Tahoe governing body, Washoe Tribe prep for lands bill talks
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The improvement district here and the Washoe Tribe are keeping open minds ahead of conversations over competing requests for parcels of federal land.
Those conversations, which have yet to be scheduled, come after the Washoe Tribe made a formal request for the parcels as part of the Washoe County Economic Development and Conservation Act — draft legislation that is intended for the dual purpose of economic development and conservation.
Part of the proposal deals with transferring specific parcels to local entities. As part of the process, the Incline Village General Improvement District has requested a handful of parcels near the Championship Golf Course and Diamond Peak Ski Resort totaling 373.66 acres, according to documents.
The IVGID Board of Trustees approved a resolution to participate in the process of crafting the legislation back in December of 2016.
The primary purpose for requesting the parcels is for fire mitigation, IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
“Really for us the big emphasis is expanding the area that we can protect for that urban wild interface,” he said.
At issue, though, is the fact the Washoe Tribe — whose ancestors inhabited Lake Tahoe and the larger region for thousands of years before being displaced from their land by settlers — was never included in the process, Tribal Chairman Neil Mortimer told the Tribune.
The Washoe did not learn about the lands bill until very recently and even then the Tribe had to take it upon itself to try and get a seat at the table.
“We weren’t brought into it, we put ourselves in the situation,” Mortimer said.
At this point, the Tribe has not thought in depth about specifics for how it would want to use the land, but Mortimer said the draft legislation states the purpose is for economic development. More so than a specific outcome, the Washoe just want to be part of the process, he added.
“We just want the opportunity to participate,” Mortimer said. “There’s no guarantee that anyone gets anything out of this.”
Jamie Rodriguez, an analyst in the Washoe County Manager’s Office, told the Tribune that the next step will be to bring IVGID and the Washoe together to try and find a solution.
“Prior to any conversations with either Washoe Tribe or IVGID, Washoe County wanted to first read through the proposal and be sure that we understood it and had no further questions,” Rodriguez wrote in an email. “The next step now will be working to schedule a meeting with all entities to work towards a resolution.”
Since a story was first published by the Reno Gazette-Journal earlier this week, Mortimer said on Thursday that he had only heard from the office of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who wanted to meet in the coming days to discuss the issue.
Any future bill would have to be approved by Congress. A spokesperson for Cortez Masto did not respond to a voicemail Thursday. Similarly, an email to a spokesperson for Sen. Dean Heller was not returned Thursday.
A spokesperson for Rep. Mark Amodei said it is still early in the process and that the congressman’s office would defer to the county at this point.
For IVGID’s part, Pinkerton said the district is not heading into the conversations with a no-budge attitude.
“We’re just going to go in with an open mind. We want to learn more about their interest,” he said.
Mortimer similarly is trying to remain diplomatic about the conversations.
Despite some concerns that this potential legislation would be rushed through, Rodriguez said there is no proposed timeline for introducing the bill in Congress.
“This type of legislation takes time and we are working through the process to ensure that the proposal we submit can be pursued in Congress,” she said.