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February 1, 2010
2:42 PM

Species Still at Risk on Nevada Wildlife Refuges Despite New Plan by Feds

LAS VEGAS - February 1 - Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced approval of a new management plan for the wildlife refuges in southern Nevada that will generally improve protection for the imperiled species of the refuges. But the new plan does little to address the single largest threat to the refuges: increased groundwater use that could devastate springs and streams.

"The Service's Comprehensive Conservation Plan outlines a clear path to increasing the protections for the rare and unique Mojave Desert species found in southern Nevada," said Rob Mrowka, ecologist and conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unfortunately, it cannot address the largest threat to the refuges and their species, namely impacts to springs, streams, and lakes resulting from groundwater mining that's being done to support unsustainable human growth and thirsty energy projects."

The forward-looking new federal plan envisions providing enhanced protections for wildlife species such as the desert bighorn sheep, Ash Meadows blazing star, Moapa dace, and Ash Meadows speckled dace, as well as restoration and improvement of their needed habitats. However, the Service acknowledges that the plan has serious shortcomings, including the lack of adequate data and information about the status and needs of the plant and animal species found on the refuges, insufficient budget and staffing to implement many of the envisioned management actions, and concerns about impacts to springs from groundwater development.

Last year the Center sent a formal notice of intent to sue to the federal government over its role in permitting groundwater developments that threaten the continued existence of the Moapa dace at the Muddy River Springs, partially in the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The Center has also critiqued proposed "wet cooling" of solar projects due to their intensive water use that would threaten 24 species of plants and animals found only on the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. One company, Solar Millennium, LLC, recently announced a change in its plans to dry cooling to greatly reduce their water needs and significantly reduce the threat to Ash Meadows.

"The recent decision by a solar company to switch to ‘dry cooling' combined with the recent setbacks to the Southern Nevada Water Authority's groundwater mining and pipeline plans do signal hope for the refuges and their species," continued Mrowka. "Continued attention and action by concerned citizens and conservationists will still be needed if the natural heritage of southern Nevada is to be preserved."

The Service's announcement of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan was published today in the Federal Register and culminates a five-year planning process.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.


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