The Nevada State Engineer has granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority permission to drill seven groundwater wells within and around the Nevada Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Pumping from the proposed wells could potentially damage springs and streams containing habitat for endangered species, including many that are not found anywhere else, according to conservation organisation Defenders of Wildlife.

“Wildlife refuges are for wildlife,” argued Brian Segee, staff attorney for the organisation. “The desert refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states and one of Nevada’s greatest natural treasures. This is the last place that the state should be looking to drill for water.”

Situated 25 miles from Las Vegas, the 1.5 million-acre desert complex encompasses four distinct refuges: Desert Range, Ash Meadows, Moapa Valley and Pahranagat. These areas support wildlife ranging from bighorn sheep to several species of endangered fish.

The Desert Refuge was among ten wildlife refuges listed in a report published by Defenders of Wildlife last October, entitled Refuges at risk: America’s ten most endangered national wildlife refuges 2004.

The report listed the primary threat to the refuge as the Southern Nevada Water Authority revealed its plans to extend its operations to utilise the area’s groundwater.

By Jane Kettle

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