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Lawmakers Speak Out Against Trump Plan to Seize NV Conservation Dollars

The fund that helped expand Red Rock National Conservation Area would be emptied as part of President Donald Trump's new budget proposal. (kconnors/morguefile)
The fund that helped expand Red Rock National Conservation Area would be emptied as part of President Donald Trump's new budget proposal. (kconnors/morguefile)
February 14, 2018

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Both of Nevada's U.S. senators are joining conservation groups to fight a provision in President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal that would drain $230 million from a fund that helps acquire new lands for public benefit.

The budget would clear out any unspent funds in the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act special account at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The fund was set up in 1998, as a compromise to set aside money for conservation by selling some public lands to developers in the Las Vegas area.

As David von Seggern, past president and current member of the Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter, puts it, the Trump administration shouldn't double-cross the people of Nevada.

"That money was a promise to Nevada citizens," said von Seggern, "so any attempt to take away those funds, I think, is not only wrong, but may be illegal."

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Dean Heller, as well as Rep. Dina Titus, have criticized this move to redirect $230 million to the Interior Department's general fund.

The budget proposal calls for an overall 14-percent cut to the Interior Department budget. President Trump has defended the plan, saying cuts to domestic spending are necessary to better fund defense and national security priorities.

Von Seggern notes that the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act has been used to expand Red Rock National Conservation Area, and many other projects in every county across the state.

"This mitigation fund provides money for us to acquire lands for public use, for restoration projects, for various recreation projects," he explains. "In a way, the growth of Las Vegas has given many benefits to Nevada through this fund. "

Other projects funded with the money include Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas, and a project to put in a fire break at Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, removing vegetation so firefighters could protect nearby homes.

The president's budget proposal now serves as a starting point for Congress to hammer out an actual budget for fiscal year 2019.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV