Sell off the federal lands

Steve Hill, a Las Vegas businessman and new executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, visited with us this month to discuss a new 178-page report from the Brookings Mountain West division, recommending new ways to diversify Nevada’s economy.

While Nevada still scores high (everything is relative, you understand) on its tax and regulatory climate, cost of living and transportation infrastructure, the report finds the state is held back by a low-skilled work force; an underperforming K-12 education system; relatively high energy costs, and a lack of startup capital.

Mr. Hill also mentioned the fact that development in many Nevada communities is stymied by the fact they’re essentially “land-locked” — surrounded by federally controlled land not available for taxable development.

All these problem areas are worth addressing — especially raising science, technology, engineering and math attainment in grades K-12. (Hint: Tax credits for caring parents who escape the unionized youth propaganda camps and send their kids to private schools.)

But most of these efforts will take time — a lot of it.

Two would not.

Energy costs are soaring too fast for the good of the economy, here as elsewhere, not because American energy companies aren’t finding plentiful new sources of relatively inexpensive coal, gas, and oil — they are — but because of feel-good political mandates that require an ever-increasing share of our energy to be produced by costly and inefficient methods which will collapse the day their federal subsidies end.

No one is saying those technologies should be banned. But this isn’t Shangri-La, and our economic recovery shouldn’t be dependent on wasteful windmills now falling into disuse all across the nation for failure to pay their way, on Red Chinese solar farms that never get built, and/or wishful thinking involving elves in hollow trees.

The state Legislature in a day could and should get rid of purely political requirements that local utilities buy anything but the cheapest, most reliable energy available — a step that would likely result in the real economic stimulus of sharply lower electric bills.

Meantime, Nevada’s congressional delegation could and should work together — allied with the delegations of any other Western state willing to cooperate — to quickly enact legislation requiring the federal government to turn over vast swatches of the real estate it controls in this state for private development, either through state auspices or direct sale or homesteading.

(Some say the federals “own” this land. I’m still waiting to see the bill of sale showing these lands were “purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be,” as required by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.)

Yes, some modest efforts to release parcels of federally controlled land have been undertaken in the past, primarily here in the Las Vegas Valley. But federal bureaucrats have often chosen to interpret those congressional instructions under a “no-net-loss” doctrine, arguing that if a thousand acres were to be made available for taxpaying uses here in the Vegas Valley, the federals must of course gain control of another thousand acres — usually more — for “preservation,” for “riparian habitat study,” or some other such rigmarole, elsewhere in the state.

Such a policy has an obvious mathematical limitation.

What’s required now is to break that barrier, declaring that the goal is a MASSIVE “net loss” of Nevada lands held off state and local tax rolls by federal “management.”

No one is talking about turning national park lands into housing tracts and used car lots. But how can a state diversify and prosper when 87 percent of its lands — not your occasional picturesque canyon or isolated archaeological site, but vast parcels of vacant windblown scrub brush larger than many an eastern state — are “off limits”?

Try barring private homes and business from 87 percent of the land area of Connecticut or Maryland, and see how far you get.

From supplying silver to fund the Civil War to the era of nuclear testing, Nevadans have been happy to do their part, and more, for America. Now Washington can do something to help the state hardest hit by the Great Recession — something that won’t really cost the federals much of anything:

Give Nevada back to the Nevadans.

2 Comments to “Sell off the federal lands”

  1. MamaLiberty Says:

    “Nevadans have been happy to do their part, and more, for America.”

    I’d be very interested to see you write more about what you mean by this. I “do my part” by being responsible for my own life and property – in voluntary cooperation with my neighbors. What more can anyone do without theft and violence against the rights of other individuals?

  2. liberranter Says:

    Give Nevada back to the Nevadans.

    Not likely that a leviathan dictatorship constantly seeking further aggrandizement of its own power will do anything of the sort. Expect things to trend in the opposite direction.