Environmental group: Lake Mead being shortchanged

Oct. 17, 2010 at 5:17 a.m.

LAKE MEAD NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, Nev. (AP) - A slight budget cut proposed for Lake Mead National Recreation Area threatens its operations because of the popularity of the park, a Nevada environmental group said.

The proposed cut for 2011 is less than 1 percent - $169,000 from an $18.3 million National Park Service budget for the park.

But Leah Yudin of Environment Nevada says the park that saw 7.6 million visitors last year will have trouble keeping up with its usage.

"Just as its popularity grows, Lake Mead is under threat from underfunding," Yudin said.

The advocacy group affiliated with national group Environment America said nearly 67,000 more people visited Lake Mohave and Lake Mead in 2009 than in 2008.

National Park Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said the park collected $3.6 million in fees last year. But Munoz says that money can't be used for staffing, only for enhancing visitor experience through projects and services.

"We can't use it to pay for rangers or maintenance workers," Munoz said. "We're understaffed by 50 percent to run a park of this size."

A substantial portion of those fees are used to improve roads and keep launch ramps in line with water levels. Park officials are considering raising entry fees in January.

Right now, it costs $5 per vehicle to enter the park for five days. The new fee would be $10 and be good for one full week.

Environment Nevada said in a report that Great Basin National Park in east central Nevada also faces a 1 percent budget cut despite visitor numbers that increased 23 percent last year.

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Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com


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