ML - Vegas Magazine

2013 - Issue 7 - November

Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.

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Page 109 of 131

Nine species of hummingbirds can be found in Nevada. Burros are nonnative but entirely at home here. "AN ECONOMY THAT IS FUNDAMENTALLY BUILT ON GROWTH IS A HOUSE OF CARDS. WE HAVE TO BE MUCH MORE CREATIVE IN HOW WE LIVE."—JIM MOORE and animals alike. Today, as in the past, it remains a delicate balancing act. A conservation biologist with the Nature Conservancy for 23 years, Jim Moore focuses much of his work on the desert's biological hot spots, places where water allows life to flourish. One such place is the town of Beatty, along a 12-mile stretch of the Amargosa River, where Moore works as director of the Oasis Valley Project. Its goal is to protect the Amargosa toad, native fishes, and their wetland habitat from many threats, including nonnative crayfish and off-road vehicles. At first there was some resistance to his efforts to create a protected habitat. "In 1995, when the project started, the town was not enthusiastic about conservation," Moore says. Unbowed, the Nature Conservancy purchased two ranches and set to work restoring and maintaining a protected zone. Now those little toads are changing the way the town thinks about conservation. "The owner of the Stagecoach Casino recently donated all his riverfront property behind the facility," Moore says. "It will be used as the beginning of a greenbelt trail system for the town." 108 T he success in Beatty could serve as a blueprint for other challenges, such as the one that pits Valley residents against the bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes that are now being sighted around town. "With the droughts, lots of animals have moved down into the Valley and into the neighborhoods," says Rachel VanHorn, a zoologist with the Springs Preserve. These four-legged creatures are, at least for now, our neighbors—and humans need to adjust. It's a story that's been repeated through our history. "The Las Vegas Wash used to flow when there was rain; that's the way it had been for thousands of years," says Springs Preserve environmental biologist Dr. Raymond Saumure. "Now it flows all the time, thanks to [clean] wastewater. We've created a permanent flowing river." That means a new habitat—wetlands harboring the flora and fauna that resided here long before people arrived. "The green spaces being created down on the Strip are attracting birds and insects," he adds. "These are new stop-off points in their migration patterns." No local dance between man and nature is quite as significant as the one that involves developers and the desert tortoise. The tortoise is an iconic but threatened species that has survived in the Mojave for thousands of years. These amazing animals are exquisitely adapted to life in the desert, yet that's no guarantee of their survival. And their survival is crucial. "The thing with tortoises is that they are a keystone species—other species rely on them," says Saumure. "The Mojave is hot, and a lot of animals cannot handle the heat. Your average desert tortoise digs up to 40 burrows; they're not always occupied, so all these other animals use them." And a favorite meal of the raven? You guessed it: the desert tortoise. Says Moore, "The tortoises in the wild are on the edge all the time. They're on the edge with temperature, with food resources, with water balance." The Desert Tortoise Conservation Center currently cares for some 1,400 tortoises, but it's refocusing its efforts on specimens in the wild and is scheduled to be shut down at the end of 2014 unless the federal government provides an alternative funding source. Local organizations such as The Animal Foundation and Lied Animal Shelter are now taking them in. Even with the best of intentions, as we human VEGASMAGAZINE.COM 106-109_V_F_JimMoore_Nov13.indd 108 10/22/13 5:43 PM

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