September 1, 2009

Massive desert wildlife refuge effort nears OK

By Stephanie Tavares
Las Vegas Sun

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex is on the verge of becoming a reality.

The complex would consist of more than 1.6 million acres on four wildlife refuges stretching from Las Vegas to central Lincoln County.

The four are: the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, which provides habitat for at least 24 plant and animal species found nowhere else; the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Las Vegas, prime habitat for desert bighorn sheep and various native plants; the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Clark County, home of the endangered Moapa dace; and the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, in central Lincoln County, which provides nesting, resting and feeding areas for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and songbirds including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

The plan for the massive complex cleared the second-to-last stage of federal permitting last week with the release of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

A final decision is expected some time after Sept. 21.

Under the proposed plan, the fish and wildlife agency would restore thousands of acres of desert spring, riparian and upland habitat for threatened and endangered species, migratory birds and other wildlife. It would also expand efforts to control invasive plants and animals and expand surveys and monitoring of key wildlife species. Additionally, the federal agencies plan significant improvements to visitor services, including new trails, interpretive exhibits, environmental education programs and visitor contact stations.

Existing hunting and fishing programs would be maintained with minor modifications.

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