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Originally published Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 2:30 PM

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Salazar announces BLM stimulus projects

The Interior Department is directing more than $300 million in federal economic stimulus money to the Bureau of Land Management to update its facilities, roads and trails and jump-start renewable energy projects across the country, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Saturday.

Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS —

The Interior Department is directing more than $300 million in federal economic stimulus money to the Bureau of Land Management to update its facilities, roads and trails and jump-start renewable energy projects across the country, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Saturday.

Salazar said the 650 approved projects will "restore our landscapes and our watersheds" and help fulfill the Obama administration's target for renewable energy development.

Salazar made the announcement at the Red Rock Conservation Area outside Las Vegas. The desert area's fire station was one of several facilities slated to receive solar panels under the effort.

The money is part of the $3 billion sent to the Interior Department under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $787 billion stimulus bill was intended to spur economic growth and revive the nation's flagging economy.

Salazar said he had no estimate on how many jobs would be created by the $305 million in BLM spending announced Saturday. The total allocation to the Interior Department is expected to create roughly 100,000 new jobs, he said.

The largest chunk of the funding - roughly $143 million - will go toward new construction, deferred maintenance and energy efficiency upgrades on existing facilities, the department said.

The spending also will include $37 million in habitat restoration, $53.4 million in abandoned mine cleanup and $15 million to construct and repair recreational trails.

The BLM manages nearly 260 million acres of land largely concentrated in a dozen Western states. It also administers 700 million acres below the surface, many of which are mined for minerals, oil and gas.

The secretary was quick to focus on one element of the BLM spending - a $41 million allocation to be spent on reducing a backlog of pending applications for new solar and wind energy projects on BLM land.

New offices in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California will be set up to speed up review of the more than 220 backlogged requests for development from solar energy companies, he said.

"They want to get moving with those projects. They have, in many cases, financing ready to go, but they've been held up," Salazar said. "We are putting the pedal to the metal to get it done,"

A list of the approved projects was posted online, although individual grant amounts were not yet available on Saturday.

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A sample of projects provided by the department included:

- $400,000 for new safety shelters along the Iditarod National Historic Trail in Alaska.

- $800,000 to repair trails in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area near Henderson, Nev.

- $1.9 million for road resurfacing in New Mexico.

--

On the Net:

http://recovery.doi.gov/press/bureaus/bureau-of-land-management/

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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