Assemblyman Watts Calls Out Military Land Grab

Assemblyman Watts Calls Out Military Land Grab

The US House Armed Services Committee accepted an amendment to their version of the National Defense Authorization Act that would have given the Air Force total control over 800,000 acres currently managed as a wildlife refuge for bighorn sheep. The amendment was launched by Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah in cahoots with the military, and without consulting a single Nevada member of Congress. In 2019, I co-sponsored an assembly joint resolution opposing the seizure of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which passed the Legislature 58-3.

Here's what I had to say about it in this piece in the St. George Spectrum:

“Rep. Bishop is the most notorious foe of public lands in Congress,” said Howard Watts III, an Assemblyman representing southern Nevada’s District 15. “His amendment means that 800,000 acres of land will become wildlife refuge in name only.”

The House Armed Services Committee does not include any representatives from Nevada, even as it votes to convert large chunks of the state’s land in “overwhelming opposition of Nevada’s delegation, state government and local organizations,” according to Watts.

“It’s a slap in the face to our state on par with the infamous 'Screw Nevada' bill designating Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste dump,” Watts added.

Similarly, I said to the Nevada Independent:

“It is shocking to see [a House committee] accept an amendment from a member of the Utah delegation that is not only in opposition to the stated position of the Nevada Legislature but also to the Nevada delegation,” Democratic Assemblyman  III said.

Watts and others interviewed for this story said the move carried echoes of the “Screw Nevada bill,” the 1987 federal legislation designating Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.

Thankfully, Congressman Horsford, with the support of Nevada's Congressional delegation, has passed an amendment to strike the offending language from the bill. In a follow-up with the St. George Spectrum, I said:

"Even if both the House and Senate pass strong bills, I expect the Department of Defense to try for another land grab in conference committee," said Watts. "We must stay vigilant until the NDAA has been signed into law."