LAS VEGAS (FOX5) — It’s being called the largest conservation bill in Nevada history.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced the bill on Wednesday, along with a companion bill in the house by Congresswoman Dina Titus.
The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act would protect 2 million acres of federally-owned land, including in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
It would expand Red Rock by 51,000 acres, and allows Clark County to develop more than 30,000 acres for what the bill describes as affordable housing and business growth.
“It will protect more than two million acres of federal land and protect the incredible outdoor spaces across southern Nevada,” Cortez Masto said in the March 3 announcement.
She said her bill also helps provide affordable housing.
“This bill will provide a comprehensive solution to allow Clark County to responsibly grow while also continuing to prioritize conservation,” she said.
“In Nevada, everybody realizes that lands bills are a fact of life and that they can be responsible tools for economic development, natural resources management, and conservation,” said Congressman Mark Amodei of Northern Nevada’s second congressional district. “This legislation carefully balances each of those priorities and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on Clark County’s land use needs.”
Cortez Masto said her legislation lays the ground rules for sustainable expansion with climate change in mind, as she expects Southern Nevada to grow in population by 820,000 by 2060.
But it’s that growth that 18-year-old college student Dexter Lim worries about.
“When we increase the amount of sprawl and increase the amount of city area we’re occupying, we’re expanding our paved surfaces and exacerbating the urban heat island effect. We’re increasing the amount of vehicles on the road. Single occupant vehicles which is going to worsen our air quality,” they said.
Lim is part of the small and relatively new environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement Las Vegas.
They said leaders need to focus on developing land inside our current land boundaries, not going outside of that.
“There’s a certain group of people that’s going to see these impacts. They’re already seeing these impacts. That’s lower class, disadvantaged demographics who are already having the air conditioning break in the summer. Dying of heat stroke or being hospitalized from heat stroke. Not having access to clean or affordable drinking water,” Lim said.
Two very different perspectives on what would certainly change Southern Nevada for years to come.
Nevada leaders expressed their support for the bill, including Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sen. Jacky Rosen.
“We are thrilled that this legislation includes a 50,000-acre expansion of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area,” said Heather Fisher, president of Save Red Rock, in a written statement. “Red Rock is southern Nevada’s crown jewel and this bill recognizes how important these public lands are to locals and visitors alike. We thank Senator Cortez Masto and Representative Titus for working with Save Red Rock to make this expansion possible.”
“A tremendous amount of environmental research and consultation with various community partners and experts throughout the region went into the development of the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act bill language,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. “I commend Sen. Cortez Masto for incorporating a balanced approach, allowing for the preservation of our critical natural resources as well as understanding the need for orderly growth.”