Wednesday March 3rd, 2021

Cortez Masto Introduces Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act. The bipartisan legislation will protect over 2 million acres of public land for conservation and recreation while allowing Clark County to develop affordable housing and responsibly plan for population growth projections. This text would be the largest conservation bill in Nevada history. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) is a cosponsor of the bill. Representative Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01) also introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.-02), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.-04), and Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03) are cosponsors. 

“It is vital that we preserve the incredible outdoor spaces that provide immense economic, cultural, and ecological value to Southern Nevada, while also allowing Las Vegas and its surrounding communities to diversify their economies and provide additional affordable housing to Nevada families,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My legislation will ensure Clark County can do both by laying the ground rules for sustainable expansion and affordable housing development while also addressing the threat of climate change through the largest conservation bill in Nevada history. As Southern Nevada rebuilds its economy after COVID-19 and anticipates adding another 820,000 residents by 2060, we must continue our important conservation and climate change mitigation work so the Valley can continue to be a great place for Nevadans to live, work, and recreate for centuries to come.”

“Nevadans recognize the importance of finding common ground between our state’s conservation needs and efforts to grow our communities,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will ensure that our local governments have the tools necessary to better manage our public lands, allow for economic development, and conserve millions of acres of land for environmental and public benefit. I will continue working to defend Nevada’s public lands for future generations and support our state’s economic development needs.”

“I’m proud to introduce the largest conservation bill in Nevada’s history,” said Representative Titus (NV-01). “This legislation will protect more of Nevada’s wildlife and natural treasures for generations to come. People across the country are learning something we’ve long known: Southern Nevada is a desirable place to work and live. Today we are demonstrating that it is possible to accommodate Clark County’s population growth while prioritizing affordable housing and the environment.”

 “In Nevada, everybody realizes that lands bills are a fact of life and that they can be responsible tools for economic development, natural resources management, and conservation. This legislation carefully balances each of those priorities and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on Clark County’s land use needs,” said Congressman Amodei (NV-02).

“In 2020, Nevada was the third-fastest growing state in the country. The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act will ensure there is the proper balance between population growth and economic development while protecting our treasured public lands,” said Congressman Horsford (NV-04). “I’m proud to support this legislation that provides sustainable growth in Clark County that maintains safeguards for effective land management and conservation areas for all Nevadans to enjoy.”

“As the Las Vegas Valley continues to grow, we must continue to work to find common ground that conserves our pristine desert habitats, strengthens our national security, respects the heritage of Nevada’s Native American communities, while also allowing for much-needed development,” said Representative Lee (NV-03). “This plan does just that. This legislation will allow Nevadans to enjoy our beautiful public lands for generations to come, and will also spur economic development in our growing cities, such as Henderson. I’m proud to support this bill alongside so many of my Nevada colleagues in Congress.”

“I applaud Senator Cortez Masto and Congresswoman Titus for their leadership in the introduction of the Clark County Public Lands bill, and I appreciate the Nevada delegation’s ongoing commitment to working together to advance our shared priorities — creating jobs today and protecting our heritage for future generations,” said Governor Steve Sisolak.

“A tremendous amount of environmental research and consultation with various community partners and experts throughout the region went into the development of the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act bill language,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. “I commend Sen. Cortez Masto for incorporating a balanced approach, allowing for the preservation of our critical natural resources as well as understanding the need for orderly growth.”

“Clark County – and all of Nevada – must find bold, smart, and sustainable ways to tackle our climate crisis while balancing the future growth of our state and addressing our community’s most pressing needs of affordable housing and new jobs,” said Paul Selberg, Executive Director, Nevada Conservation League. “As the largest conservation bill Nevada has ever seen, Senator Cortez Masto’s and Congresswoman Titus’ landmark legislation addresses the needs of our community while protecting nearly two million acres of public lands and waters, including Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” 

“We need more affordable housing in Nevada, and land is one of the major barriers to affordable housing production. The proposed regulatory improvements, specifically for affordable housing projects by the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, would speed the land transfer process from years to months. This Act will both decrease costs and increase options for affordable housing – a critical component of Nevada’s future economic prosperity for all Nevadans,” said Christine Hess, Executive Director, Nevada Housing Coalition.

“A critical solution to Southern Nevada’s economic recovery effort will be the passage of the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act,” said Michael Brown, Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “Championed by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Representative Dina Titus, this legislation strikes a creative balance between conservation and badly needed diversification of our economy.”


This legislation was crafted with input from conservationists, city and county officials, business leaders, tribal leaders, and wildlife and recreation interests.

The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act:

  • Prioritizes the use of federal land for conservation, recreation, and other public purposes  
    • This text sets aside over 2 million acres of federally-owned land in Clark County for habitat conservation, outdoor recreation, and cultural and landscape preservation. 
    • Specifically, it includes a 51,000-acre expansion of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, full wilderness designations to over 1.3 million acres of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and 337,406 additional acres of wilderness in Clark County. 
  • Encourages affordable housing development  
    • This bill would allow for the development of more affordable housing, and would make it easier for local governments to reserve federal land and partner with affordable housing developers.  
  • Allows Clark County’s economy to grow while protecting our natural resources 
    • The bill allows Clark County to develop a net 30,633 acres for affordable housing and business growth over the next 50 years.   
  • Combats climate change
    • This text provides Clark County with the long-term planning mechanisms to implement sustainable growth, environmental mitigation, efficient water use, and clean energy development.   
    • It also creates a grant program to support sustainability projects.  
  • Promotes Tribal Self-Governance and Economic Opportunities   
    • This text fosters greater tribal self-governance and helps enable traditional and cultural uses of regional tribal land through the inclusion of 41,255 acres held in trust for the Moapa Band of Paiutes. 

The full text of the bill can be found here. A map of the bill’s conservation and land designations is avalaible here

A full list of stakeholder endorsements can be found here.



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