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Deep Green Resistance Southwest April News Roundup

Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests Campaign

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Photo Credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA showing the aftermath of treatments in the Modena Canyon Wildlands.

Deep Green Resistance and WildLands Defense are advocating for a moratorium on all pinyon-juniper deforestation in the Great Basin and we need your help. Pinyon-juniper forests are being wantonly killed as weeds while their inherent ecological value is summarily ignored. These forests store carbon dioxide, dampen climate change, provide crucial wildlife habitat, protect watersheds, and have helped humans survive in the Great Basin for millennia. A moratorium gives us time to marshall our resources to put this destruction to a permanent end.

See for yourself the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests and then join the fight.

Don’t let them destroy these forests! Sign our petition here.

Also join us to ask BLM to stop clearcutting pinyon-juniper forests.

3/25/2016 The Language of Pinyon-Juniper Trees
2/3/2016 BLM & the Ranching Industry: a History of Collusion
1/5/2016 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: BLM’s False Claim to Virtue
12/13/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: The Oldest Refugee Crisis
12/1/2015 Pinyon-Juniper Forests: An Ancient Vision Disturbed

Follow our Protect Pinyon-Juniper Forests campaign on Facebook for more updates.

Sacred Waters, Sacred Forests

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

Sacred Water Tour, 2014 (Photo: Max Wilbert)

A Gathering for Celebration, Community, Movement Building, Ecology, and Land Defense

Join us in May of 2016 for a tour of sacred lands threatened by the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater pipeline. We will spend three days visiting the communities affected by the water grab, learning about the project and the threatened sacred lands and waters. For those already familiar, we’ll also be holding workshops on the ecology and politics of the region at a basecamp in Spring Valley. The tour will begin at Cleve Creek campground, 12 miles north of Highway 6-50 at the base of the Schell Creek Mountains.

The SNWA water grab is a prime example of how civilizations (cultures based on cities, as opposed to cultures based on perpetual care of their landbases, without resource drawdown) inevitably destroy the planet. A bloated power center, ruled by the ultra-rich and served by an underclass of poorly-paid workers, bolstered by bought-and-paid-for politicians (see Harry Reid) and misused public tax dollars,  reaches out and takes what it wants from the countryside.

One of the developers who wants the water grab has described the Mojave desert around Las Vegas as “flat desert stuff.”  They call living land a wasteland to justify its continuing plunder.  To indigenous peoples—Shoshone, Paiute, and Goshute—the land and water are sacred.

Anyone who respects land and visits this place will fall in love with it.  That’s the purpose of the Sacred Water Tour, an annual gathering organized by Deep Green Resistance for the past three years.  In coordination with local activists and indigenous people, the public is welcomed every Memorial Day weekend to tour the region.

Resistance Radio: Derrick Jensen interviews Max Wilbert about the SNWA water grab
2015 Sacred Water Tour: Sacred Water Under Threat
2014 Sacred Water Tour: Report-Back
Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups
Follow our Stop the SNWA Water Grab campaign page on Facebook for more updates


Regional News

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Image: Cone-shaped solar flux of high intensity as in the above 50 kiloWatt per square meter diagram, at Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System during operation.

Follow the DGR Southwest Coalition Facebook page for more news.


Deep Green Resistance News Service Excerpts

Derrick Jensen: When I Dream of a Planet In Recovery

The time after is a time of magic. Not the magic of parlor tricks, not the magic of smoke and mirrors, distractions that point one’s attention away from the real action. No, this magic is the real action. This magic is the embodied intelligence of the world and its members. This magic is the rough skin of sharks without which they would not swim so fast, so powerfully. This magic is the long tongues of butterflies and the flowers who welcome them. This magic is the brilliance of fruits and berries who grow to be eaten by those who then distribute their seeds along with the nutrients necessary for new growth. This magic is the work of fungi who join trees and mammals and bacteria to create a forest. This magic is the billions of beings in a handful of soil. This magic is the billions of beings who live inside you, who make it possible for you to live.

Derrick Jensen: Not In My Name

Let me say upfront: I like fun, and I like sex. But I’m sick to death of hearing that we need to make environmentalism fun and sexy. The notion is wrongheaded, disrespectful to the human and nonhuman victims of this culture, an enormous distraction that wastes time and energy we don’t have and undermines whatever slight chance we do have of developing the effective resistance required to stop this culture from killing the planet. The fact that so many people routinely call for environmentalism to be more fun and more sexy reveals not only the weakness of our movement but also the utter lack of seriousness with which even many activists approach the problems we face. When it comes to stopping the murder of the planet, too many environmentalists act more like they’re planning a party than building a movement.

Sustaining a Strategic Feminist Movement

At the core of this movement, there is an intangible force with a measurable impact. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset, the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones she loves.

Many burn with righteous anger. This is important – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.

Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.

Ben Barker: Masculinity is Not Revolutionary

To be masculine, “to be a man,” says writer Robert Jensen in his phenomenal book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, “…is a bad trade. When we become men—when we accept the idea that there is something called masculinity to which we could conform—we exchange those aspects of ourselves that make life worth living for an endless struggle for power that, in the end, is illusory and destructive not only to others but to ourselves.” Masculinity’s destructiveness manifests in men’s violence against women and men’s violence against the world. Feminist writer and activist Lierre Keith notes, “Men become ‘real men’ by breaking boundaries, whether it’s the sexual boundaries of women, the cultural boundaries of other peoples, the political boundaries of other nations, the genetic boundaries of species, the biological boundaries of living communities, or the physical boundaries of the atom itself.”

Too often, politically radical communities or subcultures that, in most cases, rigorously challenge the legitimacy of systems of power, somehow can’t find room in their analysis for the system of gender. Beyond that, many of these groups actively embrace male domination—patriarchy, the ruling religion of the dominant culture—though they may not say this forthright, with claims of “anti-sexism.” Or sexism may simply not ever be a topic of conversation at all. Either way, male privilege goes unchallenged, while public celebrations of the sadism and boundary-breaking inherent in masculinity remain the norm.

Film Review: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

All people interested in a living planet–and the resistance movement it will take to make that a reality–should watch this film. The courage found within every one forming their amazing culture of resistance–militant and non; including those who set up alternative courts, sang traditional songs and speak the traditional Gaelic language, open their homes for members of the resistance–is more than i have ever experienced, yet exactly what is needed in our current crisis. Those who fought back endured torture, murder, and the destruction of their communities. Yet, they still fought because they were guided by love and by what is right.


 

Deep Green Resistance: a quote from the book

In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communi­ties of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones. Could it be done more “efficiently”? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuels, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies. Trace every industrial artifact back to its source­ which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clear-cuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountaintop removal, wind farms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms). No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuels or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuels nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out. Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your Global Warming Flip-Flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both real­istic and successful.

 


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Lawsuit Threatened Over Failure to Protect Endangered Nevada Fish

By Center for Biological Diversity

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management of its intent to sue the agencies for allowing groundwater pumping that will feed Las Vegas sprawl but would dry up the springs and aquifers that sustain the Moapa dace. The dace is an endangered fish found only in the headwater springs of the Muddy River, about 60 miles north of Las Vegas in the Moapa Valley Wildlife Refuge.

The notice challenges the failure of the federal agencies to consider vital new information about how the Kane Springs Valley Groundwater Development project and the Coyote Springs Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan — both previously approved by the agencies — will impact Moapa dace habitat and the Warm Springs area of the Muddy River. The amount of groundwater proposed to be pumped in Kane Springs and Coyote valleys, for current and proposed sprawl development, is unsustainable and could drive the dace to extinction.

“Siphoning this water away will spell disaster for one of the rarest native fishes in Nevada,” said Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist with the Center. “These agencies have a moral and legal responsibility to protect this endangered species. This new science shows these groundwater pumping projects will severely affect the water flows that the Moapa dace needs to survive. Letting these projects proceed will, in all likelihood, push this fish into extinction.”

Recent groundwater-pumping tests show that groundwater developments will destroy Moapa dace habitat at a time when the endangered fish, found only in the upper Muddy River and its warm tributary springs, is showing modest increases in its numbers. The ongoing and proposed groundwater pumping and withdrawals alter the flows from the springs and negatively impact the precise flow, temperature and water chemistry that the dace require for long-term survival.

“The good efforts by the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore habitat on the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge will go for naught if sprawl developments and golf courses siphon off the precious groundwater before it reaches the springs the dace live in,” said Mrowka.

The 60-day notice is a requirement for a citizen suit under the Endangered Species Act. Click here to find out more about the Moapa dace.

Paiute Nation Protests Forest-Service Clearcutting of Pine-Nut Trees Near Reno, NV

By Deep Green Resistance Great Basin

BREAKING NEWS: Paiute Nation Protests Forest-Service Clearcutting of Pine-Nut Trees Near Reno, NV

Tubape Numu: Pine-nut People

Members of the Paiute nation living in northeastern Nevada are angry after the Forest Service clearcut more than 70 acres of pine nuts trees that have been used by the tribe for thousands of years, until the modern day.

According to the Forest Service, the trees were cut “by mistake” as part of a federal plan to improve habitat for the Sage Grouse (a story that Deep Green Resistance Great Basin has previously covered). Tribal members disagree, stating that clearcutting these forests will not help the Sage Grouse and should not be done without consultation and approval from the native people.

More than 70 acres of pinenut and cedar trees were cut.

Here at Deep Green Resistance, we are all too aware of the long history of “destruction disguised as restoration.” It’s a pattern that the Forest Service has been guilty of in the past, when it has used the cover-story of “forest health” to justify extensive clearcutting — including cutting old growth forests — in the Pacific Northwest.

More information about this situation is documented in the book Strangely Like War by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan, which begins with a quote from the logging industry:

“It was strangely like war. They attacked the forest as if it were an enemy to be pushed back from the beachheads, driven into the hills, broken into patches, and wiped out. Many operators thought they were not only making lumber but liberating the land from the trees.”
— Murray Morgan, 1955

This video posted on Facebook last week by Myron Dewey, a Paiute tribal member, explains more about the issue of these pine nut trees:

Dewey and others in the Paiute Nation protests group have set up a website,www.Tubape.org, to address the issue further. Here is an excerpt from the website:

From Facebook: "Pictured here is a Grinding Stone with rainwater collected from snow & rain. Behind is the Pinenut Tree that was cut down not too long ago. Goes to show we been in this area and no matter how they put it we had been coming into the Sweetwater area for thousands of years. #PinenutsAreThePeople No Justification to cutting down our relatives. They need to set it right and leave this area alone. Ndn people come from all over to pick in this area and if we say it's ok for 1 area, they gonna want more. Greed and $$$ can't bring back our pinenuts."

“The local Tribal governments and Indigenous people of Nevada and California are aware of the Carson City District resource management plans to conserve, enhance, and/or restore habitats to provide for the long-term viability of the Greater Sage-grouse Bi-state Distinct Population Segment. This action is needed to address the recent ‘warranted, but precluded’ Endangered Species Act (ESA) finding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by addressing needed changes in the management and conservation of the Bi-state Distinct Population Segment habitats within the project area to support overall greater sage-grouse population management objectives within the states of Nevada and California.

“However, we disagree with your proposed action and request that you CEASE and DESIST immediately! Your agency’s are destroying our fishing, hunting and gathering sites as well as sacred sites within the Sweetwater Range and all areas within your DEIS. We have pictures and video’s taken by tribal members from the local areas. We demand that you comply with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that specifically states your agency is legally bound to comply with Executive Order 13175 and your Trust Responsibility to the Tribes.
You have intentionally destroyed our Pine trees (Tu’ba’pe) forests in Sweetwater (Pehabe Paa’a), Desert Creek (Pazeeta Nahu Gwaytu), Sand Canyon (Kiba Mobegwaytu), the territory of the Paiute (Numu) people and all of the Pinenut (Tu’ba’pe) trees and cedar (Wapi) trees in the Great Basin.”

Read more at www.tubape.org

Local news coverage in the Reno Gazette-Journal:http://www.rgj.com/videos/news/2015/02/07/23049559/

We will continue to post information about this struggle.

Washington Post: Proposed Oak Flat copper mine debate

When former miner Roy Chavez heard about plans to develop the nation’s largest copper mine near Superior, Ariz., he thought it might be the salvation of the economically struggling town where he’d grown up and served as mayor.

But as he learned more about the proposal to tap an ore body more than 7,000 feet deep with a method known as “block cave” mining, he changed his mind. Now he fears that the project would be environmentally destructive and limit Superior’s ability to develop tourism and other industries.

“Mining is the nature of the beast in this area. I support the industry and the livelihood it provides,” said Chavez, who comes from a mining family and worked in the Magma Copper mine nearby until it closed in 1996. “But there’s a situation here with this project that just doesn’t sit well with us.”

Resolution Copper Mining, a firm owned by subsidiaries of international mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, is seeking a land swap with the federal government that would give it ownership of 2,400 acres in the Tonto National Forest, where the rich mineral vein was discovered a decade ago. In return, Resolution Copper would give the public more than 5,500 acres of land it owns in various parcels around the region.

But the land the company wants to mine includes popular rock-climbing areas and Oak Flat Campground, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 designated off-limits to mining. Native American tribes consider much of the area sacred, and they worry about earth caving in and damaging landmarks such as Apache Leap, where warriors are said to have jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to Arizona soldiers. The proposed mining area is also home to at least one federally listed endangered species, the Arizona hedgehog cactus.

Resolution Copper says the mine would become the country’s largest source of copper – supplying half a billion tons a year and meeting a fifth of national demand for 50 years. It would also employ 1,400 people on-site during peak operations, for an estimated total economic impact of $46.4 billion during its 66-year lifetime, according to the company.

To secure the land swap, Arizona Sens. John McCain (R) and Jon Kyl (R) introduced legislation in 2009.Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, an omnibus lands bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition.

[Editor’s Note: The Washington Post added this correction: “This article…incorrectly said that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had added authorization of the deal to the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010, a bill that was pulled in late December in the face of Republican opposition. The provision was not in the bill as it was introduced, but it was in a draft version that was leaked and publicized by opponents of the land swap in early December 2010.”]

While McCain’s 2009 bill would have basically ensured the land transfer, Reid’s would have authorized the land swap with final approval contingent on the environmental assessment process mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act and approval from the secretary of the interior.

Jon Cherry, Resolution Copper vice president for legal, external and environmental affairs, said the company is confident legislation similar to Reid’s bill will pass in 2011. Along with McCain and Kyl, Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) supports the project and recently toured the mine site.

‘This is a mining town’

Superior Mayor Michael Hing said the mine would make a “night and day” difference for the town that he’s watched shrink to less than half its former size – currently about 3,200 residents – since the Magma mine closed. Hing’s grandfather came to the area from China in the 1920s to start small businesses serving miners.

“We’ve been through the ups and downs of the boom times, when strikes happened, when mines shut down,” he said. “This has always been our livelihood. This is a mining town. That’s why we live here.”

But Chavez, who now works as a planning consultant and owns a bar, and other opponents say the mine would destroy the landscape, severely affect tourism and potentially contaminate groundwater. They are particularly concerned about the block-cave method, which involves blasting a space below the ore body and using gravity to harvest the ore. This leaves large empty cavities underground. There are several other block-cave copper mines in the region, 60 miles east of Phoenix, causing the surface to collapse and crack in some areas.

In an e-mail, Cherry said the company is doing studies to ensure that groundwater will not be contaminated and that natural features such as Apache Leap will not be harmed. He said the mine would increase rather than reduce tourism, and that part of the land swap involves the company transferring land ideal for rock climbing to the public.

“The mine itself, when it’s operational, presents an attractive tourist destination,” Cherry said. “We approach our project development with a long view where the mine serves as a sustainable environmental, economic and social stimulus locally even after it closes.”

Mine opponents note that the U.S. Forest Service regularly grants mining concessions on public land and say Resolution Copper should seek one rather than taking ownership of the land. They fear that if Resolution Copper owns the land, environmental impact studies will be less comprehensive and not open to public scrutiny.

Cherry said the company needs the land swap to carry out the environmental assessments and petition for permission to mine. Resolution Copper has launched a social media campaign to build public support for the land transfer, including YouTube videos and Facebook groups. Cherry said company polling showed more than 80 percent of locals support the mine.

Public vs. private

But Daniel Patterson, a Democratic state representative out of Tucson and southwest director for the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said Arizonans are wary of privatizing public land.

“This is a state with a substantial amount of mining, but also where people generally value public lands and want to make sure corporations aren’t ripping us off,” said Patterson, who formerly worked as an ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management. “This is a corporate giveaway. There is a lot of skepticism over the fairness – taking it to Washington, D.C., rather than really analyzing it on the ground.”

Nyal J. Niemuth, chief mining engineer for the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources – a state agency that promotes mining – said the Resolution Copper project would “be like the Super Bowl,” invigorating the industry statewide for decades. He said the ore body’s discovery a decade ago has prompted significant exploration – and economic infusion – as mining companies “are trying to duplicate the find, though no one has yet.”

He called environmental and recreational concerns misguided in a state that has staked its identity on mining for more than a century.

A report from the Arizona Mining Association says the industry had $3 billion in statewide direct economic impact in 2009 – employing 9,100 people, paying $151 million to state and local governments and spending more than $2 billion on goods and services from Arizona businesses.

“This is a bright spot in our otherwise dismal Arizona economy,” Niemuth said, adding that it is especially important since the economic crisis chilled residential development. “We’re not pounding a lot of nails out here, but we live in a very complicated world. Some people want jobs; other people . . . want to oppose things.”

2014 Sacred Water Tour Report-Back

Max Wilbert, Susan Hyatt, Katie Wilson, and Michael Carter, Deep Green Resistance Southwest Coalition

In late May 2014, members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), Great Basin Water Network, the Ely-Shoshone Indian tribe, and others toured the valleys of eastern Nevada and western Utah targeted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) for groundwater extraction.[1] The region is part of the Great Basin, a cold desert named for its lack of any drainage to an ocean. What rain falls in the Great Basin remains there in a few streams, ponds, lakes, springs, and aquifers. It is these aquifers that SNWA wants to pump into a central pipeline and bring to the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson. The Goshute and Shoshone tribes and many groups, local individuals, businesses, and governments oppose the project, now stalled by lawsuits. DGR initiated the Sacred Water Tour to help familiarize potential opponents with the land and the water conflict.

We met on the 24th at the Goshute Tribal Headquarters, in the tiny town of Ibapah, Utah, near the Nevada border.   More than a year earlier, DGR coordinators Max Wilbert and Michael Carter met the tribal council here for the first time, to offer solidarity and assistance with the water-grab fight.

Goshute Tribal Headquarters

Goshute Tribal Headquarters

It was the Goshute’s dilemma that first attracted our attention to the SNWA pipeline.[2] Both the Goshute and Ely Shoshone (the Shoshone in this region called themselves “Newe”) have reservation land in the affected area, and both have been fighting the pipeline since it was first proposed. Rick Spilsbury, a Shoshone man from Ely, Nevada, led the tour, which began with Spring Creek, near Ibapah in Antelope Valley.

Spring Creek sustains a rich diversity of life. Rare Bonneville cutthroat trout swim in the creek and reservoir, elk come to drink, and many medicinal and edible plants grow in the riparian areas. Watercress lines the creek, and stinging nettles and wild rhubarb grow under the shade of the rocks where the water emerges. The stewardship of the Goshute has been integral in the return of Bonneville cutthroat to their native waters, and Spring Creek is essential in the restoration of the native fish population.[3]

About a dozen Goshute people went along this part of the tour, including young children transfixed by the sight of water springing straight from rock. The small stream cooled a channel through hot, dry air. The Goshute seemed especially quiet here, though all laughed when one of us held up a handful of old elk droppings, apparently thinking we didn’t know what they were. There seemed a lightness of heart to the mood, maybe because all felt that for the time being, the spring was safe.

Pond at Spring Creek and Deep Creek Range

Pond at Spring Creek and Deep Creek Range

SNWA suffered a major legal setback in December, 2013, when a Nevada District Court judge ruled that the State Engineer’s decision allowing the groundwater pumping was “arbitrary and capricious,” and also “criticized the proposed plan to monitor and take action if damage to the environment occurs and stated there must be scientific triggers.”[4] “Triggers” are events—such as the drying of springs or wells—that would force SNWA to cease pumping water and re-evaluate how it’s impacting an aquifer.

Before this ruling, SNWA wouldn’t even negotiate the possibility of triggers, according to tour guide Rick Spilsbury. Though SNWA has appealed, and other federal lawsuits against the project are pending, the overall outlook for now is good. As Spilsbury explained it, SNWA owns the water rights but because they’re locked in litigation, the water must legally stay put. However, he also cautioned that in the midst of this wave of good news is the bad news that weary pipeline opponents are becoming complacent.

It is important to remember that no success is guaranteed to last as long as industrial civilization stands. And any loss will be effectively permanent. Overdrawn aquifers will not return to their original states on timescales meaningful to humans. It’s possible to stop the SNWA pipeline, but if organized action doesn’t materialize before it’s too late, the effects are irreversible.

“My people have lived here sustainably for over 10,000 years,” said Spilsbury. “We want that for all of the Earth for another 10,000 years.”

From Spring Creek, the tour proceeded south through Antelope Valley into Spring Valley. Spring Valley would be mined for 61,127 acre feet of water annually (one acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre of land a foot deep—about 325,850 US gallons). Along with other valleys targeted for wells—Delamar, Cave, and Dry Lake—the project may produce 200,000 acre feet of water per year.

That night, we stopped to camp at Cleve Creek on the eastern edge of Spring Valley. We did not see any of the “Indian Petroglyphs” indicated on the map, but the place’s coolness, its cottonwoods and willows, its little gurgling creek, the distant tree-spotted meadows in the Schell Creek Range above, all spoke of its endurance and durability. The vestigial ice-age water below the surface—not so long ago, these valleys were long fjords of inland seas, the many mountain ranges slender peninsulas and islands—had a quiet language of its own, too. This quiet of the Great Basin is immense, sometimes intimidating. At Cleve Creek that night, as small thunderstorms came and went and birds and bats circled in the twilight, the calm was overwhelmingly of peace and security.

The conversation turned to the topic of bears and, as if the sky were participating, the clouds parted to reveal the constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear), whose seven brightest stars are also known as the Big Dipper.

The next day we went further south through Spring Valley to the Swamp Cedars, a place that is both sacred and horrible to Goshute and Shoshone peoples. For many generations, this was a gathering place, trading ground, and ceremonial area. But only two generations ago, Mormon settlers and the U.S. cavalry attacked Newe gathered at this location.[5] Over a hundred people were killed in three massacres.

Sacred Water Tour, 2014

Sacred Water Tour, 2014

After paying our respects, admiring the rare ecology of a valley-floor forest in Nevada, and contemplating the sobering fact that this site is surrounded by SNWA test wells and is constantly threatened (a nearby wind farm was originally sited in the cedars), we proceeded further south.

After passing through Ely for resupply, long dirt roads carried us further south in sagebrush valleys between several mountainous wilderness areas (including Mount Grafton Wilderness). These remote, life-filled areas are threatened by the water grab as well.

In the heat of the afternoon, we dropped down to the West to Hot Creek Springs and Marsh Area, part of Kirch Wildlife Management Area. We visited Adams-McGill Reservoir, an oasis full of fish, flanked by many birds and lined with thick bulrush. A great blue heron waited nearby to show us that life can thrive in the desert—if there is water.

Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Kirch Wildlife Management Area

The endangered White River spinedace live in these waters, and are directly threatened by the proposed pipeline which would drain crucial habitat for the few remaining spinedace populations.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “A recent environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline project disclosed that major vegetation and ecosystem changes would occur on more than 200,000 acres, including wetlands that will dry up and wildlife shrubland habitat converted to dryland grasses and noxious weeds. More than 300 springs would also be hurt, along with more than 120 miles of streams.”[6]

We headed back into Cave Valley via an extremely rough road, and we guessed that it rarely travelled. No place to break down. Even though the herd of wild horses we glimpsed knew where to find water out in these dry open valleys, there is no guarantee we could find drinking water. There are few perennial streams or springs. Most of the water is held in the ground, and the shallow groundwater brings life. Every drop of water counts. Water stolen means death to many of those who call this land home.

As the Goshute put it, “even a slight reduction in the water table will result in a cascade of wildlife and vegetation impacts directly harming our ability to engage in traditional practices of hunting, gathering, and fishing on ancestral lands. As our former Chairman Rupert Steele has pointed out; ‘if we lose our language or our lands, we will cease to be Goshute people.’ SNWA’s groundwater development application is the biggest threat to the Goshute way of life since European settlers first arrived on Goshute lands more than 150 years ago.”[7]

Before reaching our next camp in a small pass along the side of Cave Valley, we passed beneath the great tilted limestone peaks of the Schell Creek mountain range.

 Schell Creek Mountains

Schell Creek Mountains

Our campsite that evening, with views into two valleys threatened by SNWA, reminded us of what happened to the Owens River Valley in California after a water extraction project. The valley was turned into a desiccated, dusty landscape largely devoid of life.[8]

That evening, we watched the sunset—a vibrant backdrop of rust, fuschia, and vermillion—from a remote limestone bluff above the pass until the light faded and hunger and darkness drove us back to camp.

Great Basin sunset, Cave Valley

Great Basin sunset, Cave Valley

The sun rose bright on our final morning, cicada song rising in volume with the light. We drove east along several more valleys before dropping into Lake Valley, where SNWA has purchased several ranches. The largest ranch was scandalized when SNWA fired a ranch manager for sexually harassing a female employee. According to Spilsbury, the money-losing ranch is an unpopular venture for the semi-public water agency, even in Las Vegas.

The day was warming quickly, reminding us this desert isn’t always cold. Lake is a broader valley than the others, the mountain ranges lower and gentler than those just to the west. Here the distance felt lonelier, more desolate, yet grazing antelope and circling ravens made their ways through the heat and bright sun. We made a final stop at another SNWA test well, and found beetles and ants and many other subtle crawling things in the cow-burnt soil. A sign in the bulldozed perimeter read “restoration area” with no evident irony at all. We said goodbye, wondering what would happen next, what we could do. The fate of this land seems in the hands of lawyers and judges, where a city’s agents have squared off against the scattered peoples of the dry valleys who only seem to want to be left alone. This is the old weary story of civilization—of legitimized theft, of an inevitable trajectory of civilized human endeavor that always ends in ruin. Yet the land wants to live.

SNWA Test Well site, Cave Valley

SNWA Test Well site, Cave Valley

As long as the cities of civilization exist near these wild places of sage and sky, they will have their eyes on the water. Even with precious little water evident in the landscape and ecology of the dry valleys, the judge in the December court ruling has noted that the SNWA water-grab is “likely the largest interbasin transfer of water in U.S. history”.[9] If the pipeline is approved the beautiful land will be permanently transformed into a dry dead place in the same way that other lands have been destroyed by this culture of extraction. As Derrick Jensen says, “Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.”[10]

DGR Southwest Coalition is searching for strategies to add defenses to the water and communities of the region. One possibility is being advanced by Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which “works with communities to establish Community Rights—such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability.”[11] We welcome any suggestions and offers to help; we also encourage you to join the yearly Sacred Water Tour next May.

 

[1] Michael Carter, “Groundwater Pipeline Threatens Great Basin Desert, Indigenous Groups,” Deep Green Resistance News Service, June 17, 2013, http://dgrnewsservice.org/2013/06/17/groundwater-pipeline-threatens-great-basin-desert-indigenous-groups/

[2] Stephen Dark, “Last Stand: Goshutes battle to save their sacred water,” Salt Lake City Weekly, May 9, 2012, http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/article-35-15894-last-stand.html?current_page=all

[3] US Fish and Wildlife Service, “Status Review for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout,” October 2001, http://wildlife.utah.gov/cutthroat/BCT/literature/fws/bct_status_review.pdf

[4] Lukas Eggen, “Opponents of SNWA pipeline earn ‘complete victory’,” The Ely Times, December 13, 2013, http://www.elynews.com/2013/12/13/opponents-snwa-pipeline-earn-complete-victory-2/

[5] Delaine Spilsbury, “Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project Public Comment,” October 5, 2011, http://water.nv.gov/hearings/past/springetal/browseabledocs/Public Comments/Delaine Spilsbury 3.pdf

[6] Center for Biological Diversity, “Top 10 U.S. Endangered Species Threatened by Overpopulation,” October 28, 2011, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/7-billion-10-28-2011.html

[7] Protect Goshute Water, “Southern Nevada Water Authority Groundwater Pumping & Pipeline Proposal,” The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, accessed June 24, 2014, www.GoshuteWater.org

[8] Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert. New York: Viking Penguin, 1986.

[9] Rob Mrowka, “Lawsuit Filed to Halt Massive Las Vegas Water Grab: Pipeline Would Dry Up Springs and Wetlands, Hurt Fish, Sage Grouse, Pronghorn and Other Species” Center for Biological Diversity, February 12, 2014http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/southern-nevada-water-authority-02-12-2014.html

[10] Derrick Jensen, Endgame (Volume I): The Problem of Civilization. New York: Seven Stories, 2006.

[11] Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, “Community Rights,” accessed June 25, 2014, http://www.celdf.org/section.php?id=423

New Proposals for Gas Drilling at Ouray Refuge in Utah

The Colorado Pikeminnow is an endangered fish that inhabits the Colorado River. A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species, and rare cacti.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A pair of proposals to drill oil and gas wells at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge are up for review through early April. The refuge in eastern Utah is already home to a half-dozen active wells, four endangered fish species and rare cacti.

SALT LAKE CITY — While a national wildlife refuge may appear to be an improbable location to drill for natural gas or oil, two companies are seeking to do just that at the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Utah.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released assessments on the proposals and is seeking input from the public through April 8.

Development of the wells at the nearly 12,000-acre refuge can happen because the federal government owns the land but not the subsurface mineral rights.

Over the past decade, several wells have been developed, tapping mineral rights owned by the Ute Tribe, private individuals or the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.

The Utah situation is not an anomaly. The federal agency manages oil and gas operations on one-fourth of the 558 national wildlife refuges in the system. The refuge in Utah is already home to at least a half-dozen active wells involving state-owned mineral rights.

In this instance, the environmental assessment on the proposal by Thurston Energy Operating Co. is to spend a year developing two oil and gas wells on two pads, each about 1.6 acres. The wells would be drilled to a depth of 7,000 feet and have an operational life of 30 to 40 years before being reclaimed.

Another proposal by Ultra Resources Inc. encompasses the drilling and operation of nine oil and gas wells from five pad locations, each at 1.6 acres. An environmental assessment has also been released on Ultra’s proposal, which features a project area of 1,659 acres, including 1,376 acres on refuge property.

Both assessments include mitigation measures the companies must take to offset impacts, including effects on wildlife such as nesting raptors and thriving deer populations. The federal government is also requiring steps to minimize air pollution given the Uintah Basin’s trouble with high ozone levels in the wintertime.

The refuge was established in the 1960s and serves as a “genetic” haven for the four listed Colorado River endangered fish: the razorback sucker, the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub and the bonytail chub. An endangered species of cactus is also found there. It includes a diverse ecosystem made up of forests, wetlands, 12 miles of the Green River and grasslands.

The service notes it is obligated to provide maximum protection of the refuge but provide mineral owners reasonable access and exploration rights to their mineral estates.

A paper copy of the assessments can be reviewed at the Ouray NWR Office at HC 69, 19001 Wildlife Refuge Road, Randlett, UT 84063. Comments should be submitted in writing by mail to the Ouray NWR Office or by email to sonja_jahrsdoerfer@fws.gov.

More information on the proposals is available by calling the refuge office at 435-545-2522.

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

Original article byAmy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News 

Lawsuit Filed to Halt Massive Las Vegas Water Grab

This is a pond on the Goshute Reservation, below the Deep Creek Mountains. This place will be turned to barren desert if the SNWA pipeline project goes through. Photo via Stop the SNWA Water Grab.

This is a pond on the Goshute Reservation, below the Deep Creek Mountains. This place will be turned to barren desert if the SNWA pipeline project goes through. Photo via Stop the SNWA Water Grab.

For Immediate Release, February 12, 2014

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821, rmrowka@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Filed to Halt Massive Las Vegas Water Grab

Pipeline Would Dry Up Springs and Wetlands, Hurt Fish,
Sage Grouse, Pronghorn and Other Species

LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court today to halt a right-of-way needed for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s long-proposed pipeline (commonly known as the “Groundwater Development Project”). If allowed to proceed, the pipeline would siphon more than 27.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from the desert of eastern Nevada and pump it more than 260 miles to the Las Vegas Valley. The controversial $15.5 billion project would have profound effects on people, wildlife and Nevada’s natural heritage.

“Enough is enough,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center. “Despite hundreds of pages detailing the unthinkable harm that would be caused by this project, tens of thousands of people signing petitions against it, and setbacks in state district and supreme courts, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and BLM have closed their ears to reason, logic and plain common sense. They need to drop this disastrous water grab.”

The Groundwater Development Project would, by the authority’s own admission, dry up or “adversely affect” more than 5,500 acres of meadows, more than 200 springs, 33 miles of trout streams, and 130,600 acres of sagebrush habitat for sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn as water tables plunge by 200 feet.

The greater sage grouse is an upland bird species, iconic and completely dependent on sagebrush habitat for its existence; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the bird to warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2010. Its numbers have plummeted by more than 50 percent in recent decades due to fragmentation and loss of habitat (more of which would occur with the Southern Nevada groundwater pumping project). The Fish and Wildlife Service must make a decision on listing the bird for protections under the Endangered Species Act by 2015 under a settlement agreement with the Center.

At least 25 species of Great Basin springsnails would also be pushed toward extinction, and 14 species of desert fish would be hurt, including the Moapa dace and White River springfish. Frogs and toads would fare little better, with four species severely threatened by the dewatering.

In the lawsuit the Center argues that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act in approving the groundwater development project.

“These laws exist because Americans care about their public lands,” said Mrowka. “Congress passed these laws to make sure our public lands are managed on the basis of multiple-use, to protect irreplaceable cultural and natural resources for current and future generations. They exist so that the needs of future generations of Americans can be taken into account — not just short-term economic growth and greed.”

The suit asserts the agencies failed to analyze impacts from permanently and irreversibly impairing the water springs, groundwater wetlands and wildlife habitat in the project area; failed to consider climate change; failed to adequately disclose how the project would comply with requirements of the Clean Water Act; and failed to comply with the Resource Management Plan in effect for the area.

Also raised in the lawsuit is the fact that the Water Authority has no rights to water to put into the proposed pipeline. On Dec. 10, 2013, the 7th Judicial District Court of Nevada issued a decision — which had been sought by the Center and allies in the Great Basin Water Network — that stripped the Authority of 83,988 acre-feet per year of groundwater due to severe deficiencies in the analysis that supported the original award of rights. The judge called the water-grab plan “likely the largest interbasin transfer of water in U.S. history.”

The Center has asked the court to order the BLM to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement that addresses the flawed analysis, as well as to enjoin the agency from implementing any part of the project until it can be judged to be in full compliance with the law.

Background
On Dec. 19, 2013, the Center notified the BLM that due to the decision by the district court, the agency must withdraw its “record of decision” for the groundwater development project and reevaluate the proposed project and its purpose and need. Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, an applicant for a right-of-way for a pipeline must have a valid existing right established under state law, which the Authority in this case does not. The BLM has not responded to the Center’s letter.

The Center has actively opposed this water grab since 2006. In 2010 and 2011 it filed hundreds of formal protests with the Nevada state engineer opposing the award of water rights to the Water Authority; it was these rights that were stripped by the state district court.

The Center is a member of the Great Basin Water Network, formed in 2004, a broad coalition of government agencies, American Indian tribes, organizations and individuals opposed to this groundwater development project of whose board Rob Mrowka is a member. The Water Network will also file suit against the pipeline right-of-way, as may other individual entities in the Network.

The groundwater development project is projected to cost over $15.5 billion when financing costs are included. The Network is not opposed to water for southern Nevada but instead of a short-term pipeline proposes water be gained from increased indoor and outdoor conservation, reasonable limits to growth, re-evaluating how the Colorado River is managed and used, and long-term solar-powered desalinization of Pacific Ocean water.

The Center is represented by Marc Fink, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, and local counsel, Julie Cavanaugh-Bill of Elko, Nevada.  

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 675,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Original post by Center for Biological Diversity

Two Central Texas Salamanders Receive Endangered Species Act Protection

A big win for two cool salamanders: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Austin blind salamander and the Jollyville Plateau salamander under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians.

A big win for two cool salamanders: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the Austin blind salamander and the Jollyville Plateau salamander under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians.

Original post by The Center for Biological Diversity

Two Central Texas Salamanders Receive Endangered Species Act Protection

More Than 4,400 Acres of Critical Habitat Also Protected

AUSTIN, Texas— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two Texas salamanders under the Endangered Species Act and designated 4,451 acres as critical habitat for the rare amphibians. The decision to protect the Jollyville Plateau salamander and Austin blind salamander was spurred by a landmark settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity in 2011 that is expediting federal protection decisions for 757 imperiled species across the country.

“This is a critical step toward saving these two salamanders that live nowhere else in the world. But we can’t forget that it’s also an important step for the region’s long-term water quality and health,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer who works to save imperiled amphibians and reptiles. “Protecting the clean water and habitat that these salamanders need will also protect all the plants and animals that share their landscape, including humans.”

The fully aquatic salamanders live in springs in Travis and Williamson counties in central Texas. They require clean, well-oxygenated water and are threatened by activities that pollute or reduce water flow to their aquatic habitats. Austin blind salamanders are now protected as an “endangered species” with 120 acres of protected habitat, and Jollyville Plateau salamanders are protected as a “threatened species” with 4,331 acres of protected habitat.

“Endangered Species Act protection for the salamanders also protects the springs that give drinking water and recreation to Texas communities,” said Adkins Giese. “These Texas salamanders cannot survive in waterways polluted with pesticides, industrial chemicals and other toxins so they are excellent indicators of the health of the environment.”

The Austin blind and Jollyville Plateau salamanders have spent years waiting in line for federal protection. As part of an agreement with the Center, the Service agreed to issue protection decisions for them by the end of 2013.

The Service today also announced a six-month extension for its final decision on the Georgetown salamander and Salado salamander, two other salamanders the agency proposed to protect last year.

Species Highlights

Austin blind salamander (Travis County): The Austin blind salamander has external, feathery gills, a pronounced extension of the snout, no external eyes and weakly developed tail fins. It occurs in and around Barton Springs in Austin. These springs are fed by the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer, which covers roughly 155 square miles from southern Travis County to northern Hays County. The salamander is threatened by degradation of its aquatic habitats from pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Another threat to the Austin blind salamander and its ecosystem is low flow conditions in the Edwards Aquifer and at Barton Springs.

Jollyville Plateau salamander (Travis and Williamson counties): Jollyville Plateau salamanders that occur in spring habitats have large, well-developed eyes, but some cave forms of Jollyville Plateau salamanders exhibit cave-associated morphologies, such as eye reduction, flattening of the head and dullness or loss of color. The salamanders’ spring-fed habitat typically occurs in depths of less than 1 foot of cool, well-oxygenated water. The animals live in the Jollyville Plateau and Brushy Creek areas of the Edwards Plateau in Travis and Williamson counties. Scientists have observed significant population declines for the salamander, likely as a result of poor water quality from urban development.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Feds Move to Protect Northern Az Wildflower, Cite Mining Threats

Photo credit: Lee Hughes/Bureau of Land Management

Original post by Evan Bell, Cronkite News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Gierisch mallow endangered Tuesday, and proposed more than 12,000 acres in Arizona and Utah as critical habitat for the desert wildflower.

The orange perennial flower is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, and can only grow in “gypsum soil” found in those counties.

But that soil is also the source of gypsum used to produce construction materials such as drywall. As construction picks up, increased gypsum mining could threaten the endangered flower‘s habitat, the government said, along with recreational activities on public lands and unauthorized use of off-road vehicles.

In addition to creating critical habitat for the plant, other measures called for in the government’s action include seed management, creating “managed plant reserves” and “limiting disturbances.”

All of the land involved belongs to either the U.S. Bureau of Land Management or the Arizona State Land Department.

“The ruling should not impact any legal authorized activity” on the land, said Brian Wooldridge, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife’s Arizona Ecological Services.

But Washington County Commissioner Alan Gardner called the decision “very unfortunate.”

“BLM actually said the wildflower was doing fine or better,” Gardner said. He called it just an attempt by Fish and Wildlife to “shut the gypsum mining down.”

But environmental groups, which have been calling for years for the mallow’s protection, welcomed the news.

“We’re hopeful that this is going to save the plant from extinction,” said Taylor Jones, an endangered species advocate for the WildEarth Guardians. The advocacy group has been lobbying the government since 2007 to list the wildflower as an endangered species.

“We think that this is going to be the only way to protect this very small population from threats in the area,” Jones said.

The Federal Register notice announcing the decision concluded that, with an improving housing market, gypsum mining will make a return. There are two gypsum mines in the critical habitat area, one in operation and one that is currently shut down.

The government said such mining poses a “significant threat” to the species that could wipe out “46 percent” of the mallow’s habitat.

BLM has authorized expansion of the one operating mine, the Black Rock Gypsum Mine, into the flower’s habitat, but it could take years for that expansion to occur, the notice said.

“We work with land management agencies to determine if the project will have an adverse effect on the species and its habitat,” Wooldridge said.

But Jones said the Endangered Species Act is often too “flexible,” often blocking only about “1 percent” of activity to protect a listed species. The prospect of mining and other activity in the flower’s habitat concerns activists.

“When you have a really small population that is being hemmed in, bounded and under pressure, the more likely it is that an event will wipe it out,” Jones said.

The Gierisch mallow, which is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, has been declared endangered by federal officials, who want to designate 12,000 acres as critical habitat for the desert flower. Mallow facts Details on the endangered Gierisch mallow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: - Description: A flowering perennial of the mallow family. Multiple flowers are orange on dark-red or purple woody stems that grow 1.4 to 3.4 feet tall. - Habitat: Found only on gypsum outcrops in northern Mohave County, Arizona, and adjacent Washington County, Utah, at elevations of about 3,500 feet. - Reasons for decline: Mining operations and unauthorized off-roading have damaged habitat; additionally, trash dumping and illegal target shooting have had an impact.

The Gierisch mallow, which is found only in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, has been declared endangered by federal officials, who want to designate 12,000 acres as critical habitat for the desert flower.Details on the endangered Gierisch mallow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

– Description: A flowering perennial of the mallow family. Multiple flowers are orange on dark-red or purple woody stems that grow 1.4 to 3.4 feet tall.

– Habitat: Found only on gypsum outcrops in northern Mohave County, Arizona, and adjacent Washington County, Utah, at elevations of about 3,500 feet.

– Reasons for decline: Mining operations and unauthorized off-roading have damaged habitat; additionally, trash dumping and illegal target shooting have had an impact.

 

Moapa Dace Continues Its Baby Boom

Original Post by Vernon Robison, Moapa Valley Progress

USFWS biologist Lee Simons watches as Darrick Weissenflugh snorkels through a Warm Springs stream counting dace. PHOTO BY VERNON ROBISON/Moapa Valley Progress.

It has been another good year for the Moapa dace. The population of the endangered fish has more than doubled over the past two years, according to a survey conducted last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

On August 6-7, biologists conducted their bi-annual snorkel survey of the Warm Springs area. Donning face masks, snorkels and wetsuits, the scientists slogged through the shallow waters of 17 stream reaches at the headwaters of the Muddy River counting the finger-sized dace one by one.

What they found was encouraging. The results turned up a total of 1,727 dace. That is a 46 percent increase over the 1,181 fish observed a year ago, and a 41 percent increase just since February, when the most recent survey was conducted and found 1226 fish in the stream.

“It’s good to see these numbers,” said USFWS Biologist Lee Simons. “It tells us that we are heading in the right direction. We have found what has gone awry and fixed it.”

Simons attributes the comeback of the dace population to the careful restoration of habitat that has been ongoing in recent years. Key to that has been returning the stream flow to a more optimal foraging environment for the tiny fish.

The Moapa dace, which is found only in the artesian spring-fed headwaters of the Muddy River, is a warm water fish that is adapted to somewhat rapid stream flows, Simons said.

“They dart in and out of the current feeding off of the flow,” Simons said. “That stream flow is like a conveyor belt carrying food. The dace dive into the fast water and pick it up.”

Simons claims that modifications to that natural stream flow; made, in the past, by agricultural and recreational infrastructure at Warm Springs; were what originally set the dace on the path to being an endangered species.

“We have said that if we can produce the optimal habitat, the dace will reproduce again and come back,” Simons said.

The numbers now seem to be bearing that out. The dace have not been seen in these numbers since the mid 1990s. During that time, the fish count plummetted from around 3,800 fish down to 1,000 with about five years.

Scientist attributed this sudden drop to the arrival of an invasive species to the area at that time: the tilapia. The much larger tilapia fish preyed upon the dace causing the disappearance of the native fish in some of the lower reaches of the stream.

So in recent years, a chemical eradication program has been employed to eliminate the tilapia from the system. But it is a problematic task.

“It is like a cancer where you have to kill every single cancer cell or it might come back,” Simons said. “We have to get every tilapia out of the system or the species will suddenly bounce back.”

By 2010, scientist thought that they had eradicated the tilapia. But in August 2011, a small infestation of the species popped up in the south Fork. The Nevada Department of Wildlife was called in quickly for another chemical eradication treatment which seemed to stop the relapse before it spread, Simons said.

Still, scientists are watching vigilantly for any signs of a tilapia come-back. No tilapia were reported in last week’s snorkel survey.

But the dace have yet to return to those lower reaches of the stream. The entire dace population is currently concentration in the upper reaches of the stream under the management of USFWS and the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).

The most dramatic increase in fish population has occurred in newly restored spring flows on the Warm Springs Natural Area, owned by the SNWA. In stream reaches #2 and #3, which are located near what was traditionally the “home ranch” area of the old Warm Springs ranch, the dace population numbers have exploded. In reach #2, there were 310 dace counted this month, compared to 79 from last August (139 last February). In reach #3, 248 were counted, up from only 31 in August 2012 (127 last February).

The numbers in Pedersen Springs reach #5, which flows through the Moapa Valley Wildlife Refuge, has decreased to 85 fish, down from 94 last August (128 in February).

Just downstream and across the street, on SNWA property, reach 5.5 has also seen a decrease from the 376 observed in August 2013 to 318 observed last week. But that is still up from the 244 fish that were observed there in February.

Though this month’s survey shows a very positive increase for the dace population, there is still a long way to go before the fish is considered to be out of danger. The USFWS recovery plan for the dace sets delisting goals at 6,000 fish in five springs systems for five consecutive years, restoration of 75 percent of the historic habitat and effective control of non-native, invasive fish.

Click here to view the Dace Graph from 1994 to 2013.