By Pauline Van Betten. Originally published in the Las Vegas Sun April 25, 2020
Times are tough for our country. We’re facing situations we’ve never faced before. As Nevada families struggle to cope with quarantining and dealing with great uncertainty about the future of our state and our economy, many are turning to the great outdoors for a small piece of solace. Whether it’s for a jog, a hike or even a picnic, we just want a walk in the park.
It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve seen record visitorship at major sites throughout the state, so much so that places like Red Rock Canyon and Lake Mead have had to close to ward off immense crowds and maintain social distancing guidelines. Our communities need what nature alone can provide: ample space to recreate, to breathe fresh air, to reconnect with our environment outside of our homes.
Now more than ever, Nevadans see clearly the importance of parks and public lands.
But like so many other facets of our society, these places can’t be maintained, expanded or preserved for our families without adequate funding. As Congress deliberates the next coronavirus relief package, we encourage Nevada’s delegation to keep up the fight for conservation funding.
We already have the vehicle to do so through a bill introduced earlier this year, with bipartisan support and even the blessing of President Donald Trump. The Great American Outdoors Act would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that’s funded dozens of parks throughout Nevada, including Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Spring Mountain Ranch State Park. The bill would also put money toward backlogged maintenance projects at national parks and public lands, like Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Passing the Great American Outdoors Act would go a long way toward protecting the places Nevadans love, and increasing access to more outdoor spaces. Nevada’s members of Congress have already championed LWCF and supported increased national parks funding. Now, it’s just a matter of timing. As we see parks fight overcrowding and our families seek solace in the outdoors, there isn’t a better time to prioritize funding for our parks.
Save Red Rock has made funding LWCF one of its top priorities over the past year because we understand that programs like it could be critical to the future of our beloved Red Rock Canyon. If we want to see sensitive areas around Red Rock permanently protected, and if we want to add more necessary amenities like bathrooms, then we need funding sources like LWCF that can increase access points and match state grants.
During a crisis that threatens our lives and our livelihoods, investing in our public lands and parks is absolutely vital to our public health and community morale, not to mention our economy. We need Congress to include the Great American Outdoors Act in the next relief package and relieve our parks and public lands so that Nevadans can continue enjoying the great outdoors.
Pauline Van Betten is executive director of Save Red Rock.