On March 8, Nellis Air Force Base officially closed the public comment period on its draft environmental impact statement for proposed land withdrawal to enable an expansion of the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR).

Input deemed substantive will be included and addressed in the final environmental impact statement, slated for release in September.

At the March 5 meeting of the Lincoln County Regional Development Authority (LCRDA), members approved sending a letter to the Air Force expressing their opposition to Alternative 3C, the supposedly preferred alternative, which would impact access to approximately 155,000 acres of Lincoln County land that is currently used for recreation.

LCRDA executive director Jeff Fontaine noted the letter is similar to the one submitted earlier by the Board of County Commissioners, but noted the LCRDA letter did not address the Air Force’s other proposed alternatives and states there are no projections on the economic impacts in the EIS.

A series of public meetings was held by the Air Force to present their proposals for land withdrawals which would involve 301,507 acres. Several alternatives were also put forth at the meetings. The Air Force seems to be in favor of Alternative 3C which would involve withdrawal of 227,000 acres from south of Lower Pahranagat Lake down through Clark County.

However, Alternative 3C would, in effect, close off two-thirds of the public access to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, as well as other parts of Pine Creek Road, Saddle Mountain, Cabin Springs, White Rock, Sheep Pass, the sand dunes at Dry Lake Springs, Rug Mountain, Alamo Road, and Corn Creek.

County commissioners had planned to discuss a resolution they want to submit regarding the NTTR land withdrawal at the March 5 meeting, but tabled the item due to the absence of Commissioner Varlin Higbee, who represents the Board to the Nellis Air Base.

After the public comments are reviewed, the draft will be presented to the U.S. Congress, which has the final say on the expansion. Congress may take up the matter as early as next year, following a review by the Interior Department.

The military needs lawmakers to act before 2021, when the current land withdrawal for NTTR is set to expire.