In their 2021 session, our lawmakers in Carson City passed Bills governing all areas of the law even during the pandemic they were focused on the issues facing our State. Many of these laws focused on our public lands and natural resources here in Nevada. In fact, there were so many Bills passed in this area that this topic will be two blogs, and this is part two of two. Our legislature was busy addressing many issues regarding wildlife and endangered species on our state.
The following is one of two of a summary of the Bills regarding Natural Resources that were passed by our Nevada legislature during the 2021 session.
Natural resources (Part 1 of 2)
Assembly Bill 71: Often times, laws are passed at the urging of various political groups or through extreme lobbying efforts. Assembly Bill 71 appears to be such a Bill. This law is really about the open meeting law and access to public information. This statute requires that certain information which is related to rare plants or animals or ecological communities that is included in the data systems maintained by the Division of Natural Heritage of the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources be kept confidential. There is really no explanation for keeping specific information regarding our environment, which in the past was public information, confidential. The link below allows you to review the minutes and the meetings for the passage of each Bill. Specifically, this Bill was opposed by many community groups in our state and there was not one offering of support from the public for this Bill. In fact, this Bill was opposed by such groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Nevada Open Government Coalition, the Nevada Press Association, the ACLU of Nevada, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, the Sunrise Movement of Las Vegas, and the Great Basin Water Network. Despite unanimous public opposition offered to our legislature, this Bill was passed. The Bill received 42 votes in the assembly of which 26 were yea and 16 were nay and in our state Senate 16 votes were yea and 5 were nay. It is not unusual, sadly, for Bills that clearly, on their face, appear to be against the best interests of the general public to be passed through the efforts of lobbyists. In this case, time will tell what the reasoning was for keeping specific ecological data out of the view of the public. It is surprising that our governor did not veto this Bill.
Assembly Bill 72: Nevada assembly Bill 72 is another effort by our lawmakers to be inclusive of all cultures on state decision-making boards. This Act relating to the geographic names of our natural parks and resources requires that the State Board of Geographic Names include a representative of the Nevada Indian Commission as one of the 11 members on the voting board. This Bill also clarifies that the chair and vice chair of the board must be designated by the other voting members. The naming of national parks and even public places and sports teams has become the focus of great concern in recent years. We have seen protests regarding the names of certain national parks as offensive to Native Americans and even seen long-standing sports franchises change their names as a result of public pressure. This Bill is in direct response to those issues and requires that a representative of our native American community be on the board of geographic names for our state to prevent any offensive naming’s from occurring in the future regarding Native Americans.
Effective October 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 84: Assembly Bill 84, again, is in response to recent tragic events in our state as well as around the country relating to wildfires. This Bill authorizes the state Forrester Fire Warden to enter into private-public partnerships and allows for the purchase of certain equipment for the early warning or detection of wildfires. As is obvious on its face, this Bill is directly aimed at attempting to prevent the massive wildfires that have ravaged our state the past several years. It is shocking to me that if there is such equipment available for the early warning and detection of such fires that this has not been purchased and used in the past. However, at least going forward maybe these tragic events can be better controlled in the future.
Effective October 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 85 Assembly Bill 85 relates to agriculture and revises the provisions relating to the control of noxious weeds. In a nutshell, existing law authorized the State Quarantine Officer to declare by regulation which weeds of the state are noxious but prohibited the state quarantine officer from designating a weed as noxious if the weed was so well established in the state that the Quarantine Officer judged its control to be impractical. This Bill removed that prohibition and authorized the State Quarantine Officer to declare any weed noxious by regulation.
OK so I had to do a little digging deep to figure out why this was an issue before our legislature. In fact, the Eureka county manager opposed this Bill. Apparently, once a weed is considered to be noxious, there is a requirement to control the weed by the city or county. Weeds have a significant effect on wildfires, and this was a Bill aimed at controlling more weeds to lessen the impact of wildfires. It places the burden on counties and municipalities to be increased by requiring the control of any weed determined to be noxious by the State Quarantine Officer. The Bill was also opposed by the Nevada Mining Association. They were concerned primarily that the specific weed of cheatgrass in Nevada which is difficult to control and widespread on private and public lands. They believe this Bill will place an undue burden on private landowners already in control of extensive ranching lands to have to address the weed issues on rural lands. This is a good example of a law that seems to be inconsequential on its face but in fact can impact a very small percentage of our population in a very drastic way. It is always a balancing act of public protection versus the burden on private citizens and business https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021/Bill/7354/Text
Effective October 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 86: Assembly Bill 86 creates larger legal liability for the starting of wildfires. Under existing law, a person, firm, association, or agency that willfully or negligently caused a wildfire which threatened human life could be held liable for expenses incurred in extinguishing the fire. This Bill was revised to remove the requirement that “human life is threatened.” This Bill provides expanded liability for causing any wildfire regardless of the threat to human life. Really, it is a Bill to hold big business, primarily energy companies, liable for starting wildfires. It is clear that a wildfire started by an individual really would be unaffected as most individuals do not possess the resources to even come close to covering the cost of fighting a major fire. However, this law places a greater burden on companies to make sure that their equipment is updated and functioning and less likely to cause wildfires.
Effective October 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 89 Assembly Bill 89 relates to hunting licenses and authorizes the board of wildlife commissioners to establish a program where a person can transfer his or her hunting tag of a big game animal to a qualified organization for use by certain persons. The Bill further authorizes a family member of a deceased big game hunter to transfer a tag of a big game animal. In the past, big game tags were not transferable unless the person could demonstrate to the board of wildlife commissioners the existence of extenuating circumstances which caused the person to be unable to use the tag. This Bill provides a lengthy process to provide more circumstances under which these hunting tags can be transferred.
Various effective dates through July 1, 2021.
Assembly Bill 101: Assembly Bill 101 authorizes a licensed veterinarian to administer animal products containing him for CBD which do not contain more than .3% of THC in order to treat animals. This Bill prevents the Nevada state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners from taking disciplinary action against a licensed veterinarian or the facility in which she or he practices for prescribing or administering CBD products to animals.
Effective October 1, 2021.
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