Earth Day 2019: Protect our Species
Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of plant and animal species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. In recognition of this year’s official Earth Day theme, “Protect our Species,” the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (NDCNR) is helping to educate communities about the many wonders of Nevada’s native species, and strategies underway to help advance biodiversity and foster thriving ecosystems.
Nevada features a wide range of diverse habitats, spanning 110,572 miles statewide. From the bluer-than-blue waters of Lake Tahoe in the north, to the high deserts in the east, to the banks of the Colorado River in the south, Nevada is among the nation’s most naturally unique and biodiverse states.
Here, NDCNR shares interesting facts about some of Nevada’s diverse native species and habitats:
• Nevada is the driest state in the nation, with approximately 11 inches of precipitation per year.
• Nevada is the most mountainous state in the nation, with over 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits over 11,000 feet. The Mount Charleston Blue is a native butterfly that lives exclusively in the higher elevations of Mount Charleston, Nevada.
• More than 300 species live exclusively in Nevada, and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. For example, the Amargosa toad lives exclusively in Beatty, Nevada.
• Numerous species in Nevada, including the gila monster, a native lizard, thrive in our dry environment, as they require hardly any water to survive. The gila monster is also the world’s only venomous lizard!
• Nevada has wetlands! Nearly 150 endemic plant and animal species live exclusively in Nevada’s wetland habitats, including a variety of plants, insects, mollusks, fish, amphibians and even one mammal, the Pahranagat Valley montane vole.
• There are more than 25,000 springs in Nevada, many of which haven't been visited yet. Springs are one type of wetland, and many springs are home to a number of rare invertebrates such as springsnails, tiny mollusks that average just a few millimeters in length. One example is the northern Soldier Meadow springsnail that is known from only two locations in northwestern Humboldt County, Nevada.
• Nevada supports the conservation of 26,224,189 acres of sagebrush habitat, home to many native species, including the Greater Sage-Grouse.
Some of the most significant threats posed to Nevada’s native species include habitat loss due to wildland fires, invasive species, and certain human activities. Protecting, nurturing, and enhancing our State’s vast natural resources, habitats, and ecosystems is a core component of NDCNR’s everyday mission. Below are a few examples of how NDCNR works to protect Nevada’s natural resources, supporting thriving habitats for our precious native species.
• From protecting and monitoring Nevada’s endangered/at-risk species, to educating communities about the important role of wildflowers/rare plants, and supporting wetlands, the Nevada Natural Heritage Program is committed to enhancing the state’s biological health and to ensuring optimal land-use decisions. Additionally, NNHP staff participated in the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program, an initiative through the Nevada Department of Wildlife, designed to prevent the spread/introduction of aquatic invasive species in Nevada’s waterways.
• The Nevada Division of State Parks and the Nevada Division of Forestry collaborate on a variety of vegetative management projects, including use of livestock to graze in weeded areas, which is the most environmentally-friendly abatement method.
• Nevada has approximately 620 wildland fires per year. The Nevada Division of Forestry restores, treats, and enhances more than 5,000 acres of Nevada’s forests and rangeland every year – from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Charleston to the Ruby Mountains and everywhere in between. Every year, NDF produces 60,000 plants and procures 40,000 pounds of seed for fire rehabilitation and natural resource conservation projects across the State. NDF also operates two nurseries and a seedbank facility for collection and propagation of species to compete with aggressive and “wildfire-friendly” invasive species, and works with communities and other agencies to apply treatments at a landscape scale and across jurisdictional boundaries.
• Forests and rangeland are a critical part of maintaining the health of Nevada’s ecosystems. The Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Program helps coordinate projects to improve Sage-grouse habitat, including the control of invasive species such as cheatgrass. Nevada’s sagebrush ecosystem is not only home to much of the State's plants and wildlife, but it is also an integral part of Nevada's culture and economy. Nevada’s sagebrush ecosystem serves as a key indicator of the health of Nevada’s overall natural environment. The Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Program focuses on providing solutions and actions to the myriad of threats challenging the condition of the ecosystem and the plants, animals, and populations dependent upon the health and resiliency of this landscape.
• Nevada has 28 Conservation Districts across the state to help promote local conservation efforts, based on the unique resources within each area. Conservation Districts are a critical part of protecting community ecosystems through using locally managed and directed conservation efforts.
You can help protect Nevada’s native species, too! Here are some simple tips to help our species thrive:
• Plant native plants, which attract pollinators and provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your garden. The spread of non-native species has greatly impacted native populations around the world, as invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat.
• Opt for sustainable, eco-friendly products and remember to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” To learn about recycling in Nevada, visit ndep.nv.gov/nevada-recycles
• When enjoying the great outdoors, including exploring Nevada State Parks, remember to Leave No Trace: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.
View this short clip to learn more about protecting Nevada’s species: https://youtu.be/XrtX4M7O0qk
To learn more about the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, please visit dcnr.nv.gov.