Nevada Becomes the 5th Western State to Explore the Transfer of Public Lands


On June 4, 2013, Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law AB227—“Nevada Land Management Implementation Committee”—making Nevada the fifth western state to actively explore the transfer of public lands to western states.  AB227 creates the Nevada Land Management Task Force, which will conduct a study addressing the transfer of public lands in the state.

This movement advocating for the transfer of western public lands began in Utah in 2012.  Utah State Representative Ken Ivory introduced and Governor Gary Herbert signed into law HB148— “Transfer of Public Lands Act”—which has subsequently become ALEC model policy for other state legislators to use as an example.

Since the movement began in Utah, legislation has been popping up across the country:

  • Idaho passed a resolution (HCR 21) commissioning a committee to ascertain the process for the state to acquire title to and control of public lands currently controlled by the federal government. In addition, Idaho passed a bill (HCR 22) that demands that the federal government transfer title to all of the public lands within Idaho’s borders directly to the State of Idaho.
  • Montana passed a resolution (SJR 15) requesting an interim study evaluating the management of certain federal lands, assessing risks, and identifying solutions.
  • Wyoming passed a bill (HB 228) that creates a task force to investigate possible legal recourses to compel the federal government to relinquish ownership and management of federal lands.
  • Colorado introduced a bill (SB 13-142) that was aimed at forcing the federal government extinguish title to all agricultural public lands and transfer title to the state.
  • The South Carolina Assembly passed a resolution (HR 3552) this year supporting the transfer of public lands to willing western states.
  • New Mexico introduced a bill (HB292) that would have created a Public Lands Transfer Task Force which would have defined public lands to be transferred from the federal government to the state and developed a mechanism for the transfer of federal public land to the state.
  • In the 2012 legislative session, Arizona passed (SB 1332) a transfer of public lands act only to have it vetoed by the Governor.

The federal government still controls more than 50 percent of all lands in the West.  It controls less than five percent of the lands in Hawaii and all states east of Colorado. In 2014, expect more states to press this issue both in the East and the West as state legislators are likely to continue to work together through ALEC and other organizations in order to gain back their land.

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