Raising Awareness of Environmental Issues and Sustainability in Las Vegas

The city of Las Vegas is committed to improving the environment through reduction, reuse, and recycling. Community participation is essential for the city to reach its goals. Located in the east of the Mojave Desert, the Las Vegas Valley is an area of immense biological diversity. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) created a water resource plan for Southern Nevada in 1996. The Truckee River system, which originates from the Sierra Nevada in California, provides most of the water to Reno-Sparks-Tahoe residents.

The law directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to auction approximately 27,000 acres of federally owned land in Clark County, primarily in and around the Las Vegas Valley. This provides funding for projects in Southern Nevada that improve outdoor recreation opportunities and contribute to the development of the Clark County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. Nevada is the fastest-growing state in the nation, with a dry climate, numerous mountains, and a high percentage of federal public land. The state's considerable biological diversity is due to its wide variety of habitats, from arid scrubland to riverside and wetland communities, from low-altitude desert beaches to alpine habitats at high elevations.

The rapidly expanding Las Vegas Valley and Reno-Sparks-Tahoe area are seeing new homes spread quickly through dry desert valleys. The Southern Nevada Water System meets federal standards for safe drinking water. The law established a narrow circle around the Las Vegas Valley due to the federal government owning nearly 87% of Clark County's land. Current development patterns suggest that pressures on Nevada's environment will continue to increase in the coming years. Many organisms that once thrived in lakes now exist in isolated areas, adapting to ongoing ecological change.

Until now, the Nevada legislature hasn't paid much attention to limitations on growth, other than worrying that slow-growth policies could cause economic devastation. In terms of biological diversity (the number and type of species found in a given area), Nevada ranks fourth in the nation after California, Florida, and Hawaii with 3,800 species of plants and animals. Urban and rural population centers remain widely distributed even though the state's population has doubled over the past 15 years. However, rapid urban development in Las Vegas and Reno-Tahoe has raised awareness of resource issues associated with urban expansion. The author can be contacted by writing to the Department of Sociology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 455033, Las Vegas, NV 89154-5033.

Harriet Fabros
Harriet Fabros

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