BLM proposes restoration for spring areas


The Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada District Office is seeking public input through February on the restoration of three nearby areas.

That was the topic for its open house Jan. 17 at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Visitor Center.

The presentation highlighted the planned restoration of the La Madre, Rainbow and Kiup springs. All three springs have been significantly altered by human disturbance.

According to wildlife biologist Amelia Savage, Rainbow and La Madre springs had non-native vegetation that was “out of control” and taking over the springs to the point where dead, matted vegetation did not allow animals access to the water.

“You can’t see the water,” Savage said. “You can hear it, but you can’t see it.”

La Madre Springs is off the 13-mile Scenic Loop Drive and accessed via Rocky Gap Road (past Willow Springs). Rainbow Springs, on the western slope of the Spring Mountains, is accessed off state Route 160 by taking Lovell Canyon Road.

Kiup Springs is also on the western slope of the Spring Mountains and requires traveling toward Pahrump and taking Trout Canyon Road. Savage called it a “gnarly road, really rugged.”

Of particular interest was Rainbow Springs, home to spring snails so tiny, “they’re about the size of a grain of sand; they’re just little black specks,” Savage said.

“We haven’t been able to find them the last three years.”

The fencing at Rainbow Springs will probably be replaced by T-posts, she said, effectively shutting it off to motorized vehicles.

Proposed action for both the Rainbow and Kiup areas included uncovering the spring channels, forming pools to the side that are no more than 6 inches deep for snails to inhabit and placing rocks nearby to discourage vegetation. Cottonwoods and willows would also be planted using 1-gallon plants.

La Madre has a man-made dam. Constructed of stone and concrete, it’s thought to have been put in place in 1967.

La Madre Springs is home to the Southeast Nevada Spring snail, found in 11 springs. Intervention there would probably include a “stump cut” approach for arundo donax, a type of cane from Southeast Asia.

How did such plants get there?

“From any number of sources,” said Mark Spencer, field manager for the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and BLM’s Sloan Field Office.

“They can be wind-borne. They can be carried by animals. They can be carried by people. And once they get here, they’re in a situation where they can regenerate themselves much faster.”

He said the desert had specific eco systems and that allowing non-native species to take over would upset that balance.

One attendee expressed concern that using an herbicide would be harmful to the animals that live in the water and the ones that drink from it. Savage assured him it would not.

Another attendee wondered if large animals such as elk and bighorn sheep wouldn’t trample more vegetation if the pools were removed to allow for free-flowing water.

“With the pools, it (contains the damage) to one area,” he said.

The cost of restoring the three locations is estimated at about $300,000. Robbie McAboy, manager of the national conservation area, said the project is funded through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.

“It’s not like we’re taking funds from our general fund account,” McAboy said.

“This funding was specifically set aside for this project. It’s a different type of federal funding because the SNPLMA funds are generated through sales of public lands, so it is federal funds, but it’s not federal funds that come down from the treasury.”

Public comment for the project will be taken through Feb. 28 to help prepare the environmental assessment. Members of the public can fax their comments to 702-515-5155 or email them to alsavage@blm.gov.

The environmental assessment is expected to be completed about mid-March, after which time the public will have a two-week window to give input again.

The final decision is expected in May, with the project work starting immediately after and continuing through August 2014.

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Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

 

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