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For Immediate Release, September 29, 2009

Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821,

Clark County and Cities Seeking Permit to Kill Endangered Species

LAS VEGAS Tomorrow the Department of the Interior will formally begin its public process to consider a request by Clark County, Nevada and the cities of Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite, and North Las Vegas to authorizing the killing of endangered species on up to 215,000 acres.

These local governments currently have a Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan that was issued in 2001 under the Endangered Species Act and authorizes the “take” – harming or killing – of 78 species of plants and animals, including the threatened desert tortoise, through an incidental take permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The existing plan and permit authorize the destruction of 145,000 acres of tortoise habitat for development. Currently, approximately 67,276 acres remain under this permit. The governments want to extend that killing-field area by 215,000 additional acres.

“Given the remaining acres where killing of endangered species is already permitted, and in light of the growing shortage of water to support a desert community, one is led to questioning the wisdom and rationality of the local governments’ decision to pursue this course of action to facilitate unsustainable growth in the Valley,” said Rob Mrowka, Nevada conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The existing development in Clark County is forcing the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pursue a multibillion-dollar pipeline that would drain and dry out east-central Nevada to the detriment of wildlife, its habitats and local communities, and the Clark County tax coffers. The 67,000-plus acres of existing authorized take will strain the water supply past the breaking point, and the addition of more than 200,000 more acres of development is as unconscionable as it is unrealistic.”

Recently, University of Nevada at Las Vegas hydrology professor Dr. Sajjad Ahmad said in a Las Vegas Sun interview that Las Vegas would have enough water only if the annual growth rate was less than 2 percent per year. Yet in seeking more take, the local governments are preparing for annual growth rates that are up to twice that rate for the next 10 years.

The pursuit of additional permits for hurting species places the local governments in direct competition with renewable-energy development, which also must have take under the Endangered Species Act to destroy the habitat of listed species, including the desert tortoise. “There is only so much conservation can do to mitigate the habitat destruction,” said Mrowka. “The real policy question for local, state, and nationally elected officials is: Do we need more unsustainable growth in an already overbuilt desert, or do we need clean, renewable energy to free us from the burdens and cost of foreign oil and dirty coal?”

Clean, renewable energy is sustainable and is critically important for managing the ongoing changing climate. Research and assessments by the U.S. Global Climate Change Research Program confirm that the Southwest is already experiencing increasing temperatures and drought, leading to desertification, increases in acres burned by wildfire, and water shortages. Carbon dioxide levels are currently above 385 parts per million, and on an ever-increasing trajectory unless strong steps are taken immediately.

The Center’s Climate Law Institute and internationally renowned scientists such as Dr. James Hansen are calling for the establishment of a national policy to embark in taking measures to bring the CO2 levels of the atmosphere to 350 parts per million or lower. A critical measure in this effort must be the rapidly increased use of electricity from renewable sources.

Tomorrow’s announcement from the Department of the Interior will be published in the Federal Register and initiates a 30-day comment period.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 225,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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