Berkley sounds warning on possible Red Rock cuts

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., sounded a warning against an amendment pending in the U.S. House she said could cut off funding for the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

As lawmakers were continuing to debate a spending bill for fiscal 2011 that would keep the government running until October, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, prepared an amendment to defund the National Landscape Conservation System.

Bishop argues funding for the system, which was created to preserve sensitive lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, was a duplication for the agency and could be cut.

“The NLCS has created an unnecessary, costly, and confusing two-tiered system within the BLM that clouds the BLM’s historic mission," Bishop says on his website. "I have yet to see a compelling example of how our nation benefits from adding another expensive layer of bureaucracy to the management of our public lands."

Berkley said the amendment if passed into law, could "force the shutdown of Red Rock Canyon, a move that would only hurt the Las Vegas Valley’s economy by taking away the ability for everyone to enjoy this beautiful desert landscape that has been treasured by our community for decades."

Bishop insisted that conservation areas would not close, and that the BLM merely could budget its normal appropriations to maintain the areas.

Environmentalists were sounding alarms about the amendment, which had yet to be debated as the House worked late Thursday on government-wide bill. Lawmakers were expected to continue debate on Friday.

Brian O'Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, said a cut in funding also would impact the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area in the southern end of the Las Vegas Valley.