A Dixie Valley toad in its wetland habitat. Dixie Valley toads are found only in a hot-spring fed wetland in Dixie Valley, northeast of Fallon, Nevada. Dixie Valley toads were emergency listed as an endangered species in April 2022. Primary threats include geothermal development, disease, predation by other non-native frog species, groundwater pumping for human and agricultural use and climate change. - image: courtesy of Wiki Commons

Commentary

As this year draws to a close, it is helpful to look back over the past 12 months to reflect on our successes and failures. Fortunately, within Nevada’s conservation world our victories far outweighed our setbacks. From passing the largest funding for climate action to prioritizing Nevada’s wildlife and habitat, our state’s “conservation needle” moved in the right direction.

In August, the most significant climate legislation in U.S. history was passed via the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislation designates $4 billion for drought resiliency in Western states, including Nevada, facing historic levels of long-term drought, with priority for the Colorado River Basin and inland water bodies like Lake Mead. This includes paying farmers, rural districts, and others to not plant crops and let their fields go “wild.” This policy has the potential to also benefit wildlife while helping to fund the installation of efficient watering technology. The bill also sets aside $5 billion to support healthy, fire-resilient forests, forest conservation, and urban tree planting. Within that $5 billion, $1.8 billion specifically addresses the urgent need to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and protect communities.

Lake Mead – image: Russell Kuhlman

Having a healthy forest ecosystem directly benefits Nevadans by providing clean water to drink and clean air to breathe– rights that should be given to all Nevadans and their communities. But it is also vital to the economic health of our state. Recovering from recurring climate-driven wildfires is expensive. Preventing wildfires saves money in the long run. Raging fires and dangerous air quality negatively impacts the tourism dollars that towns like Lake Tahoe rely on to survive. And it’s not just Tahoe. Nevada’s outdoor recreation industry statewide generates over $12 billion every year in consumer spending alone.

The Inflation Reduction Act also modernizes how we responsibly develop domestic energy production on our public lands. By updating the royalty rate, minimum bid requirements, rental rates, and ending noncompetitive leasing, the law will put taxpayers and our public lands first – not the oil and gas CEOs who made record-breaking profits in 2022.

Regarding wildlife victories, Nevada residents have plenty to celebrate about. In November, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced an Instruction Memorandum calling for increased collaboration between BLM state offices and state wildlife departments to include habitat connectivity in future wildlife management. The best science available shows the West, including Nevada, is losing 1.3 million acres of sagebrush habitat every year. The continuing fragmentation and disconnection of habitat is resulting in increasingly isolated animal populations that has led to the inability for wildlife to reach important winter and summer habitat. This new guidance will ensure that wildlife connectivity is an integral part of the BLM’s wildlife management process.

Wildfire smoke – image: Russell Kuhlman

In addition to protecting wildlife corridors, the Dixie Valley Toad, Tiehm’s buckwheat and Whitebark pine were all given the protections afforded through the Endangered Species Act. While adding species to the endangered species list has both positives and negatives, there is legislation in Congress that would save many species from joining that list. The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) is legislation that would give state wildlife agencies the funding and resources to help species recover, thrive and avoid the heavy red tape that typically accompanies an endangered species listing. Unfortunately, RAWA failed to be approved in the 117th Congress, but hopes are high that this historic wildlife bill will find passage in 2023.

As Nevada’s conservation community looks back on 2022 with a sense of accomplishment, there is still work to be done. Through dedication and hard work, next year will provide the opportunities to advance Nevada’s conservation goals of protecting, conserving and restoring our native landscapes and wildlife.


Russell Kuhlman, Executive Director – Nevada Wildlife Federation

The Nevada Wildlife Federation. An organization dedicated to Nevada’s conservation efforts.


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