By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service
This story was originally published by Public News Service
RUBY MOUNTAINS, Nev. — Nevada is the driest state in the nation, yet few of its rivers and streams have federal protections.
Now a new report identifies the waterways most in need of safeguards. The study found the Truckee River, Lamoille Creek and Pine Creek in the Alta Toquima Wilderness meet the most criteria for protection.
Caitlin Littlefield, lead scientist for Conservation Science Partners, co-authored the report.
“As the climate continues to warm and as our population has grown, we place greater demands and stress on these freshwater resources,” Littlefield explained. “We really run the risk of compromising their integrity and undermining how important they are ecologically.”
Researchers evaluated the waterways on water quality, ecological importance and recreational value. The data should provide a baseline for wildlife agencies to designate the waterways as either outstanding national resource waters or as state or federal wild and scenic waters.
Russell Kuhlman, executive director of the Nevada Wildlife Federation, said the higher-elevation streams are crucial habitat for fish and other wildlife.
“The report highlights the ones in the Ruby Mountains that are so vital for our Lahontan cutthroat trout, the most iconic fish species that we have here, maybe along with the pupfish,” Kuhlman pointed out.
The state currently is suffering though a multi-year drought, with water levels dropping daily at Lake Mead. Water agencies are bracing for cuts to agricultural customers, possibly by next year. New protections for state waterways could stand in the way of future development or mining projects.