At a tumultuous meeting in late January, the Nevada Association of Counties endorsed a movement to turn control of federal lands over to state government.
on by 70 ranchers and miners, the group approved a letter to
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Agriculture Secretary Mike
Espy. It proposed that Nevada assume control of its public lands -
approximately 87 percent of the state. Dick Carver, the rancher and
Nye County commissioner who led the effort, said a group called the
County Alliance to Restore the Economy and Environment wrote the
letter to "make the secretaries bring out all their cards' in
negotiations proposed by the group.
state officials, who at one point were called crooks and liars by
some in the crowd, told the group the alliance's interpretation of
law and the constitution was "misguided." "There is no legal
support for the notion that local government can interfere with
federal government," said Greg Addington of the Justice
Carver admitted that his group is
"not looking at going to court" to test its theories. Nevertheless,
he insisted that "Nevada law is supreme" in management of its
public land. He claimed that the U.S. Constitution and numerous
Supreme Court decisions support the county alliance's position. An
attorney representing the alliance, Terry Aurillo, responded to a
question about shooting a bald eagle by saying the Endangered
Species Act "doesn't apply on state lands."
After the meeting, Nevada deputy Attorney
General Wayne Howle said the issue was not so much a state vs.
federal issue, as public vs. private. "These people want to own the
land," he said. But like the Sagebrush Rebellion of the late 1970s,
Howle said, the movement to assert state and county control over
federal lands is symbolic and doomed to fail.
endorsement of the county alliance strategy by the Nevada
Association of Counties may say more about the dwindling power of
the state's rural counties than it does about how most Nevadans
want their public lands managed. The association allows one
representative per county, and thus favors Nevada's 15 rural
counties over more populated Clark and Washoe counties, home to Las
Vegas and Reno.
Nevada Association of Counties
board member Thalia Dondero, whose Clark County constituency makes
up about 65 percent of the state's population, did not attend the
meeting. But she objected in writing to the endorsement of the
county alliance's letter.
HCN Great Basin