Wilderness, Parks, and Timber Contracts Bills: HR 765
Statement for the Record
Bureau of Land Management
Department of the Interior
House Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Parks, Forests, & Public Lands
Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area Act of 2009
November 5, 2009
Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to testify on H.R. 765, the Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area Act of 2009.H.R. 765 would establish an Off-Highway Vehicle National Recreation Area (OHV NRA) on public lands in
OHV recreation is the current predominant use of the public lands addressed by H.R. 765.The BLM supports the goals of H.R. 765, but has specific concerns about the bill as introduced.The Bureau would like to work with the sponsor to ensure that the uses of the lands conveyed to Clark County are consistent with the Recreation and Public Purposes Act (R&PP Act), and that the mineral estate is reserved to the United States if the conveyed lands contain significant sand and gravel resources.The BLM would also like to work with the sponsor to clarify the boundaries of the conveyances to
The Nellis Dunes area is located just north of Las Vegas in Clark County.Interstate Highway 15 borders the area to the north, and Nellis Air Force Base borders it to the southwest.The area is characterized by extensive rolling sand dunes surrounded by a rocky and sparsely vegetated
However, the BLM also manages the Nellis Dunes area and the surrounding public lands for resource values other than OHV recreation.Sensitive wildlife and plant species exist within the area.The desert tortoise, a Federally-listed species under the Endangered Species Act, is found in the Nellis Dunes area and throughout southern
The Nellis Dunes area also lies underneath Nellis Air Force Base's landing approach path.The BLM and the Nellis Air Force Base have a long history of working cooperatively to ensure that OHV recreation and other public land uses do not compromise the Air Force's safety or operational needs.
The issues addressed in H.R. 765 reflect a longstanding effort, led by
H.R. 765 proposes to establish the "Nellis Dunes National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area" on public lands in
The bill refers to a map, dated July 2008, which the BLM has not seen.The BLM's comments on the bill therefore reflect our general knowledge of the proposal and of the Nellis Dunes area.The sponsor recently asked the BLM to make a map related to H.R. 765 and that map is currently under preparation.The BLM would like to work with the sponsor to clarify the location of the
The BLM supports the overall goals of H.R. 765, including the goal of designating the Nellis Dunes OHV NRA.Designating Nellis Dunes as an OHV NRA would support and enhance the BLM's ongoing management efforts to provide OHV recreation opportunities while protecting and sustaining the area's important resource values.The high level of recreation use at Nellis Dunes merits the management attention and focus that would result from this designation, particularly in conjunction with the bill's provision to establish the complementary
The conveyance of the approximately 1,150 acres to
As a matter of policy, the BLM supports working with state and local governments to resolve land tenure adjustments that advance worthwhile public policy objectives.We note that the R&PP Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to lease or convey public lands at nominal cost for recreational and public purposes, including parks and other facilities benefiting the public.Commercial uses may be allowable under the R&PP Act in limited circumstances, if revenues from concessions go toward site management and use.
In general, the BLM supports conveyances if the lands are to be used for purposes consistent with the R&PP Act, and if the conveyance includes a reversionary clause to enforce this requirement.It is not clear, however, if the commercial uses envisioned by the bill would be consistent with the R&PP Act. The BLM recommends that the legislation be amended to ensure the uses are clearly consistent with the R&PP Act.
Because some portions of the Nellis Dunes area contain potentially valuable sand and gravel deposits, the BLM recommends the conveyance of these areas be avoided or that, if conveyed, the mineral estate remains reserved to the United States.
H.R 765 would also transfer administrative jurisdiction of a land parcel to Nellis Air Force Base.The BLM understands that this transfer is intended to enhance the compatibility of the proposed OHV NRA with the safety and operational requirements of the Base.We support the intent of this provision, but would prefer the legislation add the land parcel to the Air Force's existing military withdrawal for Nellis Air Force Base so that the parcel is subject to the same military land use authorizations that are in the existing military withdrawal.The BLM would like to work with the sponsor to clarify the boundaries of the lands involved.
Because the Nellis Dunes area contains existing mining claims, the BLM recommends that the OHV NRA be withdrawn from future mineral entry under the General Mining Law, while recognizing valid existing rights.Withdrawing the OHV NRA from future mineral entry would reduce the potential for future conflicts with the area's recreation uses.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 765.The BLM supports the goals of the bill and applauds the efforts of the bill's sponsor, and of