The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (NDCNR) has initiated the next phase of the “Conserve Nevada” program that will provide $217.5 million in bonds to conservation projects over the next decade.
The program, formerly known as the Conservation and Resource Bond Program or “Question 1 Program,” was first approved by Nevada voters in 2002. Since its passage, the program has funded projects like the construction of the Tahoe East Shore biking and pedestrian trail, camping improvements to Valley of Fire State Park and Big Bend of the Colorado State Recreation Area, and major refurbishment of state fish hatcheries. According to NDCNR, funds from the bond program have been allocated to every county in the state.
However, not everything has been smooth-going since the program’s start. Because the bonds are backed by property tax revenue, the program was challenged in funding its partners during the 2008 Recession.
“When the Great Recession hit in 2008, 2009 property tax revenue collapsed and bond sales pretty much became nonexistent,” said NDCNR deputy director Jim Lawrence at a virtual listening session on February 10. “The program’s cash-flow was a little bit ephemeral and created a lot of challenges for our partners.”
The program has since rebounded and, in 2019, underwent renewal and expansion through Assembly Bill 84 and got the new “Conserve Nevada” name. This expansion allocates $217.5 million in bonds to nonprofit organizations and local governments, the Nevada Division of State Parks and Nevada Department of Wildlife, and the Nevada Division of Museums.
Already, $145 million in projects are designated for specific use by the Nevada Legislature. These include $20 million set aside for improvements to Clark County Wetlands Park and the Las Vegas Valley Rim Trail, $5 million to state historical buildings like the Caliente Railroad Depot, and $15 million for grants to Lake Tahoe pathways and river corridors.
A competitive grant category will be opened to provide $57.5 million to counties, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and local governments. The timeline for when this will happen is still hazy, but NDCNR expects the first round of grant funding to be available in fall or winter of 2023.
The department is currently working on draft regulations that will be released to the public by the end of February, at which point they will be open to public review and comment.
“We want to hear from Nevadans because the best way we can be advocates as we have discussions with the Nevada finance office and treasurer’s office is to be able to articulate exactly what [stakeholder] needs are,” said Lawrence.
Claire Carlson writes about conservation and the environment for Sierra Nevada Ally and for various other publications. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in International Affairs and a master’s from the University of Montana in Environmental Studies, where she focused on environmental writing. Support her work for the Sierra Nevada Ally.
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