UPPER SOUTH EAST COMMUNITIES COALITION, INC - Environmental Preservation Group in Washoe County
Wetlands
  
 
 
Wetland Birds - Black-necked Stilt, Mira Loma
 
Since the late 80's and early 90's the Cities of Reno and Sparks, and Washoe County have done their best to destroy (by plowing under and building on) wetlands in this valley. 
 
                                               




                                                                                                         Black-necked Stilt - Chuck Coxe 
                                                                              Mira Loma
 
Road salt, exhaust, oil,
gasoline, antifreeze and a host of other
pollutants are making its way into the fragile wetlands of Steamboat Creek, to poison and destroy what is left.
 

The Nevada Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan's Technical Review Draft from January 2006 (for which there is a link on our "Documents"   page) states:   
                                                
The Nevada Natural Heritage Program has stated the following on their web site:  The Nevada Natural Heritage Program working with The Nevada Department of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy of Nevada put out their Nevada Priority Wetlands Inventory 2007 as an addendum to their Nevada Wetlands Priority Conservation Plan.  This plan identifies wetland areas highly valued for their wildlife habitat functions as well as their capacity to convey, store, and cleanse water, to control erosion and floods and to provide immeasurable socioeconomic benefits. 
 
Unfortunately, the priority wetland areas also represent sites experiencing high stress levels from human activities that undermine their ecological functions and even their existence.  The purpose for this report was to heighten public awareness of the locations of Nevada’s highly valued and vulnerable wetlands, so that decision and actions related to their use and management will tend to favor conservation, protection or restoration over loss, deterioration or development.
 
The NPWI presents a statewide ranked list of 234 priority wetland areas, 26 of which are designated as “highest” conservation priority areas.  Wetland area ranks were determined by the qualitative rating of factors representative of the wetland areas’ capacity to provide ecological functions and values, the intensity of stress induced by human activities, and an estimate of the proportionate area of wetlands historically impacted.  Entities providing information include: NDOW, NDEP-WQ, USFWS, NAIWJV, NNHP, IBA etc.
 
 
Wetland Birds - Great Blue Heron at Steamboat CreekThe Truckee River tributaries are number 19 on the list of “highest” priority for Historical Impact, Ecosystem Functions, Values and Socioeconomic Importance, Sources of Stress and Stress Intensity and Stewardship Urgency.  In some areas an entire range or watershed was identified as the geographic unit.  This included the Truckee River and all its tributaries including the Steamboat Creek.  On a ranking scale of 1 – 81, Washoe                                                                     Valley and the Truckee
Great Blue Heron - Chuck Coxe                     Meadows ranks at seven (7) on their scale.
at Boynton Slough and Steamboat Creek         
 
In addition the “Stewardship Urgency”,  which is the “relative measure of the immediacy of the need for a management response to current or imminent threats determined by evaluation of the impact of protective regulations (if any) and management actions (if any) on deterring the loss or degradation of priority wetlands.  Currently the Truckee River and its tributaries are ranked as “high” which equates to “No regulatory protection or limited protection weakly enforced.  Management plans not prepared or plans done but management actions not implemented or funding not authorized”  or for some of Steamboat Creek (most likely closer to the Rosewood Lakes areas) the ranking is listed as “Moderate” which equates to “Certain wetlands protected by regulation, or certain wetland resources protected by regulation; enforcement weak or infrequent.  Management plans may be prepared but implementation a low priority; funding intermittent or uncertain”.
 
 
In the Steamboat Creek area of the Truckee Tributaries it is projected in this study that 0% of the wetlands remain intact.  It is estimated that 75% of the priority wetlands have been eliminated.  It is estimated that only 5% have been converted and it is estimated that over 20% of what is left is degraded.
 
 
In Nevada’s Wetland Priority Conservation Plan it states; “Wetlands are limited first by natural aridity and second by imposed aridity, where land use thins out water and water-adapted vegetation resources too much.  The heydays of homesteading, desert land entry, and reclamation have passed, but federal colonization programs remain imprinted on the landscape and in views of wetland worth.  Water diversion and development, grazing, road-building, mining, urban and rural land subdivision, farming, logging and motorized back country travel are conducted in a less wanton fashion today, but the increases in these land use activities exceed gains accrued through conservation actions.  An oft-quoted wetland loss estimate from the 1970’s suggests Nevada’s pre-settlement wetland resource base has been cut in half.  The best professional estimate by experienced experts holds that wetland losses are much greater.  Vegetated wetlands occupy less than one percent of the land surface.  Securing the remainder is a serious, difficult challenge.”  It goes on to say that “Nevada lack a purposive effort to plug protection program gaps, such as “isolated” wetlands not covered by Clean Water Act regulation.” 
Wetland Birds - American Avocet at Mira Loma 
 
Then it says “Wetlands of Nevada are rare and profoundly vital to desert-dwelling communities whether wild or human.  Here the heavens dole out precipitation in miserly quantities and the parched land is ill suited to hold onto it.  Strikingly lush against the drab shrub-stubbled slopes that blanket this overwhelmingly arid state, wetlands would still be invaluable if their only purpose were to proclaim the presence of water.                                                                                                       American Avocet - Chuck Coxe at
                                                                                                              Mira Loma
 
But the scattered meadows, marshes and riparian zones mean much more to us than pretty places that display the richest diversity of life in Nevada.  Wetlands are where Nature rolls up her shirtsleeves and gets down to the hard work of replenishing essential resources we consume and cleaning our messes. 
 
While resilient to natural disturbances, wetlands are fragile in the hands of humans particularly vulnerable to resource uses that tend to amplify desert condition and advance the power of erosion.  Wetland habitats cover less than one percent of Nevada’s 70.7 million acres.  Arid climate and tilted topography set natural limits on wetlands, but their depleted condition is imposed by extravagant use, reckless encroachment, and excessive manipulation of water, stream and watershed resources.
 
 
Wetland habitats exemplify the wondrous way that Nature intricately weaves together appealing form and essential function.  Some people are lured to wetlands by the exuberance of life, cooling shade and water and to photograph shimmering shooting star and monkey face reflections, to watch fish, to revel in birdsong, or to feel a deeper connection to the rhyme of the natural order of things.  Others measure wetlands for their inestimable natural utility to, for instance, restock food chains and preserve webs of life; cleanse water and recycle pollutants; protect communities from floods and augment precious water supplies; or produce foodstuff.  Wetlands, adapted and resilient to the harsh and capricious environment of the Basin and Range region, fair poorly where subject to human disturbance.  More than half of Nevada’s wetlands are gone. 
 
Wetland Birds - Great Blue Heron at Steamboat Creek
Recent actions of government and conservation organizations to protect and restore wetlands may have slowed the rate of losses.  However, wetland vulnerabilities mount as the state’s population approaches three million and as federal protection policies and programs falter.  Without reinforcement, state and local efforts fall short of bridging the widening gap between conservation and development.  The dim 
 
Great Blue Heron - Chuck Coxe
Boynton Slough at Steamboat Creek
 
prospects for our wetland legacy are manifested throughout the state; the hyper-productive riparian lining of major and minor rivers appears less like sinuous green ribbons and more like unraveled fragments in fitful disarray.  Many animal and plant species live a marginalized existence in degraded isolated-steam and spring habitats, surviving so long as emergency conservation care is administered.  In terminal valleys, the once-sprawling marsh and meadow complexes have been reduced to paddy field-like tracts kept on life support by wildlife managers that constantly wrangle water, often settling for supplies marginal in quantity, availability, and quality.  The pulse of flow from many springs is fading or has weakened to undetectable levels in groundwater basins where pumping exceeds aquifer recharge.  Waterways subject to routine over-exploitation mostly linger in a disabled condition, diminished in their capabilities to hold wetland vegetation, retain peak snowmelt without collapse, remove pollutants, shelter and nourish wildlife, or resist outbreaks of invasive, nonnative plants.  Any decline in wetland coverage presents prima facie evidence that water supplies, environmental quality, and wildlife and habitats are dwindling.  Indeed, the extinction of many wetland dependent species and water bodies is a matter of history that may re-occur without appropriate measures and commitments to protection.  If water is the lifeblood of Nevada, then wetlands are the organs responsible for its strong, steady circulation.  To say life here pivots around water resources is not an exaggeration.  Therefore, wetland conservation success or failure will be influential in our future, whether we live in a land of sufficiency or poverty, of resiliency or instability.
 
 
Wetland protection efforts are less likely to be effective where the emphasis on maintaining rapid rates of population growth, economic expansion, and landscape industrialization rises head and shoulders above the importance of conserving land, water and biological resources.  Native landscape are less likely to be maintained intact, a critical condition if wetlands are to function properly, across political boundaries if resource development and use proceeds in disjointed, laissez faire-like decision making forums.”
 
 
Long standing consequences of stewardship shortcomings carry over into our priority conservation today.  Prominent among them are depressed populations of many indigenous plants and animals.  Habitats and wetlands are being replaced by serial sub divisions that then become impaired through erosion and non-point pollutions (such as fertilizers and herbicides), and a proliferation and invasion of nonnative plants species to the imperilment of aquatic and wetland flora and fauna known only to occur in Nevada. 
 
 
End of  statement.