Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2019

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Several federal agencies own, oversee large parts of Nevada

state land map


1. Red Rock National Conservation Area

2. Basin and Range National Monument

3. Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area

4. Hoover Dam

5. Davis Dam

6. Nellis Air Force Base

7. Creech Air Force Base

8. Area 51

9. Nevada National Security Site

10. Las Vegas Paiute Reservation

11. Moapa River Reservation

12. Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation

13. Desert National Wildlife Range

14. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

15. Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

16. Lake Mead National Recreation Area

17. Great Basin National Park

18. Tule Springs Fossil Beds

19. Death Valley National Park

20. Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (including Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and Mount Charleston)

If you were to amass all of the federally owned land in Nevada, the 10 smallest states in America, plus Guam, would fit inside.

Many conservative Nevadans view the federal government’s presence — it owns about 85 percent of the state — as an overreach, an argument that motivated the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s and ’80s and the Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014. Liberal opponents, however, point out the federal government provides many services, such as wildfire protection, that the state couldn’t afford if it managed the land.

The debate was rekindled this month when President Barack Obama designated 700,000 acres in southeastern Nevada as the Basin and Range National Monument, fulfilling a longtime goal of ally Sen. Harry Reid. Basin and Range is the second national monument designated in Nevada in the past year, joining the Tule Springs Fossil Bed near Las Vegas.

But often lost in the debate is that multiple federal agencies own the land, and do so for different reasons. Here’s a guide to who owns what and why.

Bureau of Land Management

Acres owned: 47.8 million

Key sites: Red Rock National Conservation Area Basin and Range National Monument Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area

Mission: The nation’s largest landlord, the BLM oversees the vast majority of Nevada’s public land. It has the complicated mandate of balancing recreation and conservation while also allowing grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling and other development.

Bureau of Reclamation

Acres owned: 652,000

Key sites: Hoover Dam Davis Dam

Mission: The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for building and maintaining dams and power plants to provide water and electricity to tens of millions of people in the West.

Department of Defense

Acres owned: 281,000

Key sites: Nellis Air Force Base Creech Air Force Base Area 51

Mission: The Department of Defense operates a number of military bases and test ranges in the state, mostly in Southern Nevada.

Department of Energy

Acres owned: 865,000

Key sites: Nevada National Security Site

Mission: The Department of Energy’s Nevada holdings are limited to a stretch of land northwest of Las Vegas formerly known as the Nevada Test Site, famous for its 928 nuclear bomb tests over 40 years and as the proposed home of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Acres owned: 1.3 million

Key sites: Las Vegas Paiute Reservation

Moapa River Reservation Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation

Mission: The bureau primarily is responsible for managing land held in trust by the federal government for the 21 recognized tribes in Nevada. The agency also plays a role in providing social services, law enforcement and infrastructure repairs to the communities.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Acres owned: 2.3 million

Key sites: Desert National Wildlife Range

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Mission: The agency’s goal is to conserve biological diversity, which it does by managing nine protected wildlife areas around the state that contain critical habitats for 37 threatened or endangered species.

National Park Service

Acres owned: 800,000

Key sites: Lake Mead National Recreation Area Great Basin National Park Tule Springs Fossil Beds Death Valley National Park

Mission: The agency manages national parks, national monuments and other natural or historically significant trails, lakeshores, rivers and sites.

U.S. Forest Service

Acres owned: 5.8 million

Key sites: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (including Spring Mountains National Recreation Area and Mount Charleston)

Mission: The agency oversees the country’s system of national forests. It primarily is focused on conservation and recreation in Nevada, although it manages logging on public land in other states.

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