Friday, Sept. 11, 2009 | 3 a.m.
When the federal government sets aside land for public use, it creates jobs, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said as he authorized $135 million for projects in Nevada and Lake Tahoe.
Federally funded projects have the potential to create thousands of jobs, he said, adding that 6.5 million people are employed at state and national parks and conservation areas.
Salazar authorized the money Sept. 4 at Cottonwood Cove, a marina at Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Searchlight. He was joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey.
Before heading to Cottonwood Cove, Reid, Salazar and Abbey stopped at the Searchlight Nugget for breakfast, where a cup of coffee costs 11 cents — with tax. A waitress said Reid, who grew up in the mining town, stops by once in a while for breakfast.
The money, raised by the sale of public lands in the Las Vegas Valley, is going toward 63 projects. The money raised is funneled to restoration and improvement projects in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties, and Lake Tahoe. To a lesser degree, projects elsewhere in the state also receive money.
Whether the state will ever see returns such as the $936 million it received in 2006 — the most Nevada has received from this program — is unknown.
“So much of it will depend on the economy, because as real estate goes up or down, it will (determine) how much money we can (raise),” Salazar told In Business Las Vegas at a news conference later.
The Interior Department doesn’t have any projections, but will continue to “husband the program as it was designed,” he said.
“It’s a great program, because these are parcels that we should have been selling anyway,” Salazar said. “They’re isolated parcels and the way the money is generated, it’s impressive ... $135 million coming right back into Nevada ... is huge for this economy.”
And, especially during this recession, Reid interjected.
“No state has been hit harder than Nevada,” he said. “These moneys are extremely important. Things are getting better here, but not fast enough. This will be a shot in the arm.”
Statewide, the projects include $10.2 million for parks, trails and natural areas; $7.7 million for conservation initiatives; $8.2 million for capital improvements, and $13.1 million to buy environmentally sensitive land in Douglas, Washoe and Lyon counties.
In Clark County, Red Rock Canyon, National Conservation Area and Hoover Dam will get money for capital improvements (a combined $2.1 million). Nearly two-thirds of the money allotted for conservation initiatives ($4.9 million of $7.7 million) are for Southern Nevada; parks and trail projects received $7.3 million.