Senate backs big land transfer for Nevada military complex

Dec 15, 2022, 9:49 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2022, 1:45 pm
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2015, file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, F-35C Lightning IIs, attached t...

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2015, file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon's (NASF) Range Training Complex near Fallon, Nev. The U.S. Senate passed a massive expansion of a northern Nevada naval air base as part of its defense spending bill, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, that is set to finalize a historic transfer of public land to military use. The amendment designates 558,000 additional acres for military training at the Naval Air Station Fallon east of Reno. (Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

(Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. Senate has voted for a massive expansion of a northern Nevada naval air training complex that will transfer of a huge swath of public land to the military.

The Senate on Thursday approved as part of the annual defense spending bill what is likely to be one of the final steps in yearslong negotiations to designate 872 additional square miles (2,258 square kilometers) of land for bombing and military use to the Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, which is 65 miles (104 kilometers) east of Reno.

The measure also designates more than 906 square miles (2,347 square kilometers) of land for conservation, wilderness areas and other protected areas, as well as roughly 28 square miles (73 square kilometers) of land and $20 million each to two Native American tribes. Churchill County, where the training facility is located, will also receive $20 million.

The Fallon complex is the Navy’s main aviation training range, supporting aviation and ground training, including live-fire exercises. All naval strike aviation units and some Navy SEALs train at Fallon before deployment.

The House approved the National Defense Authorization Act last week. It now awaits President Joe Biden’s signature.

The management of Nevada’s vast swaths of federal land, and the differing needs it serves, has long been a push-and-pull for different groups in Nevada that has resulted in legal battles over lithium mining, development, national monuments and endangered species designations. The training facility expansion has been under consideration for years as Nevada’s congressional delegation has introduced it time and again while trying to balance the interests of different groups, including the Navy, conservationists, counties and Native American tribes who have long considered the land to be sacred.

The expansion will “improve our national security, fuel economic growth in Churchill County, and preserve important cultural heritage sites for Tribal nations,” Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in a statement. Praise also came from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, and Republican Rep. Mark Amodei and Churchill County Chairman Pete Olsen.

The Navy has said the expansion is critical to meeting combat training needs for modern aircraft and weapons systems that have outgrown training capabilities over the past two decades.

“This critical legislation enhances our Nation’s security by allowing our Carrier Air Wings and Naval Special Warfare Teams to train in a more realistic environment and better prepare for strategic competition,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement.

Several groups have historically been split or mixed on the expansion, including conservationists and some nearby tribes. Brian Sybert, the executive director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, thanked Cortez Masto, Rosen and Amodei for “crafting a delicate community compromise that has resulted in the only conservation win within this year’s NDAA.”

But Patrick Donnelly of the Center for Biological Diversity called it “a devastating loss for Nevada wildlife.”

He said the public land set to be transferred is one of the few swaths of U.S. land that is largely absent of humans. He added that even parts of the land that will still be maintained by the U.S. Interior Department will still hold combat training exercises that can harm wildlife.

Tribes that have been living in the area where the training complex is located and who consider the valley to be sacred were more optimistic.

“While our tribe will never support the expansion of NAS taking more of our ancestral lands,” said Cathy Williams-Tuni, the chairwoman of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe, “we’re still very thankful and grateful of the many benefits that the NDAA for our tribe has.”

Williams-Tuni has said that they would work closely with the military and Nevada’s delegation to “come up with — we don’t always want to say this word, but a compromise.”

The Paiute-Shoshone Tribe is not against national defense, she added, but there is also an importance to the ancestral lands, with burial sites and artifacts spread out across it.

Over the past year, the Nevada congressional delegation, Interior Department, and Navy officials have engaged with northern Nevada tribes that would be affected by the expansion. The assistant secretary of the interior also flew to Nevada to visit the land and the tribe. About two weeks ago, Williams-Tuni met with Department of Interior and Indian Health Service officials in Washington D.C.

Williams said Thursday that the next step is for the tribe to co-steward the lands with the Department of the Interior and the Navy, which she could potentially include a cleanup program of military residue and the transfer of some vital materials to the tribe for heating subsystems.

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe funding will go toward building and maintaining a cultural center, and the Walker River Paiute tribe’s $20 million is due to past ordnance contamination on tribal land, with about 13 square miles (34 square kilometers) held in trust.

Williams-Tuni said Thursday that although she still opposes the plan as a whole, she is looking forward to “explaining to our membership how we didn’t just give away, and we didn’t give in.”

When the NDAA passed the House last week, Amber Torres, Chairman of the Walker River Paiute tribe, called it “a momentous day where an historic injustice against the Walker River Paiute Tribe has been resolved” in a statement.


Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Myanmar resistance steadfast against army rule 2 years later

BANGKOK (AP) — The prospects for peace in Myanmar, much less a return to democracy, seem dimmer than ever two years after the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, experts say. On Wednesday, legions of opponents of military rule heeded a call by protest organizers to stay home in […]
23 hours ago
Rescue workers and people gather at the site of Monday's suicide bombing after authorities finished...
Associated Press

Peshawar, the city of flowers, becomes epicenter of violence

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s Peshawar was once known as “the city of flowers,” surrounded by orchards of pear, quince and pomegranate trees. It was a trading city, situated at the gates of a key mountain valley connecting South and Central Asia. But for the past four decades, it has borne the brunt of rising […]
23 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
23 hours ago
FILE - Taiwanese Mirage 2000 fighter jets taxi along a runway during a drill at an airbase in Hsinc...
Associated Press

Taiwan activates defenses in response to China incursions

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations of 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy. The large-scale Chinese deployment comes as Beijing increases preparations for a potential […]
23 hours ago
In this Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 photo, Beth Caruso, author and co-founder of the CT Witch Trial Exon...
Associated Press

Connecticut may exonerate accused witches centuries later

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Decades before the infamous Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, Alse Young was killed at the gallows in Connecticut, becoming the first person on record to be executed in the American colonies for witchcraft. The Windsor town clerk registered the death on May 26, 1647, in a diary entry that read: “Alse […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Senate backs big land transfer for Nevada military complex