Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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Fed land auction program implemented

WASHINGTON -- The Bureau of Land Management has successfully implemented a federal land auction program in Southern Nevada, federal inspector say, and the plan provides better control of money it raises.

The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, enacted in 1998, allows BLM to auction off public land in Southern Nevada and use the money for education, environmental and capital improvements in the state.

As of August the law has generated $407 million.

"We are pleased to report that BLM has made great strides in implementing the act," said an audit of the program made public Thursday.

The Interior Department inspector general's office said the agency has created a project office focusing only on this law, established a good working relationship with all levels of government involved and has created an special U.S. Treasury account to manage land sale money, among other things.

"The success of the land sales program confirms the value of using competitive sales to let the marketplace set the price of the land to be sold," the audit said. "Partnerships with local government agencies to nominate federal lands to be sold contributed to BLM's success because only lands desired for development were offered for sale."

The report notes, though, that BLM's Project Office overseeing the land sales needs to improve control over administrative expenses like salaries. It encouraged the BLM Nevada State Office to exercise "stringent oversight over these expenses."

The IG said that the project office could start grossing more than $1 billion in federal land sales and that "such large sums could represent a serious temptation for BLM managers to use part of these monies to supplement their budgets."

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