Director’s Report: February 2009

[NOTE: This was sent to DCNR employees yesterday afternoon.]

Good afternoon to everyone in DCNR.

The legislature has begun! For many of us the next four months will be a busy time. It is also the time of year my wife complains because she has to help me iron my dress shirts! This promises to be the most interesting session in recent memory. There are a lot of issues on the table from agency budgets to employee pay and retirement benefits, not to mention all of the policy and program issues. I encourage you to keep in touch through the media outlets and blogs for legislative progress on these critical issues.

DCNR Legislation and Employee Participation

The 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature is likely to have a more direct impact on state employees that any in the last five decades. As citizens of Nevada and as state employees you have the right to testify on your own behalf at legislative hearings. I would never suggest denying or stifling your right to participate in the legislative process. I do ask, however, that if you do provide input to the legislature, either in writing or in person, that you do so using your own personal resources and time. This means not using the state computer or supplies and taking leave when testifying or otherwise participating in the process. I also ask that you make it clear that you are providing your own personal input and not representing your program, division or department. This should eliminate any confusion on the part of the legislators and keep us all out of trouble!

Budget Status

As I emailed to you last week, the Department had its first budget hearing. More detailed division hearings are scheduled for February 13 and February 27.

DCNR’s Legislative Agenda

By design, for 2009 the Department only requested statutory changes absolutely necessary for the operation of our programs. With this in mind, the following agency bills are under consideration by the legislature:

  • AB 75 requires the State Forester to submit annual reports regarding forest health and fire prevention in the Lake Tahoe Basin
  • SB 94 would create uniform defensible space guidelines at Lake Tahoe (Both of the above bills were initiated as recommendations of the Bi-State Fire Commission as a result of the Angora Fire)
  • AB 75 would formally place into statute the Conservation Camp program.
  • SB 37 would streamline the flow of grants to recipients in the drinking water, wellhead protection and clean water programs at NDEP.
  • SB 105 gives NDEP’s Board to Finance Water Projects more flexibility to determine grant amounts and provide more dollars to more communities. This bill is being sponsored by the Legislature’s Public Land Committee.
  • AB 18 would provide $100 million in bonding authority through State Lands for the next ten years continuing the environmental improvement program at Lake Tahoe. This bill is being sponsored by the Legislative Committee for the Review and Oversight of the TRPA and the Marlette Lake Water System.

While our direct legislative agenda is modest, we are tracking and are expected to be involved in hundreds of other bills having an impact or potential impact on our programs.

Federal Stimulus Package

Congress is hotly debating another federal stimulus package to help our ailing economy. This time the focus is jobs, infrastructure development, the environment, education and health services. This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are monitoring it closely. For this department it appears the stimulus package may provide on the ground grant dollars for the clean water and drinking water programs, forest fuels reduction, Superfund, leaking underground storage tanks, Brownfields and diesel emission reductions. A bill has already passed the House. Passage in the Senate may be more problematic. Stay tuned!

Fire Assistance Grants are Available for Fuels Reduction

The Nevada Division of Forestry is seeking applications for the 2009 Wildland Urban Interface grant program’s state fire assistance grants. There is about $1 million available for projects statewide. The purpose of this funding is to mitigate risk of wild fires in wildland-urban interface areas. For more information, contact Kacey KC at (775) 684-2511.

Divisions Contribute to UNR Career Fair

As many of you know, both state and federal agencies that deal with land and natural resources are facing a mass exodus in the near future as employees reach retirement age. To help remedy the situation, the University of Nevada’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources held a career fair for UNR students last week. Our divisions of Forestry, Environmental Protection and State Parks participated by giving presentations and meeting with students about career prospects in state agencies. Hopefully this will pay dividends in the future by educating students on the benefits of a career in natural resources.

License Plate Program Receives Recognition in Pahrump

The Nevada Division of State Lands’ Mt. Charleston License Plate Program helps to fund conservation projects based on sales of the Mt. Charleston license plate. State Lands’ Skip Canfield was on hand recently to travel the Spring Mountains to visit the Wheeler Well site, which provides water for wildlife and is being used as an educational site to focus on land stewardship and the importance of natural resources. The “Keeper of the Wheeler Well” grant received more than $13,000 from the license program.

Forestry is Seeking Artistic 5th Grade Students for Arbor Day Poster

Nevada’s fifth grade students are being asked to showcase their artistic talents by creating posters for the National Arbor Day Foundation’s annual Arbor Day Poster Contest, “Trees are Terrific…in Cities and Towns!” Guidelines and a free activity guide are available here or by calling Susan Stead at 775-684-2506.

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