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In ’08 Election, Environment, Resources Top Concerns for Western Voters

Rapid growth in some western states has caused strain on natural resources. Local experts explain how the issues of water, power and land use are playing a role in the 2008 presidential election.

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    The need for that balance goes way back in Nevada's history, to the place where I'm standing tonight, one of the prime attractions off of the Las Vegas strip, the Springs Preserve, the place where Native Americans once came to get their water. We thought it was the perfect place to discuss the struggle over 21st-century resources.

    With us tonight, from left to right, Ron Smith. He is vice president for research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He's also executive director of the Urban Sustainability Initiative.

    Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, she is a Las Vegas-based businesswoman and a community activist.

    Billy Vassiliadis, he is the CEO of R&R Partners, a marketing, communications and government affairs firm that is responsible for the "What Happens Here Stays Here" slogan of Las Vegas.

    And Dean Baker, he is a farmer and a cattle rancher from the eastern part of the state.

    Thank you all for joining us this evening, and you've all been living in Nevada, in your case, Lisa, 20 years, some of you 30, 35 years. And, Mr. Baker, you've been here 53 years. You obviously all like this state, and you've seen it grow phenomenally.

    My first question, Billy Vassiliadis, is, has that growth on balance been good or bad for this state?


    I think it depends on who you ask, Judy. I mean, I think Dean would probably say not great. Those of us who invested in Las Vegas businesses would say it's necessary.

    The growth in this state — good, bad or otherwise — fuels state government, it fuels schools, it fuels transportation, it fuels health care. And right now maybe we're addicted to it, but the fact is it's a part of our life and something we have to come to grips with.


    And so where do you come down on this?


    I'm a realist. And the reality is, if growth stops, many, many bad things happen to the economy of this state. We're seeing it right now with the housing slowdown. The housing slowdown alone has hurt us.