Navy expands Fallon training complex land application

The public has until August 2 to comment on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed four-year “land management evaluation” for the Navy’s latest application to further increase the public and private land withdrawn or acquired to enlarge the Fallon Range Training Complex.

The Navy’s amended application would more than triple the existing FRTC. The Navy now requests 769,724 acres of public land dedicated to ground and aerial combat training. The increase includes 92,482 acres of public and 1,001 “non-federally owned” land beyond the Navy’s 2016 application for 678, 670 acres of land it had already asked the BLM to set aside.

The Navy also wants the existing 223,557 acre land-withdrawal renewed but says more land and air space are needed for longer-range aerial weapons training. “The DON” (Department of the Navy) has threatened to close the entire FRTC if the expansion plan is not approved.

The expansion could restrict access to surrounding public and private land used for mining, grazing, recreation and other economic activities in Pershing, Churchill, Lyon, Mineral and Nye Counties. A letter from Pershing County requests a change in the B-20 bombing range expansion so that a county road remains open for public access in the south end of the county.

Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to decide if the FRTC needs to be expanded. Meanwhile, the BLM and the Navy are required by law to accept public comment on the plan for public land withdrawals, county road closures and private land acquisitions to accommodate the expansion.

“This notice and comment will allow opportunity for the BLM to receive input from the State of Nevada, potential stakeholders and the local community in order to adequately address potential concerns about the overall size of the withdrawal expansion and the potential impacts to existing multiple uses and resources including critical and other minerals, geothermal resources, livestock grazing and recreational access,” the BLM’s public notice states.


In a draft letter to BLM Acting Director Brian Steed, Pershing County Commission Chairman Robert McDougal requests adjustments to the Navy’s planned B-20 bombing range expansion at the north end of the training range to minimize the impacts on Pershing County.

If approved this week by the entire Pershing County Commission, McDougal’s letter will also go to other high-level BLM and Department of Interior officials, the Fallon Naval Air Station, Senator Dean Heller, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Congressman Mark Amodei.

An expansion to the north of the B-20 bombing range would impact a major county road, a mining project and other economic development, McDougal says in the letter. He requests that the north boundary of Bravo 20 remain to the south of Pole Line Road/Bombing Range Road.

“Specifically, Navy’s proposed Bravo 20 expansion area extends into Pershing County and overlays the County’s Bombing Range Road which is part of the County’s official transportation plan. This road is an important connection between US Highway 95 and Coal Canyon Road. Moreover, Bombing Range Road provides the only access across this portion of southern Pershing County and is access to thousands of acres of private land as well as a significant iron mine that straddles the county line,” McDougal said in the letter. “Pershing County does not support the taking of Bombing Range Road and the impacts this will have on our county.”

The Nevada Iron Mine is outside the training complex but the road and a possible rail corridor for ore transport would be within the Navy’s proposed bombing range expansion. The economic impact on the county would be “enormous” if Bombing Range Road is closed, McDougal said.

“This project will provide over 200 high quality jobs for the area as well as other economic benefits for Pershing County,” he said. “In addition to impacting the county road, the expansion area will prohibit the construction of a rail line from the Nevada Iron Mine to their rail siding adjacent to US Highway 95 which renders the mine project economically impracticable.”

The iron mine is mentioned briefly in the BLM’s EA for the proposed land management evaluation. Nevada Iron has not applied for a rail corridor right-of-way according to the BLM.

“Nevada Iron (also known as Buena Vista Mine and New Nevada Resources) has expressed interest in a rail line from the Nevada Iron Mine, located outside the LME withdrawal area, to U.S. 95 through the LME withdrawal area north of the DON’s (Department of Navy’s) B-20 Range to transport materials. However, no application has been submitted to the BLM.”

Unless the rail line is permitted, it could be delayed or prohibited if the BLM’s four-year land management evaluation and the Navy’s latest training range expansion plans are approved.

Nevada Iron is an Australia-based company that purchased the Buena Vista magnetite deposit for $6 million in June, 2011. The mine could produce up to 1.75 million tons per year of magnetite iron concentrate over a mine life of ten years, according to the Nevada Iron website.

In addition to economic impacts, the Navy’s expansion could impact PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) paid to the county by the federal government for untaxed public land in Pershing County.

McDougal said he supports the Navy’s expansion plan but opposes a road closure that would impact private land and economic development in south Pershing County.

“While Pershing County supports the training mission of Fallon Naval Station, we do oppose the expansion of the B-20 range over the County’s Bombing Range Road and Pole Line Road in Churchill County,” he said. “In the forthcoming extension, we request BLM to reduce the extent of the withdrawal to preserve the county road. Moving the expansion boundary to the south of the county road will protect this vital transportation route, allow for economic development of the Nevada Iron mine, and eliminate the impact on private land ownership in Pershing County.”


James Drake owns 40 acres near Bombing Range Road and within the Navy’s proposed expansion of the B-20 bombing range. His plans for a cattle ranch and bentonite mine are on hold due to the possible military expansion. Drake said the expansion would impact other landowners, small miners and ranchers. In his 2016 comment letter to the Navy, Drake also asked that the B-20 bombing range boundary stay to the south of Bombing Range Road.

“Moving the proposed area two miles south preserves access to recreational areas in the surrounding mountain and valley areas,” he said. “Bombing Range Road and Wild Horse Pass would (not) be closed and would continue to be accessible by the public. Wild Horse Springs would remain open to public access as well as watering and grazing areas for domestic animals and wildlife. By moving the expansion two miles to the south, the need to acquire private land is dramatically reduce resulting in a cost savings in land acquisition by the Navy.”

The BLM and the Navy will host a meeting on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 5 to 7 p.m. at the Fallon Convention Center to explain the land management evaluation and the FRTC expansion plan.

As of May 4, the public had 90 days to comment on the Navy’s amended land withdrawal application and the BLM’s Environmental Assessment of the FRTC expansion plan.

Comments can be submitted by email to: Comments can also be faxed to 775-885-6147 or mailed to BLM Carson City District, Attn: NAS Fallon FRTC, 5665 Morgan Hill Road, Carson City, NV 89701.

The BLM’s EA and related documents are available at