He hadn’t been seen for many years now. The ravages of the Great Recession had kept him at bay for nearly a decade. But he was not dead. Nor was he very far away. He was just lurking hungrily in the darkness, waiting for the tide to turn. Now that healthy economic conditions have rebounded in the region, he has again gathered strength. The great god of Urban Growth has risen again! And, as before, the peasants of outlying rural communities are being forced to make a long-delayed and costly tribute to his unholy temple.
Last week, Clark County revealed its newest proposal for a public lands bill in the southern Nevada region. It was a perfect study in the art of taking from the poor, what little they had left, and giving it to the rich, who always hunger for more.
The plan aims to gather less than 40,000 acres of public land to be released for new development just south of Las Vegas. But to do that, it must also gobble up nearly 400,000 acres from outlying rural areas, locking them up for good in the name of “conservation.”
For some reason, the Moapa Valley communities have been called upon to pay an inordinate share of this tribute. Nearly 40,000 acres to our west, frequently used for off-road recreation and other purposes, would be locked down as a new Muddy Mountains Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). But even more painful would be the loss of roughly 10,000 acres, currently marked as BLM disposal land, right there on the east bench of the lower Moapa Valley. This land, nearby and entirely ideal for development, has long been considered the cherished nest egg for future growth in the community. But this plan would seize all of it away in a new Mesa Milkvetch ACEC.
To divert our attention from that catastrophic loss, we are told that this land will be replaced by shiny new disposal areas to our north. Unfortunately, these new lands are far from a replacement. Firstly it is much less acreage. But more importantly, the topography and condition of the newly offered land is generally unsuited to development. In fact, it is nearly worthless as an engine for future growth. Thus, the proposal amounts to a crippling stranglehold on our economic future.
So what compensation does the community get for all of this sacrifice? It is true that we do not go away entirely empty-handed. The resolution does toss out a lean bone in the conveyance of some federal land over to the community for water infrastructure; as well as a few other public recreational uses. Of course, this is a significant benefit; and County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick should be credited for championing those concessions in our behalf.
But all together, those “benefits” add up to less than 200 acres: a drop in the bucket to what is being wrested from us! And when it comes right down to it, we really shouldn’t have to barter for those at all. They are public lands! And the uses being requested are public uses; not private development. We shouldn’t have to pay for them by yielding up a prized economic nest egg, or bartering away our traditional uses on lands literally right across the street from us!
No, those measly 200 acres can hardly be held up as sufficient recompense for the huge sacrifice being pressed upon us. What price, if any, is the Las Vegas valley required to pay in this skewed equation? Is there anything that the urban areas are sacrificing that would offer balance? Where is the equity? Where is the fairness? How will the Moapa Valley communities be made whole from yet another onslaught of urban land grabs?
And what happens when all of those new development acres in Las Vegas are spent and the cry go out, as it inevitably will, for more? The rural areas have given it all! There is nothing left! Where else will the great god go to satisfy this vicious appetite?
Partners in Conservation Chairman Lindsey Dalley, of Logandale, said last week in an interview with the Progress, “This whole acreage trading thing is obsolete, destructive and totally not sustainable.” He is absolutely right! A new model for mitigating development is needed. Because once the outlying communities have been forced to give their last precious farthing, there will be nothing more to give! At that point, the great god will have to retire hungrily back into the darkness. And then, even the urban communities – those that have so dutifully worshiped, fed and depended upon him – even they will suffer!