Horrible news from the Congressional wrap-up . . . Nevada ughh!

I had meant to discuss this too, but KT just posted a detailed comment on the awful White Pine County, NV lands bill that did pass. This measure, which was attached to the omnibus bill,  designates over 500,000 acres of scenic desert mountains as Wilderness, but outside the Wilderness it is privatization of our public lands and a lot of other awful stuff. Let KT tell it. . . . Ralph Maughan

White Pine Designs: Chopping Up the West, County By County


Harry Reid and John Ensign’s White Pine Rider, with all of its land privatization schemes, was attached to the “Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006”.

This can be found at:


The “White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act” starts at page 264. It includes:

Rapid sale of 45,000 acres of BLM in White Pine County. (Note: This was preceded by the Reid and Ensign Lincoln County Bill that authorized selling off around 100,000 acres of BLM land to the south in the same Bill that legislated the water pipelines rights-of-way for Las Vegas in both Lincoln and White Pine counties).

The sale of our public lands is then to be used to provide: 10% for County use (fire protection, law enforcement, education, public safety, housing, social service, transportation and planning) –All made more costly through fast-track development of BLM lands sold off, development of an OHV trail that will increase human-caused wild land fires, etc.).

The remainder of the BLM land sale proceeds go to:

  • reimbursing BLM for surveying and appraisals on the land to be privatized
  • cultural surveys (necessary for the land sales, also to clear the way for the purposeful burning, chopping, chaining, biomassing, etc. under this Bill’s Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition provisions below
  • a “study” of routes for the Silver State OHV Trail
  • developing and implementing the Silver State OHV Trail
  • maybe developing “conservation plans” for “at risk” species (and the risk just got considerably greater for these species as their habitats are fragmented by development and OHV Hells under this Bill)
  • maybe a study of non-motorized recreation .

Water Rights:

The Bill continues “because of the unique nature of the land designated as wilderness … it is possible to provide for proper management and protection of the wilderness … by means other than a federally reserved water right”. Reid and Ensign must have been chuckling over this provision! Their Lincoln County Bill legislated the Las Vegas aquifer-sucking pipelines and wells that will de-water the same aquifers that underlie the wilderness areas – making the lands unique, indeed!

Silver State OHV Trail: EXTENDS the OHV Trail designated under the Lincoln County Bill with a spur running north (to Elko County and the Spruce Mountain Trail no doubt) and west (to Utah).

Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project: This is Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative on steroids, and applies to both White Pine and Lincoln Counties.

Fearmongering over wildfire concerns (with fire risk increased considerably from development to be spawned by public land privatization, OHV trails, etc.), the Bill unleashes large-scale taxpayer-funded manipulation of public lands.

It enables the Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project, spawned by the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC), to “reduce hazardous fuels” and “restore” rangeland and woodland, and perhaps a local “research” facility to study the effects of the public land treatments.

The White Pine Bill authorizes the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to make grants to this private non-profit ENLC (largely livestock and other local interests with token enviro presence). Millions of dollars are going to be handed over to this local group to chop, chain, chip, burn, “masticate”, turn into biomass, and otherwise alter pinyon-juniper and sagebrush habitats across 12 million acres – and kill woody vegetation to benefit of the public lands cattle and sheep industry. This also makes a large function of the BLM and Forest Service irrelevant, and privatizes management of public lands. And of course, with an ENLC middleman, costs will increase, local cronies will get project bids, etc.

The White Pine Bill is also likely to accelerate global warming and desertification (see Un Report!!!!), as lands (including in the new Wilderness areas) are deforested by the ENLC to grow cattle and sheep grass.

A close parallel to this – and quashed even in Idaho in the 1990s – was the Federal Lands Task Force, where National Forest land management would be turned over to state ‘collaborative’ groups – to facilitate logging. A chief spokesman for the Task Force idea was Willam G. (?) Myers III, the cattle industry lobbyist, and thwarted Bush Ninth Circuit nominee.

Now, the Democratic majority leader-to-be in the 110th congress has just bullied this privatization and local control scheme as part of a Rider onto the last act of this Congress.

The Bill also designates 12 “unique” no water rights new Wilderness areas (where ENLC burning and other manipulation is likely to occur) totaling 558,000 acres– in by and large the last threatened, rocky, rugged areas of White Pine County. Other provisions: Military can do whatever it wants over Wilderness. WSA Releases: Bill releases BLM WSAs (no maps available on-line that I have seen). Wildlife: NDOW can do pretty much whatever it wants in wilderness. Other BLM land conveyances and privatization, and a direct conveyance of land to White Pine County for sale, including for “non-residential development”.

As a biologist, I’m outraged at the loss and fragmentation of public lands under this latest quid pro quo deal.

Will Harry Reid as majority leader end up legislating more OHV Trails, privatizing BLM lands so coal-fired power plants can be built, turning tax dollars over to local cronies, and selling off public land under cover of Wilderness? A national spotlight needs to shine very brightly on doings in Nevada right now, so that the public can be better informed about just how “green” the Democratic leaders may be.

Juniper and pinyon pine burn on Cherry Creek Mountain, White Pine County Nevada. We will see a lot more of this now that the bill has passed. What is wrong with this? The area is being cleared for livestock use. They think it will grow grass and claim it will restore the landscape. Look at its fertility. It coarse sand. It will grow a bit of grass–cheatgrass

Note that pine nuts come from pinyon pine, and they are probably more valuable than the meager amount of livestock that can be raised in the area. Meanwhile the United States imports pine nuts from China.




  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar

    Non illegitimus carborundum.

  2. dcookie Avatar

    Sorry, what’s “KT?”

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    KT is a person I know who likes to comment, his lots of information, and I guess wants to use no name for posting other than “KT”

  4. Kim Avatar

    isnt ‘dirty Harry” a democrat,,, what happened to the “green” that was supposed to be returned to after the power in Washington changed,,,,

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Harry Reid is a Democrat, of course, but when it comes to mining he had never been good.

    John Ensign, the other Senator from Nevada, is a Republican who has always been bad on grazing issues. The bill was a product of Reid and Ensign.

    Jim Gibbons, the new Republican governor of Nevada, was the co-sponsor with now-defeated Richard Pombo, of the scheme of a year ago to sell off the public lands to the mining companies.

  6. Bob Brister Avatar
    Bob Brister

    Conservationists have got to get a grip on reality. The Democratic Party leadership is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Dump the two-party system.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yeh, but the Green Party seems to have become a vehicle for electing Republicans. If it wasn’t for Ralph Nader, Dubya would never have been President.

    This year Republicans tried to get the Green Party on the ballot in PA where they hoped to split the Democratic Vote. The Green Party’s nominee went along with the scheme.

    Of course, you might be referring generically to another party.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    It should be noted that the sale of the BLM land is likely to build a coal-fired power plant.

    Now Nevada has no coal, and Ely in White Pine County is an unlikely site for a coal plant, except for one thing — most of the pollution will blow into Southern Idaho and Utah. Nevada has tried this scheme before (trying to put a big coal plant in NE Nevada).

  9. dcookie Avatar

    Thought you might want to ponder a comment from Democrats at DaillyKos blog:

    “The Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Project appears to be a coalition of ranchers and wildlife groups focused on improving range conditions in Eastern Nevada. Based upon a Google search of this group, they appear to be good guys.
    This is the way things work in Eastern Nevada. The ranchers want water, hate wild fire and are more often than not members of Ducks Unlimited and other wildlife groups. In addition, the BLM owns the majority of the land in Nevada and selling off some land near Vegas to fund conservation efforts makes sense. I haven’t looked into the details of the land sale and while I believe some people will not approve of it, I think it makes sense in the context of local politics.”

  10. kt Avatar

    Here is one of the first things ENLC tried to do:

    See http://www.pinenut.com/complaint.htm

    Pasted below are exerpts from a legal brief filed by Western Watersheds Project, American Lands Alliance and the Committee for the High Desert over the Ely Mount Wilson Urban Interface Project (actually mostly in the middle of nowhere) several years ago.

    “43. On August 3, 2001, BLM, by and through the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, solicited contractor bids on both the Mt. Wilson and Ely Urban Interface Projects, even though NEPA analysis and decision-making was not completed for either project.”


    The Proposed Actions call for the complete removal of all trees within all drainages across nearly 50 square miles with the project areas.

    50. BLM plans on employing 30-ton track-mounted feller-buncher machines to fell the trees, and self-propelled 30-ton whole tree chippers will then chip the trees. Both the feller-bunchers and chippers will travel cross-country throughout the project areas. Trees will be removed from slopes up to a 50% grade on all BLM-administered lands, and up to a 30% grade on USFS-administered lands.

    51. The wood chips will be spread on the surface of the land to “an average depth of two inches” across the entire project area, an area totaling almost 50 square miles. BLM proposes to spread approximately five (5) to fifteen (15) tons of chipped pinyon and juniper trees per acre, totaling between 315 to 945 million pounds of chips across the entire project area.

    52. Both the Mt. Wilson and Ely EAs are premised on the unsubstantiated proposition that large-scale clearing of a pinyon-juniper forest is required to protect small areas of private property against the threat of catastrophic fires.”

    Yes, Harry Reid and John Ensign’s White Pine Bill is all about enabling ENLC to take over functions of BLM, and skim a hefty sum off the top for “administration”. So projects like this one (a Settlement was reached in the lawsuit after BLM brought its national level fire people in – and even they aghast at the scale of it). The project was reduced to around thirteen percent of the original area … saving tax payers at least 10 million dollars or so …

  11. Tara Ferma Avatar
    Tara Ferma

    The BLM doesn’t own most of the land in Nevada–the American people do. BLM manages it in trust for all citizens. Much of it is Public Domain land that was never claimed through the settlement laws and historic giveaways–and for good reason, since there was no water.

    Now, engineering makes all manner of obscenity possible, and in the 2004 Lincoln County land sell-off bill, the first shoe dropping toward a great water grab, Harry Reid laid the groundwork for 450+ miles of FREE right-of-way on public land so that Las Vegas could build pipelines through Lincoln County and eventually into White Pine to take northern Nevada water. White Pine County is believed to be the shangri-la of groundwater in NV, and that is where the pumps will pump.

    To buy off local interests in White Pine, who once were vaguely and are now definitely worried about the water grab, Reid gifted them with a bill that doubles the amount of public land to be sold by BLM in the county and dumps the land-sale proceeds into the county. Our public land sold off, and the money given to locals.

    Recently, the White Pine County commissioners, increasingly worried that they were being played, asked that a water study put in place in the 2004 Lincoln Co bill be extended geographically to include their county. Reid said no, he would not add that to the bill–it would jeopardize his support in Las Vegas (which demands a perpetual state of deinal about the future impacts of its water piracy).

    No one holds a candle to Harry Reid’s propensity for public land sell-offs and water seizures, nor does any sagebrush Republican ideologue rival his anti-public-land sentiment. Harry, above all others, sees public land and water as a gifts to be meted out to cronies,. “Resources” to be used, developed, destroyed, paved, run through casino fountains, and cashed out to support more Las Vegas subdivisions and infrastructure.

    The darkest secret of the whole deal is the corporate environmental groups’ support of his bill and others like it. The Wilderness Society and other groups are joined at the hip with Reid on any land deal he cares to make. It’s what we used to call “co-dependency.” See:




    The Western Lands Project in Seattle has some critical related papers and news articles on its website, including a paper co-written with Western Watersheds at

    and an analysis of recent bills that includes the White Pine bill at:

    The White Pine bill, passed as a rider to the tax bill a few days ago, included some changes since it was introduced, but the changes apply to amendments the bill tacked on to a 1998 land bill for Las Vegas. Still intact is the 45,000-acre sell-off, some outright giveaways of federal land to the county and State, the funnelling of federal land proceeds to the County, and projects to chew up and regurgitate the landscape of the eastern Nevada desert.

    Reid may feel slightly exposed on his land deals as incipient majority leader, since he’s been written up numerous times on his lands deals by the Los Angeles Times and recently the AP. Best to get his nasty bill passed as a cloakroom deal in a Corrupt GOP Congress than as the out-front “leader” who is calling for reform and open government out of one side of his mouth and dealing away our public lands out of the other.

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    One thing I have to ask. How much of this is Harry Reid and how much of this is Nevada’s other senator Republican John Ensign?

  13. Tara Ferma Avatar
    Tara Ferma

    Harry Reid is the most senior member of the NV delegation, recently the minority leader, before that the minority (and briefly majority) whip, now about to be the majority leader. Ensign doesn’t lead Reid by the nose.

    Reid has said he will go county by county through Nevada doing kitchen-sink land sell-off and “wilderness” bills. Lander, Lyon, and Pershing counties are readying their wish lists. Reid defended his practice on NPR a couple of weeks ago, declaring that it may be federal land, but it’s inside the NV state boundaries, so really it’s Nevada’s. Thus handily dismissing the entire concept of public land.

  14. Franklin Seal Avatar

    Tara points out the greatest danger posed by White Pine and the other Nevada bills — the precedent it establishes for the rest of Nevada, and for other states. It might “make sense in the context of local politics” — as the dcookie’s post above about the Daily Kos forum emphasizes — were it not for the fact that it has huge impacts far beyond the borders of just the local county named in the bill. We here in Utah just spent the last year defeating the Washington County land grab bill, which was a direct descendant of the Clark County and Lincoln County bills. If those bills had not passed, we would never have been threatened by such grossly horrendous legislation. The idea that, if it works for the ranchers and enviros in Ely, that should be enough, is a comfortable illusion. The idea that all aspects within an ecosystem are interconnected needs to be applied to the political environment as well.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well these need to be stopped. Protection for some desert mountains is not worth it, especially coupled with destruction for the non-protected mountains.

    Nevada is trying to suck all of aquifers in the State dry to continue the obscene water use of Las Vegas. They are even making a bid for water under Arizona and Utah.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan