CARSON CITY - The Nevada Commission on Tourism has joined a national coalition backing Hawaii in a fight against an environmental group's lawsuit that's seen as a threat to the tourism industry.
The lawsuit, filed by the Sierra Club in January against the Hawaii Tourism Authority, seeks to halt the agency's $114 million marketing contract until the potential environmental impact of attracting more tourists and ''alien species'' is determined.
The outcome of the suit could prohibit the promotion of tourism in Nevada and 38 other states until environmental assessments are completed, said Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, chairwoman of Nevada's tourism commission.
''If the state of Hawaii loses this lawsuit, it could set a precedent for blocking other states, such as Nevada, as well as county and local entities from promoting tourism attractions,'' Hunt said.
''If tourists are construed as an environmental problem, any other business or activity could be vulnerable to the same crippling effect.''
Many of Nevada's natural tourist attractions are managed by federal agencies and subject to the National Environmental Policy Act.
A broad application of the law's requirements without specific evidence of an environmental threat could curtail public access to public lands such as Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley and Great Basin National Park, Hunt contends.
The Nevada Commission on Tourism joined the Travel Industry Association of America and the Western States Tourism Policy Council in opposing the suit.