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COMMENTARY: 2 weeks left to save successful conservation program

Parks and open spaces often provide the heartbeat for our communities. They are places that bring family and friends together. They provide essential opportunities for outdoor recreation in an urban setting. They help enhance our quality of life. We have some great urban parks and some amazing public lands on our doorstep in Las Vegas. A common thread with many of our parks is that they have received support and funding from a hugely successful, but not often heralded, federal program — the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Now the clock is ticking on this vital program. One of the nation’s most successful conservation support systems over the last 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has touched most communities around our state. We have certainly seen its benefits in the Las Vegas area. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has supported Sunset Park, Lorenzi Park and Springs Preserve. It would be a shame if Congress allows this program to expire, which will happen on September 30 if they fail to act.

This support for parks has come at no cost to the Nevadan taxpayer since the funds come from offshore drilling royalties. All told, Nevada state has received over $102 million, which has been distributed across the state. If the program expires, we will lose a vital funding source that helps expand and enhance outdoor opportunities for all Nevadans. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has also provided support to places like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The sheer diversity of projects this fund supports is truly a wonder. It’s a good chance that any Nevadan who has hiked, fished, picnicked, or recreated at local and state parks have benefited from this successful program. The Land Water Conservation Fund is like the score of a movie. You may not even realize it’s there, but it has a significant positive effect on the lives of us all.

I’ve spent countless hours exploring the beautiful landscapes of our state. From Lake Tahoe to Red Rock, there is no shortage of places to visit and enjoy.

Even though partisan gridlock dominates the current landscape in Washington, D.C., a rare bipartisan bill in the House, which would permanently reauthorize the fund, has cleared committee. This is good news, but it only gets us half way there. For it to truly work, we also need to ensure the program is fully funded.

It would be a gigantic mistake if we allow this program to expire. This is why I call upon our congressional leaders to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Future generations should be able to continue to benefit from this wildly successful program and have more opportunities to get outside with their friends and family. It’s time to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Yvanna Cancela represents Nevada state Senate District 10.

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