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Conservation Funding Under Threat

Red Rock National Conservation Area
Bureau of Land Management
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Conservation efforts in places like Red Rock Canyon could be at risk, if Congress doesn't act.

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund may expire soon.

The fund supports projects at conservation areas across Southern Nevada, such as Red Rock Canyon and the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Over five decades, the fund has paid for some $100 million worth of conservation efforts in Nevada.

Mauricia Baca, executive director of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation, told KNPR's State of Nevada that $13 million of that money has been spent in Clark County alone.

"A variety of different parks have very much benefited on a very local level here in Southern Nevada," Baca said.

She said improvements to Freedom Park, Lorenzi Park and the Clark County Shooting Range have been funded by the conservation money, not to mention Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Red Rock National Conservation Area.

The money does not come from taxpayers; rather, it's from royalty payments from oil and gas companies to compensate for drilling.

The fund has been around since 1965, and has raised $900 million year; however, most of that money is diverted to other programs and projects. 

If Congress doesn't act, the entire fund will go away, something that Baca says will hurt communities across the country.

"It gets substantially more challenging for our municipalities, for our cities, for our county,  for our state to make some of the improvements, to do some of the upkeep," she said.

Baca noted that the parks and recreation areas maintained by the fund are assets to the whole community that don't require extra taxpayer dollars. 

"Maintaining them as great places to visit  both for our residents and for our visitors is increasingly important," Baca said.

She said saving the fund has had bipartisan support from lawmakers in the past and has had support from the general public.

Baca said she was "hopeful" Congress will once again approve the fund. 

Mauricia Baca, executive director, Outside Las Vegas Foundation

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)