On Feb. 19, George Borden, economic specialist with the University Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas office, gave a presentation to the county commissioners about the new statewide Nevada Economic Assessment Project.

He said, “For the past year or two we have been working with state agencies, public land agencies, as well as the university group, to create a program we could actually take statewide that addresses what I think is one of the major issues: the lack of analysis.”

He cited the sage grouse problem as one that has not been properly addressed because of previous Environment Impact Statements. The repeated conclusion has been that there is no socioeconomic impact on the communities around the sage grouse areas. “We think that is wrong.”

He said, “Lincoln County is the first location where the new comprehensive assessment project will be used to develop a data template and data models to address the deficiencies that exist. I believe recording data can be very powerful and gather attention. But it also helps you, the locals, be better informed because we’ll have numbers and analysis data that can be referred to and provide a little more meaning.”

“The plan,” he explained, “is to build a data repository that goes across state lines, looking at not only what is the impact on dollars and jobs, but also what is the impact on some of the other socioeconomic indicators, i.e., housing, population, infrastructure, education, local government, tourism, agriculture, etc. Are areas really set up to handle the new growth that might occur in their area, seeking rather not to put the cart before the horse?”

Commission Chair Varlin Higbee said information posted on the UNR Cooperative Extension Service website for this project is “a real eye-opener for rural counties.”

The Nevada Association of Counties, a board upon which Higbee represents Lincoln County, has become a strong supporter of the project.

Borden said, “With these type of tools and quantitative methods in place, we can then respond to some things within 30 to 45 days because we’ll have the baseline already established and models built.”

Lincoln County will have its own impact model created with regularly updated and documented information on given topics.

Borden said, “We have actually already done some of that, looking at the economic impacts, with the bike trails around Caliente.” He said what was found is that, at present, Caliente is “lacking a lot of assets in terms of service … from the perspective of the local businesses, what other types of goods and services need to be made available for the visitor who comes here as the notoriety of the biking trails grows further?”

A play on a popular saying could be, “If they come, will you build it?”

He said that in early April or May the project leaders will hold a couple of informational workshops in Caliente to present the data and how the data can be used going forward.

“The University, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, State Road Department and various other state agencies,” he said, “want to partner with you to combine and centralize the data available, to help you better understand the challenges of public land that you may have, and I think anything that provides you a little more information can be beneficial.”

He added the Western Governors Association has also contacted his office about possibly implanting this plan into 18 western states. “The eyes are on us right now.”

Lincoln County is the first location this project is being utilized, and Borden said they hope to visit the other 16 counties over the next 18 months, spending three months in each one.

Bevin Lister said he saw the importance of the project as having data available that can be included in an Environmental Impact Study and consistent information that can be made available at a moment’s notice on dealing with wildfire issues. Borden said, “The data will help us be a little ahead of the game, and not trying to play catch up.”