Bringing Nature to Las Vegas and Other Cities

Today I am at the grand opening of the new Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Nevada.

Desert NWR

Work goes on at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Credit: USFWS

It is a spectacular new building, built with revenue generated by the sale of public land … not from the pockets of the average taxpayers.

The 11,000-square-foot visitor center features exhibits, two classrooms/meeting rooms, offices and a bookstore. It is also loaded with environmentally friendly design elements, and the refuge is applying for the highest certification for sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Platinum.

What is great about Desert NWR and its new visitor center is that it is only 23 miles from the city of Las Vegas, a city with about 600,000 residents. The largest refuge in the lower 48 states, just a stone’s throw from the 31st largest city in the United States? Amazing.


Who Really Needs Ivory? The Elephant!

Poaching and wildlife trafficking are decimating wild populations of elephants in Africa and other species around the world, and in the last few years the losses have been staggering as the pace and deadly proficiency of poachers have accelerated – as many as 35,000 elephants killed in 2013. At its current rate, poaching could cost us a fifth of Africa’s elephants over the next decade.


"Classic" is one of the oldest and most dominant bulls in the western Kruger ecosystem, South Africa. Michelle Gadd/USFWS

We know the United States can’t save these species alone. Conservation of species depends on international community coming together to stop poaching, derail trafficking and cut demand.

The United States raised global awareness of this crisis when we crushed our seized ivory – an action since replicated by France and China ­– and we are continuing to lead by example.

President Obama just signed the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, which will result in a near-total ban on commercial trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.


Partners Essential to Recovery, and Other Lessons from the Oregon Chub

On Tuesday, a 3-½ inch minnow found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley made a big splash.  No longer threatened with extinction, the Oregon chub became the first fish proposed for removal from the Endangered Species list.  

Oregon chub

Oregon chubs swim at Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Oregon. Photo by Rick Swart, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

We listed the Oregon chub as endangered in 1993 for several reasons. Mainly, its native floodplain habitat was disappearing, and the fish was losing out to such nonnative fish as the bass and bluegill. In 1993, just eight known populations with fewer than 1,000 fish were known to exist. Thanks to lots of hard work, the population now stands at more than 150,000 fish at 80 locations. Just stunning! 

The chub’s recovery is something we’re proud of. But what’s even better is how it recovered.


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Last updated: August 31, 2011