October is the expected date for the release of the final Nellis Air Base Military Lands Withdrawal Legislative Environmental Impact Statement.
In January 2018, the U.S. Air Force held two public meetings in Lincoln County, one in Caliente, the other in Alamo, to talk about its desire to expand the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR).
As was explained at the meetings, the NTTR currently covers about three million acres in Lincoln, Clark, and Nye Counties.
The Air Force has proposed adding 301,507 more acres, although several alternative plans have also been suggested and submitted to the U.S. Congress for review.
Jeff Fontaine, executive director of the Lincoln County Regional Development Authority, reported at the group’s Aug. 20 meeting about a meeting he held recently with Michael Ackerman of the Air Force.
Of the several alternatives mentioned, 3C is the one that seems to be favored by the Air Force. It would call for the removal of 227,000 acres from south of Lower Pahranagat Lake down through Clark County.
Of those acres, 154,378 acres would be in Lincoln County and Fontaine said he told Ackerman the total economic impact to Lincoln County alone would amount to $1,353,895, based on the Air Force’s own calculation formula of $8.77 per acre on recreational land uses.
In February, county commissioners sent a letter to the Nevada congressional delegation opposing Alternative 3C, favoring Alternative 2 instead. This measure would allow the Air Force to take complete control of the entire South Range of the NTTR. Any non-military usage of the range would need to have the approval of the Air Force, possibly including cattle operations, where they have not been any since the late 1970s.
It would also allow for military operations to increase 30 percent, and allow for one additional sonic boom.
Varlin Higbee, the Lincoln County Commission representative to Nellis Air Base, said Alternative 2 is what the county prefers if the land withdrawal does go ahead because it would also allow for well-known areas such as Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Pine Creek Road, Saddle Mountain, Cabin Springs, White Rock, Sheep Pass, sand dunes at Dry Lake Springs, Rug Mountain, Alamo Road, and Corn Creek to remain open to sportsmen and hunters. Alternative 3C would permanently close all those areas.
Higbee said when the final impact statement is released, he and Fontaine “might have to make a number of phone calls, maybe even a trip to Washington, and between the two of us, I think we can hopefully get something out of this and not just a big goose egg.”