RED ROCK CANYON, Nevada -- Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today approved $78.6 million for conservation, restoration and recreation projects in Nevada, including $25 million for park improvements and $14.6 million to reduce the threat of wildfires around the state.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to approve this new funding for 49 separate projects under Round 8 of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act,” Kempthorne said during a ceremony attended by Nevada’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign and Reps. Shelley Berkley and Jon Porter.
“One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is approving initiatives under this landmark legislation, because I know that we will be able to acquire and improve landscapes and wildlife habitat, expand vital public water and transportation utilities, and develop new recreational facilities that benefit all Nevadans as well as the people who visit this great state.”
During the ground breaking for a new visitor center at Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area, Kempthorne announced several major funding initiatives, including:
• $25.2 million for 9 projects to improve, renovate and expand parks, natural areas and trails;
• $15.1 million for 5 capital improvement projects on federal lands, including safety improvements at Hoover Dam;
• $9.6 million for 10 conservation initiatives;
• $4.2 million for 6 projects to acquire land, including the purchase of environmentally sensitive parcels; and
• $1.4 million for three Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plans in Clark County, including research and science projects to help protect endangered species.
The Round 8 package includes two new funding categories -- Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration and Hazardous Fuels Reduction and Wildfire Prevention – and two new eligible areas -- White Pine County and the Great Basin National Park.
About $1.8 million was authorized for three landscape restoration projects in Eastern Nevada that will help restore valuable wildlife, forest, and rangeland habitat. The $14.6 million authorized for wildfire prevention will fund 14 hazardous fuels reduction projects at Lake Tahoe; in the Carson Range in Northern Nevada; and in the Spring Mountains, including the Red Rock National Conservation Area. Recent wildfires in Nevada have caused considerable destruction of property and valuable wildlife habitat. Excess forest and brush fuels from decades of fire suppression have exacerbated and increased the intensity of these fires.
Funding for all the projects is authorized through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act and generated from the sale of U.S. public lands identified for disposal in the Las Vegas Valley. Since its inception, the Act has provided revenue from federal public land sales that has generated more than $3 billion dollars. Five percent of that has gone to the State of Nevada General Education Fund; 10 percent to the Southern Nevada Water Authority; and 85 percent has been invested in a wide variety of conservation, restoration and recreation projects in Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties as well as at Lake Tahoe and in northern and eastern Nevada.
Federal agencies that receive funding for capital projects include Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Federal Highways Administration; and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The new $23 million visitor center project at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area includes construction of a new visitor center; redesign of the existing structure into an administration building; construction of a new fee booth area and related infrastructure and site work. Funded by a previous round of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, the project is expected to be finished in 2010.
Red Rock Canyon was designated Nevada's first National Conservation Area in 1990. More than a million people a year visit the 195,819-acre unit, which includes a 13-mile scenic drive, 30 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, campground, interpretive boardwalk, and visitor center. The facility is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip.
Information on all projects approved by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act can be found at http://www.nv.blm.gov/snplma/index.htm.