Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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LOOKING IN ON: THE ENVIRONMENT:

Loans to help rid residents of their lawns

Today is the first day Henderson residents can apply for low-interest loans to help cover the costs of replacing grass with desert landscaping.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority, of which Henderson is a member, pays $1.50 per square foot to homeowners who tear up their grass through its Water Smart Landscapes rebate program. But the water authority estimates up to 30 percent of residential applicants withdraw from the program before completing it, often because they can’t afford new landscaping.

So, Henderson will lend up to $5,000 at 3 percent interest for seven years to a limited number of residents who participate in the water authority’s lawn conversion effort.

Interested? Call Henderson Neighborhood Services at 267-2000 and ask for the Turf Removal Program.

•••

The Amargosa toad shortened an off-road race through Nevada last month.

The federal government is considering endangered or threatened species status for the toad.

After the Center for Biological Diversity asked the Bureau of Land Management to examine the potential effect on the delicate toad, organizers of the 12th annual TSCO Vegas to Reno race were forced to cut almost 100 miles from the race and change the route to protect the amphibian.

Amargosa toads live along a 10-mile stretch of the Amargosa River and interconnected spring systems in the Oasis Valley and adjacent desert uplands around Beatty, about 40 miles northwest of Pahrump.

The race, which featured 1,000 racers and brought 5,000 people to rural Nevada, was changed to 456 miles in length, and began north of Beatty.

Casey Folks, director of the Best in the Desert Racing Association, said although a BLM biologist found there would be no impact on the toad, he agreed to change the race, at cost of about $8,500.

The center had challenged the BLM’s environmental analysis of the race, which found that racers would damage the toad’s habitat.

“Off-road vehicles wreak havoc on fragile desert ecosystems and wildlife,” said Rob Mrowka, a conservation advocate with the center. “While changes to this year’s race afford a short reprieve for the Amargosa toad, this doesn’t solve the broader problem of off-road vehicles destroying Nevada’s fragile deserts at an alarming rate.”

In February, the center petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the toad as threatened or endangered.

The center says the main threat to the toad is habitat destruction from development and recreation, including unrestricted off-road vehicle use and high-speed racing events such as the Vegas to Reno race.

“Deserts heal slowly, and damage from one off-road vehicle can take decades or even centuries to recover,” Mrowka said. “So we intend to continue to actively participate in planning and environmental analysis of future, similar races on Nevada’s public lands.”

•••

More than 4,000 Nevadans have answered a call from Nevada’s congressional delegation to sign a petition asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to scrap plans for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, according to Sen. Harry Reid’s office.

Members of the delegation said in a statement the application is “fatally flawed and incomplete, and insufficient to proceed any farther.”

Reid’s office said the senator sent a letter to the NRC on Thursday outlining the petitioners’ objections to Yucca.

“It’s time for the NRC to listen to the collective voice of Nevada: The proposed Yucca Mountain dump is wrong and we will not accept it,” Reid said in a statement. “Thousands of Nevadans signed onto our petition to send this loud and clear message, one that shows we stand together in firm opposition.”

Sen. John Ensign and Reps. Shelley Berkley, Jon Porter and Dean Heller echoed Reid’s comments in statements Thursday.

“We will not stand for a nuclear waste dump in our back yard,” Ensign said in his statement.

“The time has come for the DOE to ... accept the fact that Yucca Mountain is dead.”

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