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Biggest NV Conservation Bill Ever Would Better Protect 2 Million Acres

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A new bill would expand the Desert National Wildlife Refuge by more than 1.3 million acres. (Kurt Kuznicki)
A new bill would expand the Desert National Wildlife Refuge by more than 1.3 million acres. (Kurt Kuznicki)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
March 4, 2021

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- More than 2 million acres in southern Nevada would get wilderness protections under a new bill introduced in Congress on Tuesday, the largest conservation bill in state history.

The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act would add 1.3 million acres to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas.

Shaaron Netherton, executive director for the nonprofit Friends of Nevada Wilderness, said it will provide more places for urban dwellers to experience nature, while also protecting wildlife habitat.

"For the last four years, we've been working on keeping the military from taking over more of that wildlife refuge and making sure that it stays open to the public," Netherton explained.

The bill would also establish a funding stream for climate and sustainability projects, facilitate more affordable housing and open up 30,000 acres near Las Vegas to development.

The bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and in the House by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

The House version is co-sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who said in a statement it "carefully balances economic development, natural resources management, and conservation."

The bill also would add 50,000 acres to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Sheila Billingsley, treasurer for the nonprofit Save Red Rock, said she's glad the area between Highways 159 and 160 will be protected from development.

"The conservation area has seen a huge population growth, over 400% in this COVID year," Billingsley pointed out. "And Save Red Rock feels that this will take some of the pressure off Red Rock,"

The bill also would increase the protected Special Management Areas around Clark County by 350,000 acres.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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