The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California wants to ask Congress for nearly 375 acres of federal land that’s part of Diamond Peak Ski Resort and Incline Village (Nev.) Championship Golf Course. The request is part of an effort by Washoe County, Nev., to shift thousands of acres from federal to private or local government ownership.
The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, which has deep roots in the Lake Tahoe basin, is seeking to reclaim land that’s part of Diamond Peak Ski Resort and Incline Village (Nev.) Championship Golf Course, the Reno (Nev.) Gazette Journal reported.
The tribe wants to ask Congress for nearly 375 acres of federal land in Incline Village. Tribal chairman Neil Mortimer made the request as part of an effort by Washoe County to shift thousands of acres from federal to private or local government ownership, the Gazette Journal reported.
“We just feel strongly if federal land is going to be transferred, it should be returned to its original owners,” Mortimer said. “Part of who we are, part of what identifies us as a people is the land we are on.”
The tribe’s request is a duplicate of a request from the Incline Village General Improvement District, the entity that operates the ski area and golf course. Incline Village and county officials had been working together since 2016 to include the U.S. Forest Service-owned property in a draft of a lands bill that county officials would submit to Congress, the Gazette Journal reported.
But Mortimer said Washoe tribal officials only recently learned about the plan, called the Washoe County Economic Development and Conservation Act. They didn’t get to participate in the earlier planning stages when county officials met with local governments and representatives of environmental and industry groups to create the draft, the Gazette Journal reported.
Without access to the planning process, Washoe Tribe officials looked at the other transfer requests and based theirs on what IVGID submitted. IVGID already owns the main areas and structures at the ski resort and golf courses. The land in both requests is generally at the edges of IVGID property, the Gazette Journal reported.
“We didn’t generate the map, we just identified the parcels they had up for grabs,” Mortimer said.
It will be up to the tribe and IVGID to work with Washoe County to resolve the competing transfer requests before the lands bill goes to Congress. “We will have to meet with the individual groups to walk through their proposals and will have to take it from there,” said Jamie Rodriguez, a management analyst and government affairs specialist working on the bill draft. “Each previous conflict has been different and there is no one way to address these.”
Although the tribe’s modern-day communities are in Woodfords, Calif., Carson Valley and the Reno-Sparks area, Lake Tahoe is at the geographic and spiritual heart of Washoe culture. The lake, called Da.aw in the Washoe language, once produced large trout and freshwater clams that sustained the people throughout the year, the Gazette Journal reported.
The tribe’s new request for land in Incline Village is a chance to reclaim more historic terrain in the Tahoe Basin. “It is more of an opportunity for us to be part of something,” Mortimer said.
Although the entirety of the Tahoe Basin was the domain of the Washoe people for thousands of years, an IVGID official said that in recent decades, the district has been capable stewards of land within its master plan area, the Gazette Journal reported.
“As you may know, IVGID has spent the past few decades conducting a very active fuels management and forest health program on the IVGID lands surrounding our community,” IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton said in an email. “Acquisition of these key parcels would assist in expanding those efforts to ensure the lands that comprise the Wildland Urban Interface surrounding our community and District owned facilities are proactively managed to mitigate the risks of high severity wildfires.”
Assistant Washoe County Manager Dave Solaro said the federal land in IVGID’s transfer request falls within the resort’s master plan area. “The District looks forward to working with the Washoe Tribe and Washoe County to discuss the mutual interests in the parcels and reach a positive outcome,” Pinkerton said by email.
The Washoe County lands bill is an attempt to build on a model that’s been used several times in Nevada and around the West. Often, the bills involve Congress transferring federal parcels of land near communities so they can more easily be used for economic development. The bills often pair economic development goals with environmental preservation by applying wilderness designations to sensitive areas, the Gazette Journal reported.
“You can literally change the map forever with this type of legislation and make people’s lives better,” said Neil Kornze, who worked on lands bills as a staff member for Reid from 2003-11 and as director of the Bureau of Land Management from 2014-17.
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