end, however, more than 760,000 acres of Wilderness was recognized by Congress—the largest single amount of Wilderness ever designated in the state. From towering pine-covered peaks to Mojave-bajada, the Lincoln County legislation protected some spectacular landscapes. And we made inroads to protecting areas previously not recognized by federal land managers as having wilderness characteristics.
More needs to done. Still unresolved are the incredible wilderness landscapes of the Desert National Wildlife Range, the Pahranagat Range and its rich pre-settlement history and the wide stretches of cholla and wash that extend south from Lime Mountain towards Mesquite.