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Southern Nevada volunteers honored for exceptional work in the great outdoors

Outdoors enthusiasts Bob Bronson and Jim Boone worked more hours over the past year than most full-time employees, but neither collected a paycheck.

Bronson is a longtime volunteer camp host and maintenance man at Lake Mead National Recreation Area who logged an estimated 2,556 unpaid hours over the past 12 months. Boone is a retired ecologist credited with donating 2,190 hours of his time to protect — and guide visitors to — Southern Nevada’s natural wonders.

The two were among 10 volunteers and organizations honored for their work during an awards ceremony Saturday as part of Get Outdoors Nevada Day, an annual celebration of public lands and recreation held this year at Lorenzi Park, one of the oldest parks in Las Vegas.

According to estimates from Get Outdoors Nevada, a grant-funded campaign that promotes and coordinates volunteer work on public land, more than 16,000 volunteers, most of them from nonprofit groups, donated 302,660 hours valued at almost $7 million during the past fiscal year alone.

Bronson was recognized Saturday as a Million Dollar Volunteer at Lake Mead, and that’s literally what he is. Had he been paid for the 42,673 hours he has worked at the Las Vegas Bay campground over the past 15 years, he would have made a little over $1 million from the National Park Service, said Christie Vanover, spokeswoman for the recreation area.

“Visitors come to the park every year just to see Bob and enjoy the park, knowing that Bob takes great care to make their visits special,” she said. “This year, as well as through the years, he has been a champion for the park and for the volunteer program.”

Boone is probably best-known as the man behind BirdAndHike.com, the ever-expanding online encyclopedia of adventures he launched in 2002 as a tool for bird watchers. The free site now features about 5,000 pages, 50,000 images and detailed instructions for finding and enjoying hundreds of outdoor attractions in Southern Nevada and beyond.

But the winner of the Trailblazer Award also is an active steward and advocate for the state’s newest national monument, remote Basin and Range in Lincoln and Nye counties, and for what could become its next monument, Gold Butte in northeastern Clark County.

Boone figures he puts in about six hours almost every day on outdoor issues.

“If you ask my wife, she’d tell you it’s an obsession,” he said. “If I’m at home, I’m working on the website or something related to protecting public land. And if I’m out in the desert, I’m doing it out there.”

Boone moved to Southern Nevada in 1995 to work as an ecologist for the Yucca Mountain Project. He said he’s been spending time in the outdoors his entire life, starting with a camping trip his mother took to Death Valley when she was pregnant with him.

Today, Boone tries to spend at least one day a week in the wild, where he picks up trash, documents damage, removes wildlife hazards and leads the occasional tour for top government officials. He views volunteer work as “a way of giving back and honoring those who came before.”

“I love the land, and I’ve been out enjoying the work conservationists have done literally since before I was born,” he said.

Among other individuals honored for their contributions to public lands was George Reyling, named volunteer of the year for his work at Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, where he has donated time since 2002.

Over the past year, Reyling spent more than 370 hours monitoring and maintaining trails, picking up trash, writing interpretive materials, training other volunteers and serving on the board of the Friends of Sloan Canyon.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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