On Oct. 28, the U.S. Air Force published its final Legislative Environmental Assessment Impact Statement for the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) land withdrawal at Nellis Air Force Base.
The Air Force has proposed removing an additional 301,507 acres, although several alternatives have also been suggested and submitted to Congress for review.
In January 2018, representatives from Nellis Air Base held two public meetings in Lincoln County, one in Caliente, the other in Alamo, to talk about their desire to expand the NTTR.
As was explained at the meetings, the NTTR currently covers about three million acres in Lincoln, Clark and Nye Counties.
Of the several alternatives presented, 3C was the one most favored by the Air Force. It calls for the removal of 227,000 acres from south of Lower Pahranagat Lake down through Clark County. Of those acres, 154,378 would be in Lincoln County.
Alternative 3C would permanently close a number of well-known areas for sportsman, hikers, mountain bikers and hunters.
In August, Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA) Executive Director Jeff Fontaine explained that such a withdrawal would have an economic impact on the county amounting to $1,353,895, based on the Air Force’s own calculation of $8.77 per acre on recreational land use.
In Feb. 2018, 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 NTTR’s entire South Range. Non-military usage of the range would require the approval of Air Force.
However, after taking oral and written public testimony in a number of meetings, the Oct. 28 final environmental impact study intends to include Alternative 2, 3A-1, 3B, 3C, and 4C.
At the Nov. 13 board meeting, commissioners, further concerned by the Air Force’s decision, approved a resolution supporting continued access and recognition of certain rights on the proposed NTTR withdrawal in Lincoln County.
They unanimously opposed the inclusion of Alternative 3C, containing approximately 160,000 acres, stating that it represents another “taking” within Lincoln County.
In the resolution, commissioners requested the following with regard to the proposed Alamo withdrawal:
Public access for recreation and tourism should remain.
Access on existing roads should remain. This includes the Alamo, Old Alamo, Old Corn Creek, and Cabin Springs roads.
Access for necessary and proper resource management should remain.
If necessary, seasonal access closures for public safety and security could accommodate U.S. Air Force activities.
Continued access for limited Desert Bighorn Sheep hunting should remain.
Varlin Higbee, the Lincoln County Commission representative to Nellis Air Base, was not present at the meeting for comment.
Congress has reserved the authority for renewing the NTTR land withdrawal through the Defense Withdrawal Act of 1958 (43 USC Sections 155158), and will make the final decision. The current NTTR land withdrawal expires in 2021, unless legislation is enacted extending it.