Las Vegas Sun

May 7, 2021

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Massive desert wildlife refuge effort nears OK

Beyond the Sun

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex is on the verge of becoming a reality.

The complex would consist of more than 1.6 million acres on four wildlife refuges stretching from Las Vegas to central Lincoln County.

The four are: the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, which provides habitat for at least 24 plant and animal species found nowhere else; the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, just north of Las Vegas, prime habitat for desert bighorn sheep and various native plants; the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Clark County, home of the endangered Moapa dace; and the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, in central Lincoln County, which provides nesting, resting and feeding areas for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds and songbirds including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

The plan for the massive complex cleared the second-to-last stage of federal permitting last week with the release of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

A final decision is expected some time after Sept. 21.

Under the proposed plan, the fish and wildlife agency would restore thousands of acres of desert spring, riparian and upland habitat for threatened and endangered species, migratory birds and other wildlife. It would also expand efforts to control invasive plants and animals and expand surveys and monitoring of key wildlife species. Additionally, the federal agencies plan significant improvements to visitor services, including new trails, interpretive exhibits, environmental education programs and visitor contact stations.

Existing hunting and fishing programs would be maintained with minor modifications.

For more information go to desertcomplex.fws.gov.

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NV Energy’s announcement that it will purchase power from two planned solar photovoltaic arrays in Southern Nevada is another small step toward the state’s new goals for use of renewable energy.

On Aug. 13 the utility company said it is set to buy power from a 26-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant planned by Renewable Ventures on privately owned land near Apex.

Renewable Ventures also developed, owns and operates the solar array at Nellis Air Force Base. That project remains the largest solar photovoltaic array in the United States.

This summer NV Energy announced it would purchase power from a 20-megawatt solar photovoltaic array in Searchlight planned by American Capital Energy. The plant would be built about a mile from the main intersection in Searchlight.

“The great thing about this project is the power will be delivered directly to the substation that distributes electricity into Searchlight,” American Capital Energy spokesman Tom Anderson said. “So parts of Searchlight will be powered by solar power made right there in town. It’s pretty cool.”

Both long-term power purchase contracts still must win approval from the state Public Utilities Commission, and neither developer will begin construction until the PUC signs off on the contracts. Both projects are expected to come online in 2010.

The new solar plants will inch NV Energy toward meeting the state’s new renewable portfolio standard, signed into law this summer. The company must generate 25 percent of Nevada’s energy using renewable resources and energy efficiency measures by 2025.

The utility company is already over the 15 percent mark and is negotiating with developers for several more renewable energy projects across the state.

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