Bush signed the Lincoln County Lands Bill, modeled after the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, Nov. 30. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds will go to protect environmentally sensitive areas, archaeological sites and wildlife habitat within the county.
Some environmentalists were angry that the February auction even took place; Lincoln County's quest to sell public lands had been held up in court for years, as groups pressed for environmental studies. In March 2004, the Western Land Exchange Project won its lawsuit when a federal judge ruled that an environmental assessment had to be conducted prior to the land sale.
But the assessment never happened: Tucked in the language of the original bill was a clause saying that the land had to be sold within 75 days of the act's becoming law — and that trumped the court's decision.
"It's disappointing," says Chris Krupp, an attorney for the Western Land Exchange Project. "The court rules the agency didn't do an analysis, orders one and Congress ignores it. We're talking about a fragile desert site."
- Tom Darnell on Will public-lands ranchers pay more for grazing?
- Alan Stevens on Private property blocks access to public lands
- Linda VanFossan on California has one year of water left: Hype or reality?
- Joseph Yannuzzi on Sportsmen’s bill aims to open inaccessible public lands
- Robert Gates on Lessons from boom and bust in New Mexico