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BLM announces $79M in funding for 30 Nevada conservation and recreation projects

A historic park in North Las Vegas will double in size, and the Hoover Dam Visitor Center will get new exhibits, as part of the latest round of projects funded by federal land auctions in the Las Vegas Valley.

A total of 30 conservation and recreation initiatives were selected to share more than $79 million set aside under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which has doled out over $3.5 billion for more than 1,200 projects across the state since 1998.

Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze unveiled the 16th round of winning projects during an event Wednesday at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

“I am excited to be back in my home state to announce these important community projects,” said Kornze, who grew up in Elko. “These investments will strengthen outdoor opportunities in the Las Vegas Valley and in many of Nevada’s small towns.”

Fourteen of the approved projects are in Clark County, including $2.7 million for new exhibits and renovations at the Hoover Dam Visitor Center; $1.5 million to double the size of Kiel Ranch Historic Park in North Las Vegas; $7.8 million to add 26 acres to Craig Ranch Regional Park, also in North Las Vegas; and $5.3 million to renovate the Hilltop Campground in the Spring Mountains.

Money also was approved to finish a study and recovery plan for endangered butterflies on Mount Charleston, improve sage grouse habitat in White Pine County and fix the irrigation system that moves water through Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in Lincoln County.

The largest initiative funded this round is the $12.4 million acquisition of a 1,233-acre conservation easement outside of Carson City to protect natural and cultural resources at Jacks Valley Ranch.

All but one of the funded projects are in Nevada. The one is a $6 million extension of the Colorado River Heritage Trail on the Arizona side of the river at the southern end of Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

According to the BLM, this round of funding drew 52 separate proposals totaling almost $193 million.

“We had far more requests than we could fund,” Kornze said.

Commonly referred to by its alphabet soup of an acronym — SNPLMA or “snip-luh-muh” — the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act also directs money from federal land sales to the state’s general education fund and to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for infrastructure projects.

The BLM has conducted 41 land auctions in the valley since the act became law in 1998. More than 15,500 acres of federal land has been sold and $3.1 billion collected under the program.

The event marked the last SNPLMA funding announcement for Kornze, who expects to be out of a job in about 45 days when President Barack Obama leaves office.

Kornze said Red Rock Canyon was the perfect place to hold Wednesday’s event because the “crown jewel” of BLM sites has benefited from the program over the years. More than $150 million worth of improvements at Red Rock, including the new visitor center, have been paid for with land sale money.

“That’s something that never would have happened otherwise,” he said.

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