Beyond the Boundaries

Southern Nevada — Mojave Desert

Help Us Protect the Mojave Desert 

The Mojave appears harsh and barren from a distance, but a closer look reveals a wide array of habitats–mountains, valleys, springs, forests and wetlands–that shelter an abundance of plant, fish and animal species, several of which are imperiled. The desert landscape of southern Nevada also has a rich human history that we can trace from ancient rock paintings in the region.

More than 7 million acres of public lands are found in this region, including national parks, national forests, state lands and Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. This complex consists of four national wildlife refuges: Desert refuge, the largest refuge in the lower 48 states and home of desert bighorn sheep and desert tortoise; Pahranagat refuge, site of a unique wetland complex; Moapa Valley refuge, source of springs that feed the headwaters of the Muddy River; and Ash Meadows refuge, home of tiny endangered desert fish.

Ash Meadows NWR Credit: Cyndi Souza/USFWS
Ash Meadows NWR
Credit: Cyndi Souza/USFWS

Significance and Threats

The wild landscape of southern Nevada supports a colorful and surprising diversity of living things, both those residing in the desert and those passing through. In wet years, bright flowers color the valleys in spring. On mountaintops, coniferous forests shelter songbirds and mountain lions. Tiny fish swim in springs fed by ancient aquifers.

More than 260 types of birds have been recorded in Desert National Wildlife Refuge alone, but winged wildlife is not the focus of this 1.6-million-acre refuge. Desert bighorn sheep are the star attractions; about 1,000 of these imperiled animals live here. The refuge also provides important habitat for desert tortoise, a federally endangered species.

At Ash Meadows refuge, the tiny bright-blue Ash Meadows pupfish lives in spring waters bubbling to the surface after centuries in underground aquifers.  Another endangered desert fish, the Moapa dace, is found at Moapa Valley refuge. The entire population of these two fish species resides in these desert refuge springs. Pahranagat refuge’s lakes and marshes provide crucial shelter and sustenance to thousands of birds, including migratory waterfowl.

These vital and irreplaceable natural areas–and the unique plants and animals they shelter–face a number of serious threats. One is the rapid expansion of renewable energy development in the Mojave, which is destroying habitat and displacing creatures such as the desert tortoise. Another is the endless demand for water – for Las Vegas, for energy development and for other human uses – which threatens to deplete the aquifers that sustain refuge habitat and wildlife.

What The Refuge Association is doing

The Refuge Association is working with the Southern Nevada Agency Partnership (SNAP), a consortium of government agencies, to help safeguard the wildlife and habitat of the Mojave Desert by:

  • Building a network of visitors centers, trails and other outdoor resources;
  • Developing a marketing strategy for southern Nevada’s conservation lands and building partnerships with the recreation and tourism industry;
  • Identifying and developing plans for safeguarding crucial habitats, including corridors and links between protected lands;
  • Building consensus for a plan that protects vital desert tortoise habitat and also allows renewable energy development to proceed.

What can you do to help?

By making a contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association you’ll enable our team to continue the Mojave Desert and other landscapes across the country. Please consider making a donation today.

Through the Action Network you can learn about new legislation and send your views on these measures directly to your congressperson. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!


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