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MESQUITE, NV (KXNT) – A series of hearings on the future of public lands in southern Nevada are being held this week in multiple towns. At stake is where off-road vehicles, mining, drilling or renewable-energy sites will be allowed.

The future of special places on public land such as the El Dorado, South McCullough and Muddy Mountains is up for discussion at a series of public meetings with the feds this week and next. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding a forum Wednesday night in Mesquite, one Thursday in Las Vegas and three next Tuesday through Thursday in Pahrump, Henderson and Searchlight. Jose Witt, with the group Friends of the Nevada Wilderness, said he’s concerned about what kinds of uses B-L-M might green-light on 3-point-1 million acres of public land.

“Rapid off-road vehicle use, where we’re talking about multiple roads. Unmonitored OHV use would be a concern. Possible mineral extraction, potential oil and gas exploration would be something to be concerned about,” said Witt.

At issue is whether so-called “lands with wilderness characteristics” will be conserved or developed in the upcoming Resource Management Plan. Many are adjacent to existing federal wilderness areas, which are established by Congress. People also can submit written public comment on the B-L-M website until February 2nd.

Matt Skroch with the U.S. public lands program at the Pew Charitable Trusts said in the worst-case scenario, the feds could decide not to protect any of the lands identified as having wilderness characteristics.

“The BLM needs to hear from the people regarding sensitive areas that have high values for scenery, for wildlife, for archaeological resources, so that they can make the right decisions about what areas should be protected,” Skroch said.

Skroch notes that the placement of large-scale renewable-energy projects needs to be done with careful consideration of the environment, particularly the habitat for the desert tortoise.

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