Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 | 3:32 p.m.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has been racking up a roster of Nevada lands bills, adding its approval of a bill to dedicate a national monument in the fossil beds of Tule Springs to the list of completed legislation.
That puts all eyes on the House Natural Resources Committee, where lawmakers have yet to weigh in on Tule Springs and another piece of notable Nevada land legislation — the Yerington land conveyance bill to aid the development of a copper mine and designate wilderness lands in Lyon County.
Only two of the 22 senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee — Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Tim Scott, R-S.C. — declined to support the Tule Springs legislation during a vote today.
The bill was initially introduced in the Senate by Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Dean Heller, who sits on the Energy Committee.
In addition to designating a monument at the prehistoric fossil site, the Tule Springs legislation would set aside tracts of Southern Nevada land for the expansion of college campuses, the development of commercial enterprises and the expansion of the national conservation area at Red Rock Canyon.
Southern Nevada lawmakers praised today’s developments as an important step.
“Today’s committee passage is a significant step in this bill becoming law,” Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that in the New Year the House Natural Resources Committee will take similar actions to advance this important legislation.”
In the new year, seeing these bills through the Natural Resources committee will become the chief responsibility of Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev. He is the only Nevada representative to sit on the body since Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., was named to the House Appropriations Committee, beginning in January.
Appropriators are not permitted to sit on authorizing committees.
Horsford said earlier this month that House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., had promised him a full committee vote on the Lyon County bill — the next procedural step — in January. Horsford is hopeful that consideration of the Tule Springs legislation will follow.
The committee has already approved some Nevada public lands bills this year. The Three Kids Mine bill, for example, was given the committee go-ahead over the summer and passed out of the House weeks later. The Senate approved it last month.
But Nevada has yet to get a wilderness bill through the House committee. If the committee reports the Lyon County bill favorably, it will be the first and, Horsford said, will pave the way for more legislation to follow.
“These bills...they will transform Yerington. They will transform Tule Springs. And there are other bills that would help create jobs throughout Nevada,” Horsford said. “And that’s my focus.”