Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2014

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Sage grouse plan endorsed by legislative committee

A legislative committee has endorsed a plan to preserve the habitats for the declining sage grouse population, but millions of acres of public lands continue to be open to grazing, mining development and energy projects.

The Legislative Committee on Public Lands approved the recommendations of a study group appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, but some were unhappy they didn't have a voice on that group.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, chairwoman of the legislative committee, and Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, both complained about the absence of legislators in Sandoval's study group.

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, said he was disappointed Sandoval disbanded the study group after it completed its recommendations. He said somebody needs to keep up the fight to see the federal government approves Nevada's plan.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giuchigliani said there is nothing to prevent the appointment of a restructured committee on sage grouse.

Allen Biaggi, vice chairman of the study group, said the governor is reviewing the recommendations and is meeting with federal officials. The governor is expected to make a decision in the next 30-60 days, Biaggi said.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has given western states the option of developing a plan to preserve the sage grouse or the federal agencies would make the decisions.

Debra Struhsacker of the Nevada Mineral Resources Alliance told the legislative committee the proposal of the Bureau of Land Management would prevent mining development on 14.6 million acres of public lands. She said there also would be restrictions on grazing on those lands.

There is a fear the sage grouse might be listed as endangered and result in further restrictions on the public lands.

Wyoming has gained federal approval for preserving the sage grouse, but Utah and Idaho have not.

The governor's committee has recommend that areas in Northern and Central Nevada be set aside as sage grouse management areas.

Speakers said the greatest threats to the sage grouse population are range fires and not grazing by cattle.

The legislative committee agreed to send letters to federal officials, and a resolution will be introduced in the 2013 Legislature. They will emphasize the steps being taken by Nevada to preclude the listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species.

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