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Extra Protections Sought as Desert National Wildlife Refuge Turns 85

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Thursday, May 20, 2021   

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- The Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas turns 85 today, and conservation groups want to see it protected forever.

The U.S. Senate is expected to hold a hearing in the coming months on the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act. The bill would better protect 2 million acres in the refuge, Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area and more.

Kevin J. DesRoberts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife project leader for the four southern Nevada refuges in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, said public lands saw a huge jump in visitors during the pandemic.

"It's very important for people to have that access and be able to connect with nature and also to learn how to be good stewards," DesRoberts asserted. "Because the future of all these lands and the wildlife depends on people caring about them and being good stewards of the land."

Opponents concerned about government overreach say current protections are sufficient. The area is considered critical habitat for the desert bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise and hundreds of other species.

Grace Palermo, southern Nevada programs director for Friends of Nevada Wilderness, said the bill would stop a proposed 300,000-acre expansion of nearby Nellis Air Force Base.

"Some of their proposal includes putting in landing strips, lots of roads, fencing throughout," Palermo outlined. "And that's going to be very impactful for the bighorn sheep. They need these big spaces."

The bill also would give Clark County more money to manage its growth by building affordable housing and supporting initiatives to fight climate change.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.


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