US Senate passes Nevada land bills

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — After more than five years of wrangling, the U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan package of land bills to spur Nevada's economic development while extending protection to some unspoiled areas.

Friday's action follows the House's approval of the measures last week. The legislation, included in a defense spending bill, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was pleased by passage of a package that was forged after years of hard work by diverse interests. It was the product of collaboration by local officials, tribal leaders, ranchers, miners, conservationists, sportsmen and others.

"Our public lands are part of who we are in Nevada — and the diversity of our lands reflects the diversity of our identities," he said in a statement. "This legislation respects that diversity and provides for balanced development and job creation throughout Nevada while protecting vital natural and scientific resources."

One of the measures allows the sale of 10,400 acres of federal land to Yerington to support development of Nevada Copper Corp.'s mine and other business projects while creating the 48,000-acre Wovoka Wilderness.

Another bill sets aside 26,000 acres northwest of Winnemucca as the Pine Forest Range Wilderness while allowing nearby ranchers to secure land exchanges with the government to ensure their economic future.

Other measures will make thousands of acres of federal land available for private development and job creation across the state.

In the north, Elko County will receive 275 acres for a motocross park and the Fallon Naval Air Station will get 400 acres for housing. In addition, Fernley will end up with 9,100 acres and Carlin with 1,400 acres for multi-use development.

In the Las Vegas area, the legislation creates the 22,600-acre Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument and expands the 195,819-acre Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area by 1,530 acres.

Also in the south, measures designate nearly 1,900 acres of federal land for a new University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus in North Las Vegas, some 650 acres to both Las Vegas and North Las Vegas for "job creation zones" and 1,200 acres to Clark County for an off-highway vehicle park.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who introduced six of the seven land bills in the House, called the package of bills historic.

"I want to thank the people of Northern Nevada for their patience and hope they will benefit from these measures," he said in a statement.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said the legislation would have a direct impact on all Nevadans.

"This bill will open the door to economic development, job creation, mining, ranching, and protect some of Nevada's treasured lands which will preserve our state for its next generation of citizens," he said.

Lyon County Manager Jeff Page said the legislation would allow Yerington and Nevada Copper to start planning the roads, water, sewer and power to serve both the mine and other business projects. His county was the hardest hit of Nevada's 17 counties by the recession.

"This is a great day for Yerington, Lyon County, Northern Nevada, and indeed all of Nevada, to add another cornerstone for economic development in this region," he said.

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