BLM resumes work on update of Southern Nevada resource plan

In 2008, federal land managers launched the first major revision of their overall management plan for Southern Nevada since 1998.

A decade later, they’re still working on it.

Or, more accurately, they’re working on it again.

The Bureau of Land Management restarted the planning process last fall, more than a year after State Director John Ruhs called a temporary halt to the work.

Now the agency is seeking public input on what the revised Southern Nevada District Resource Management Plan should include.

Starting Tuesday, the BLM will hold six public meetings throughout the southern part of the state. Bureau officials will be collecting input through Feb. 2 as part of a renewed push to finish the sweeping revision by 2021.

“We are glad that it’s finally getting back underway,” said Nye County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen. “We’re also glad they took a hiatus, because there were a lot of issues that needed to be addressed.”

Land-use blueprint
The resource management plan serves as a sort of blueprint that guides specific land-use decisions for 3.1 million acres of federal land in Clark County and the southern tip of Nye County.

Since the plan’s last major update 20 years ago, the region’s population has grown by almost 1 million people.

“It’s in need of a refresh, that’s for sure,” said Gayle Marrs-Smith, field manager for the BLM in Southern Nevada.

The bureau released a first draft of the revised plan in October 2014. Among other things, the approximately 2,200-page document identified more than 25,000 acres for solar energy development and proposed protections for 277,915 acres of sensitive wildlife habitat, cultural and archaeological resources and unique scenic landscapes by expanding or establishing new “Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.”

The draft drew thousands of critical comments and some outright hostility.

Nye County declared the plan “repugnant” in an official resolution, narrowly passed by county commissioners in early 2015, that said “ ‘no’ to the Bureau of Land Management.”

Marrs-Smith said the BLM is not starting over from scratch but rather expanding on its first draft to incorporate some of the issues raised by the public three years ago.

“We want to make our range of alternatives cover everything from soup to nuts,” she said.
Right now, the revisions are focused on five specific topics: renewable energy development zones, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, lands with wilderness characteristics, land suitable for disposal and development and socioeconomic needs in Southern Nevada.

New monuments to consider
A lot has changed just in the three years that have passed since the BLM first trotted out its initial draft.

In late 2016, former President Barack Obama created Gold Butte National Monument on about 300,000 acres in northeastern Clark County. Then he was replaced by a Republican administration that promptly recommended a boundary reduction and other changes for the BLM-managed site.

No specific changes have been ordered for the monument yet, so Marrs-Smith said the her office is using Obama’s proclamation to write a management plan for Gold Butte as part of the broader planning process for all of Southern Nevada.

To that end, the bureau also is inviting input on the monument during the current comment period.