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                                                      Calendar No. 708
115th Congress    }                                      {      Report
                                 SENATE
 2d Session       }                                      {     115-409

======================================================================



 
       PERSHING COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION ACT

                                _______
                                

                December 4, 2018.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 414]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 414) to promote conservation, improve 
public land management, and provide for sensible development in 
Pershing County, Nevada, and for other purposes, having 
considered the same, reports favorably thereon without 
amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.

                                PURPOSE

    The purpose of S. 414 is to promote conservation, improve 
public land management, and provide for sensible development in 
Pershing County, Nevada.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    When work began on the transcontinental railroad in 1863, 
the Federal government granted railroad companies with 
ownership of every other square mile of land across the West, 
while retaining ownership of the squares of land in between. 
The land grants allowed railroad companies to pay for 
construction of the transcontinental railroad by selling their 
sections. The resulting checkerboard land ownership pattern 
still stretches across the northern portion of the State of 
Nevada in a broad band along the I-80 west corridor within 
Pershing County (County).
    In Pershing County more than 75 percent (nearly 2.9 million 
acres) of the land is owned by the United States and 
administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM 
manages the public land for multiples uses, including mineral 
development, livestock grazing, recreation, and conservation. 
The checkerboard ownership pattern that persists today presents 
significant land management challenges for the County and BLM. 
For more than a decade, Pershing County has sought to resolve 
the status of checkerboard lands, wilderness study areas, and 
other public land management challenges.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 414 was introduced on February 16, 2017, by Senators 
Heller and Cortez Masto. The Subcommittee on Public Lands, 
Forests, and Mining, held a hearing on S. 414 on February 7, 
2018.
    Similar legislation, H.R. 1107, was introduced in the House 
of Representatives by Representative Amodei on February 16, 
2017, and referred Natural Resources Committee. The Natural 
Resources Committee reported H.R. 1107 on September 28, 2017 
(H. Rept. 115-336), and the legislation was agreed to, as 
amended, by voice vote, in the House of Representatives, on 
January 16, 2018. The Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, 
and Mining held a hearing on H.R. 1107 on February 7, 2018.
    In the 114th Congress, similar legislation, S. 3102, was 
introduced on June 28, 2016, by Senators Heller and Reid. The 
Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on S. 
3102 on September 22, 2016.
    Similar legislation, H.R. 5752, was introduced by 
Representatives Amodei, Hardy, Heck, and Titus on July 13, 
2016, and referred to the Natural Resources Committee.
    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in 
open business session on October 2, 2018, and ordered S. 414 
favorably reported.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on October 2, 2018, by a majority voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 
414. Senator Cantwell asked to be recorded as voting no.

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section 1. Short title; Table of contents

    Section 1 provides the short title and a table of contents.

Section 2. Definitions

    Section 2 provides key definitions.

                 TITLE I--CHECKERBOARD LAND RESOLUTION


Section 101. Findings

    Section 101 declares that Congress finds that since the 
passage of the Pacific Railway Act, a checkerboard land pattern 
of public and private land exists in Pershing County that is 
expensive to manage and frustrating for both private landowners 
and the Federal Government. This section further finds that 
appraisal values of the parcels will be similar, and that 
consolidation of the parcels will help the County's tax base 
and simplify Federal land management.

Section 102. Definitions

    Section 102 provides key definitions for title I.

Section 103. Sale or exchange of eligible land

    Subsection (a) directs the Secretary of the Interior 
(Secretary), in cooperation with the County, to sell or 
exchange eligible land.
    Subsection (b) requires the Secretary and County to jointly 
select the eligible land.
    Subsection (c) requires the County to certify to the 
Secretary that qualified bidders will comply with local 
planning and zoning laws.
    Subsection (d)(1) requires the sale of exchange or eligible 
land to be consistent with the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. 1713, 1716(a)(1)) and 
conducted through either a competitive sale, for at least fair 
market value, or an exchange for private land.
    Subsection (d)(2) requires the Secretary to conduct a mass 
appraisal of the eligible land to determine whether the likely 
value of any parcel exceeds $500 per acre and make the results 
public. Such mass appraisal is to occur within one year of the 
Act's enactment and every five years thereafter.
    Subsection (d)(3) directs the Secretary to exclude any 
parcel that is likely valued at more than $500 per acre from 
the acre-for-acre exchange. This subsection also authorizes the 
Secretary to finalize acre-for-acre exchanges for parcels that 
exceed the valuation threshold under certain circumstances.
    Subsection (d)(4) requires the Secretary, within one year 
of the Act's enactment, to identify Management Priority Areas, 
that include greater sage-grouse habitat; are part of a 
wildlife corridor or critical habitat; have outdoor recreation 
value, public access for hunting, fishing, and other 
recreational purposes; have significant cultural, historical, 
ecological, or scenic value; or has value for improving Federal 
land management. This subsection further clarifies that Federal 
management of those lands cannot be changed based solely on 
that designation.
    Subsection (e) withdraws eligible land from entry and 
appropriation under public land and mining laws; location, 
entry, and patent under mining laws; and mineral and geothermal 
leasing laws. This subsection also lifts the withdrawal upon 
sale or exchange of a parcel of eligible land or, for a parcel 
that is not sold or exchanged, two years after the parcel was 
offered for sale or exchange pursuant to this title.
    Subsection (f)(1) requires the Secretary to offer eligible 
parcels for sale at least once a year until the limitation is 
reached or the County requests a postponement. This subsection 
also limits the total acreage of eligible land sold to 150,000 
acres.
    Subsection (f)(2) requires the Secretary to offer eligible 
parcels for exchange, within one year of the identification of 
the Management Priority Areas and at least once a year until 
the limitation is reached or the County requests a 
postponement.
    Subsection (f)(3) requires the Secretary, at the County's 
request, to postpone or exclude from a sale or exchange all or 
a portion of the eligible land.

Section 104. Disposition of proceeds

    Subsection (a) requires the proceeds from a land sale under 
section 103 or 201 to be disbursed as follows: five percent to 
the State for education purposes; 10 percent to the County; and 
the remaining 85 percent to the ``Pershing County Special 
Account'' in the U.S. Treasury to be used by the Secretary, in 
consultation with the County, for specified land management 
activities.
    Subsection (b) requires the special account established 
under subsection (a)(3) to be invested and earn interest.
    Subsection (c) requires the Secretary to submit a report to 
the County and Committees of jurisdiction every five years on 
the operation and use of the special account.

                TITLE II--LAND CONVEYANCES AND TRANSFERS


Section 201. Conveyances of covered land

    Subsection (a) provides key definitions for this section.
    Subsection (b)(1) requires the Secretary, within 180 days 
of enactment of this legislation, to offer for sale at the fair 
market value, the remaining right, title, and interest in and 
to covered land to qualified entities.
    Subsection (b)(2) requires the Secretary, within one year 
of acceptance of an offer to purchase a parcel of land, to 
convey the land to the qualified entity.
    Subsection (b)(3) merges any prior interest in the 
locatable minerals and the right to use the surface held by a 
qualified entity with all right, title, and interest conveyed 
by the United States to ensure that the qualified entity 
receives fee simple title to the purchased covered land.
    Subsection (b)(4) requires the Secretary to determine the 
fair market value of the land in accordance with applicable law 
and appraisal standards.
    Subsection (b)(5) requires the qualified entity to pay all 
conveyance-related costs as a condition of the conveyance.
    Subsection (b)(6) requires the map to be on file and 
publicly available with the BLM.
    Subsection (b)(7) authorizes the Secretary, in consultation 
with the County, to make minor corrections to the map or 
description of covered land.
    Subsection (c) requires any proceeds collected under this 
section to be disposed of pursuant to section 104.
    Subsection (d) terminates the Secretary's authority to 
convey covered land 10 years after the Act's enactment.

Section 202. Conveyances of land for use as a public cemetery

    Section 202 requires the Secretary to convey, without 
consideration, approximately 10 acres of Federal land depicted 
on the map as ``Unionville Cemetery'' to the County to be used 
as a public cemetery.

                      TITLE III--WILDERNESS AREAS


Section 301. Additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System

    Subsection (a) designates 12,339 acres of BLM land as the 
Cain Mountain Wilderness; 24,900 acres of BLM land as the 
Bluewing Wilderness; 22,822 acres of BLM land as the Selenite 
Peak Wilderness; 11,855 acres of BLM land as the Mount Limbo 
Wilderness; 13,875 acres of BLM land as the North Sahwave 
Wilderness; 35,339 acres of BLM land as the Grandfathers' 
Wilderness; and 14,942 acres of BLM land as the Fencemaker 
Wilderness. All land acreage is approximate and depicted on 
specified maps.
    Subsection (b) requires the boundary of any portion of a 
wilderness area to be 100 feet from the centerline of a road, 
if bordered by a road.
    Subsection (c) requires the Secretary to produce a map of 
each new wilderness area and make it publicly available in the 
appropriate BLM office. This subsection also authorizes the 
Secretary to make technical corrections to the map or legal 
description. This subsection further withdraws the designated 
wilderness areas from all forms of entry, appropriation, and 
disposal under public land laws; location, entry, and patent 
under mining laws; and mineral and geothermal leasing or 
mineral materials laws.

Section 302. Administration

    Subsection (a) requires the Secretaries to manage the new 
wilderness areas in accordance with the Wilderness Act (16 
U.S.C. 1131 et seq.).
    Subsection (b) allows any grazing in the wilderness areas 
that exists prior to the Act's enactment, to continue, subject 
to certain regulations, policies, and practices.
    Subsection (c) makes clear that any land within the 
boundaries of the new wilderness areas, if acquired by the 
Federal government after the Act's enactment, will be added to 
the wilderness area.
    Subsection (d) states that Congress does not intend for a 
wilderness area designation to create protective perimeters or 
buffer zones around the wilderness area. The subsection also 
specifies that nonwilderness activities or uses that can be 
seen or heard from within the wilderness area are not 
precluded.
    Subsection (e) makes clear that nothing in this legislation 
restricts or precludes military activities in the airspace over 
the wilderness areas.
    Subsection (f) authorizes the Secretary to take appropriate 
action to control fire, insects, and disease in the wilderness 
areas.
    Subsection (g) authorizes the Secretary to install and 
maintain hydrologic, meteorological, and climatological data 
collection devices in the wilderness areas.
    Subsection (h)(1) finds that wilderness areas are generally 
not suitable for the use of development of new water resource 
facilities.
    Subsection (h)(2) specifies the section's purpose.
    Subsection (h)(3) states that nothing in this Act creates 
an express or implied reservation of a water rights by the 
United States in a wilderness area; affects any State water 
rights in existence as of the date of the Act's enactment; 
establishes a precedent for future wilderness designations; 
affects the interpretation or designation made under any other 
Act; or affects an interstate compact of other water 
apportionment decree between the State and other States.
    Subsection (h)(4) directs the Secretary to proceed pursuant 
to Nevada water law to obtain and hold any water rights.
    Subsection (h)(5) defines the term ``Water Resource 
Facility'' and prohibits the Secretary from developing a new 
water resource facility within the wilderness areas.
    Subsection (i) authorizes the placement of temporary 
telecommunications facilities in the Selenite Peak Wilderness.

Section 303. Wildlife management

    Subsection (a) makes clear that the authority of the State 
to manage fish and wildlife in the wilderness areas is neither 
affected nor diminished.
    Subsection (b) authorizes the Secretary to conduct any 
necessary management activities to maintain or restore fish and 
wildlife populations and their habitat.
    Subsection (c) authorizes the State of Nevada to continue 
using aircraft to manage sage-grouse and other wildlife in the 
wilderness areas.
    Subsection (d) directs the Secretary to authorize 
structures and facilities for wildlife water development 
projects, including wildlife guzzlers, under certain 
conditions.
    Subsection (e) authorizes the Secretary, if necessary for 
public safety, administration, or compliance with certain laws, 
to prohibit hunting, trapping, and fishing in the wilderness 
areas. The Secretary is required to consult with the 
appropriate State agency before taking such action, except in 
emergency situations.
    Subsection (f) authorizes the State to conduct wildlife 
management activities in the wilderness areas in accordance 
with the 2003 ``Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau 
of Land Management and the Nevada Department of Wildlife 
Supplement No. 9'' and all applicable laws and regulations.

Section 304. Release of wilderness study areas

    Section 304 releases from section 603(c) of FLPMA 
approximately 48,600 acres of public land in the China 
Mountain, Mt. Limbo, Selenite Mountains, Tobin Range, and 
Augusta Mountains wilderness study areas that have been 
adequately studied and not designated as wilderness. This 
section further requires the land to be managed in accordance 
with section 202 of FLPMA.

Section 305. Native American cultural and religious areas

    Subsection (a) makes clear that nothing in this title 
alters or diminishes treaty rights of any Indian Tribe.
    Subsection (b) makes clear that the traditional collection 
of pine nuts in a wilderness area for personal, noncommercial 
use, can continue.

                   COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS

    The following estimate of the costs of this measure has 
been provided by the Congressional Budget Office:
    S. 414 would establish a process to sell or exchange up to 
400,000 acres of federal land administered by the Bureau of 
Land Management (BLM) in Pershing County, Nevada, and also 
would designate 136,000 acres of other federal lands as 
wilderness.
    The bill would require BLM to conduct a mass appraisal of 
the affected lands. Using information from the Department of 
the Interior's Office of Valuation Services, CBO estimates that 
conducting the appraisal would cost roughly $1 million; such 
spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated 
funds.
    Title I would direct BLM to work with Pershing County to 
jointly select parcels from roughly 300,000 acres of federal 
land that would be conveyed to the county through sale or 
exchange. Because BLM has already identified those lands for 
disposal, CBO expects that any lands conveyed in this region 
eventually will be conveyed under current law. Under the bill, 
the agency would only be required to sell lands valued at more 
than $500 an acre. CBO expects that lands valued at less than 
$500 an acre would be exchanged. The bill would authorize the 
agency to spend any proceeds from the sale of land, which would 
increase direct spending; however, using information from BLM 
regarding the amount of similar lands sold state-wide in Nevada 
over the last five years (between 1,000 and 3,000 acres) and 
the value of those lands (between $100 and $300 an acre), CBO 
estimates that any proceeds generated by the sale of the 
affected lands and the associated direct spending would be 
insignificant over the 2019-2028 period.
    Title II would require BLM to offer mining claims covering 
roughly 100,000 acres in Pershing County for sale at fair 
market value. However, CBO expects that few individuals or 
firms would elect to purchase those lands because under current 
law they would have the option to patent their mining claims 
after December 7, 2018. Mineral patents allow individuals and 
firms to acquire title to hardrock minerals and the associated 
surface rights under a federal mining claim at below-market 
rates. Each year since 1994, the Congress has included 
provisions in annual appropriations acts that prohibit BLM from 
accepting or processing applications for mineral patents. 
Because patents are prohibited only in the year the 
appropriations acts are enacted, or the timeframe in which 
continuing resolutions are in effect, BLM will be authorized to 
issue mineral patents after December 7, 2018; the Congress 
would have to extend that prohibition in subsequent 
legislation. CBO expects that individuals or firms seeking to 
acquire title to federal mining claims generally would opt for 
a patent rather than purchase the claims using the process 
established under the bill. Thus, CBO estimates that enacting 
that provision would have no significant budgetary effect.
    Title III would designate 136,000 acres of federal land as 
wilderness. Designating federal land as wilderness could have 
an effect on the budget if the property generates receipts for 
the government and collection of those receipts would end under 
the wilderness designation. Because the bill would preserve 
existing grazing rights on the affected lands and CBO does not 
expect those lands to generate any other proceeds over the next 
10 years, we estimate that enacting that provision would have 
no effect on the federal budget.
    Because enacting S. 414 would affect direct spending, pay-
as-you-go procedures apply; however, CBO estimates that the net 
effect on direct spending would not be significant. Enacting 
the bill would not affect revenues.
    CBO estimates that enacting S. 414 would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2029.
    S. 414 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    On September 27, 2017, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for 
H.R. 1107, the Pershing County Economic Development and 
Conservation Act, as ordered reported by the House Committee on 
Natural Resources on June 27, 2017. The two pieces of 
legislation are similar, and CBO's estimates of their budgetary 
effects are the same.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Janani 
Shankaran. The estimate was reviewed by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                      REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION

    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 414. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
privacy.
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 414, as ordered reported.

                   CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED SPENDING

    S. 414, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    The testimony provided by the Department of the Interior at 
the February 7, 2018, hearing on S. 414 follows:

Statement of Brian Steed, Deputy Director for Policy & Programs, Bureau 
          of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

    Thank you for inviting the Department of the Interior 
(Department) to testify on S. 414, the Pershing County Economic 
Development and Conservation Act. This bill authorizes public 
land sales, exchanges, and conveyances in Pershing County, 
Nevada, and designates approximately 136,600 acres of public 
lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as seven 
new wilderness areas.
    Pershing County, located in northwestern Nevada, is home to 
nearly 7,000 people and encompasses just over 6,000 square 
miles. BLM-managed public lands in this part of Nevada provide 
opportunities for economic development and jobs, hunting and 
other forms of outdoor recreation, mineral development, 
livestock grazing, and conservation.
    In 1976, with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and 
Management Act (FLPMA), Congress directed the BLM to retain 
management of most public lands, thereby reducing the acreage 
that had been available for disposal in earlier years. Under 
FLPMA, the BLM is directed to sustain the health, diversity, 
and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment 
of present and future generations. The FLPMA also sets forth 
the BLM's multiple-use mission, directing that public lands be 
managed for a variety of uses, such as energy development, 
livestock grazing, conservation, mining, and recreation.
    S. 414 directs Federal land sales, exchanges, and 
conveyances in Pershing County, Nevada. The legislation also 
designates approximately 136,600 acres of public lands as seven 
wilderness areas and releases approximately 48,600 acres of 
BLM-managed WSAs from further study.
    Title I of S. 414 directs the sale, at fair market value, 
or exchange of up to approximately 334,000 acres of BLM-managed 
public lands as specified on the legislative map and that have 
been identified as potentially suitable for disposal as part of 
the land use planning process. Title I requires that all lands 
authorized for sale or exchange be appraised en masse within 
one year of enactment and every five years thereafter. Any of 
these lands with an appraised value of less than $500 per acre 
may be exchanged on an acre-for-acre basis with private land in 
a Management Priority Area, as identified by the Secretary, 
within the area depicted on the legislative map. Land sales 
under Title I may not exceed 150,000 acres; exchanges are 
exempted from this limitation. The first land sale must be 
completed within one year of enactment, with at least one sale 
conducted every year thereafter, until the acreage limit for 
sales has been reached, or a sale postponement period requested 
by the county.
    Title II of the bill directs the sale, at fair market value 
as determined by an appraisal, of up to approximately 102,000 
acres of BLM-managed public lands identified on the legislative 
map to a ``qualified entity,'' which is defined in the bill as 
the owner or authorized leaseholder of the mining claims, mill 
sites, or tunnel sites currently existing on any portion of the 
lands to be sold. The qualified entity would assume all costs 
of the sales, including survey and administrative costs.
    Proceeds from the sales directed by Titles I and II of the 
bill would be disbursed to the State of Nevada, Pershing 
County, and a special account in the U.S. Treasury for a number 
of specific purposes, including reimbursing costs associated 
with preparing sales, habitat conservation and restoration, and 
securing public access to Federal lands, among others.
    Title III of S. 414 designates seven wilderness areas 
totaling approximately 136,600 acres. Of these lands, 
approximately 55,100 acres are within existing wilderness study 
areas (WSAs) and approximately 81,500 acres have not previously 
been identified as suitable for wilderness by the BLM. Title 
III also releases approximately 48,600 acres from WSA status, 
allowing these areas to be managed according to the existing 
BLM land use plans. The Department notes that the lands 
proposed for wilderness designation by S. 414 generally serve 
as habitat for a diversity of plant and animal life and provide 
important opportunities for hiking, hunting, rock climbing, 
camping, horse packing, and other forms of outdoor recreation 
in the Nevada desert.
    Only Congress can determine whether to designate WSAs as 
wilderness or to release them for other multiple uses. The WSAs 
included in the proposed wilderness designations have been 
pending final resolution by Congress since 1991.
    As a matter of policy, the Department supports the 
completion of land exchanges and transfers that further the 
public interest, consolidate ownership of scattered tracts of 
land to make them more manageable, and advance public policy 
objectives. The Department strongly supports restoring full 
collaboration and coordination with local communities and 
making the Department a better neighbor.
    In his confirmation hearing, Secretary Zinke stated to the 
Committee that he does not support the wide-scale sale or 
transfer of Federal lands. The Department has substantive as 
well as minor technical modifications to recommend, and we look 
forward to working with the sponsor and the Committee to 
resolve these issues. The Department appreciates the work of 
Senator Heller on S. 414 and his efforts to promote multiple 
uses and foster economic development on BLM lands in Nevada.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by S. 414 as ordered reported.

                                  [all]