Senator Catherine Cortez Masto along with her staff heard local concerns during last week’s meeting with Pershing County Commissioners Carol Shank and Rob McDougal. Commission Chairman Larry Rackley did not attend and no members of the public were there.
Cortez Masto’s office requested the meeting according to county commissioners. The visit was part of an outreach to her constituents before the Senate officially reconvenes on Sept. 9.
“I’ve been home kind of visiting, meeting with everybody, making sure we’re communicating,” Cortez Masto said. “I know my staff’s been here but I like to get out and talk to everyone, too. Right now, we’ll be figuring out how we appropriate the budget. We’ve already agreed on budgetary caps, now we’ll do appropriations. That’s about it until after the first of the year.”
Two concerns for county leaders are economic impacts of the Navy’s planned expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) into Pershing County as well as the long-awaited Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act that could make more public land available for sale, trade or transfer to the county or corporations for economic growth.
“The two big things from our point of view are the Naval base expansion and our lands bill,” McDougal said. “We’re really unhappy with the Navy right now. We have provided, at every EIS meeting, suggestions relative to the issues that would affect Pershing County. The EIS comes out and says there’s going to be no economic impact on Pershing County and that’s nonsense.”
McDougal said the county will be impacted by the loss of private and public land to the military and possible closure of Pole Line/Bombing Range Road for the expanded B-20 bombing range.
“They’re taking away private land and they’re wanting to take away an RS 2477 road. The Navy is saying we don’t recognize those. Well, that’s a federal designation,” he said. “Unless they start to respond to us a little bit and say, we can give you this if you’ll let us have this, we’re going to take a position of opposing it. We don’t want to do that — we respect our armed services and need for the base.”
Cortez Masto agreed that the Navy should address Pershing County and other community concerns otherwise risk losing support for expansion from Nevada’s Congressional delegation.
“They’ve got to come to the table. They can’t just assume that, we’ve heard everybody’s comments and now we’re just going to ignore everything because they won’t get the support,” she told county leaders. “They’ve got to figure out how we address these concerns ... As a delegation, we’re going to be united to make sure everybody is heard and that they are compromising and working with us. We all support their mission and mandate but at the same time, they’re part of our community.”
Cortez Masto said the Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act is still on the table and is a priority for her and “it’s going to get done.” But, there’s still some “concern” about the possible transfer, sale or trade of public land for private mining corporations.
“The hope is that we have an omnibus lands bill package that will pass this Congress,” Cortez Masto told county leaders. “That’s why we’re working our bills, this one in particular, to make sure it’s in the que and ready to go. There’s some from the BLM and some members of the Senate natural resources committee that are concerned about the transfers to private mining.”
The bill may have a better chance now that the natural resources committee membership has changed to include ranking member Senator Joe Manchin. Cortez Masto agreed.
“I think that he is somebody we can work with,” McDougal said. “He is one of the most bi-partisan members of Congress.”
Support from the Bureau of Land Management is also needed to get the bill out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate for a vote, Cortez Masto said.
“Our key is to make sure the BLM supports it,” she said. “The minute they don’t support (the bill), that kills it in committee. The minute we get it out of committee, the next step is getting the vote on the floor (of the Senate).”
Cortez Masto and her team promised to follow up on the long-awaited transfer of the Unionville Cemetery from the BLM to Pershing County. County leaders were recently notified of more bureaucratic delays before the deal could be signed off and published in the Federal Register.
“We did the appraisal and everything was ready to go. It was sitting on a desk in Washington, D.C. for the final signature,” Shank said. “The last word I got a couple of weeks ago, it was sent back to the (Winnemucca District) BLM office here...The whole process is taking so long. It shouldn’t take 20 years to get a transfer. We have people that want relatives buried out there.”