Video: Environmentalists claim victory after house committee fails to advance amendment to defense bill

Video: Environmentalists claim victory after house committee fails to advance amendment to defense bill
Demonstrators protest outside of Rep. Mark Amodei's office on Kietzke Lane in south Reno, Nev. on July 12, 2022. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

RENO — Progressive and environmental groups on Tuesday protested outside of Congressman Mark Amodei’s  (R-Nev.) office on Kietzke Lane in south Reno.

They said an amendment by Amodei to the defense authorization bill in Congress would devastate wildlife habitat and amount to a land and water grab.

“Our public lands and water are for the public, not the military and mining companies. Now we need our elected representatives to make sure this destructive proposal doesn’t come back, and we need concerned Nevadans to continue to stand with us in this fight to protect this land,” said Olivia Brister with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Groups opposed to the amendment said the land transfer “would enable the long-proposed Fallon Naval Air Station bombing range expansion, making some 350,000 acres of public land subject to bombing runs and military warfare training. It would also extend military control over as much as 400,000 acres of other public lands.

“It would allow private developers to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres of public land for sprawl and industrial development, including 10,000 acres in Douglas County, 50,000 acres in Churchill County, and a near unlimited amount of acreage in Pershing County,” they added.

But Amodei, reached by phone on Wednesday, was nonplussed by the amendment not moving forward. 

“We submitted an amendment and it went to the Rules Committee with about 1,000 others and it wasn’t made in order, which means it wasn’t accepted for inclusion in the bill on the floor. It’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s part of a five-year ongoing process,” he told This Is Reno.

Amodei further said the land transfer would be beneficial to central Nevada and the environment, including sage grouse habitat.

“It would take land management in some areas into more protected status, and also provide more resources to manage that stuff,” he added. “I think the bill overall was supported by many, many wildlife and resource organizations, which is why it’s pretty close to consensus.”

PLAN, the Great Basin Water Network and the Center For Biological Diversity representatives who were at his office Tuesday said the opposite. 

“We’re not going to say it’s totally dead forever, but this was a huge setback for them, and it was the primary avenue they were trying to advance it with,” said Patrick Donnelly with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The National Defense Authorization Act still has steps before being enacted. Amodei said provisions of the amendment could be revisited if he gets re-elected.