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Environmental Protection


Yucca Mountain
Yucca Mountain

In such an arid territory as Nevada the land must be used carefully to prevent soil erosion and to maintain forests and range grasses. Many conservation programs are federally operated, since the federal government owns a large percentage of the land in Nevada.

The introduction of domesticated animals like horses, sheep, and cows in the late 19th century largely destroyed the natural cover of vegetation. The vegetation of Nevada was not adapted to grazing because Nevada had no large plant-eating animals such as buffalo or elk. Therefore the arrival of large domesticated animals doomed many tiny, delicate native plants. Without this cover the land could not hold moisture, and serious soil erosion resulted.

Since 1934 and the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act, Nevada has, like other Western states, placed much of its land in grazing districts. In these districts, grazing rights are leased to ranchers and are carefully controlled. One of the by-products of this policy has been the preservation of wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service are among the agencies that manage federal lands. Government agencies also advise farmers and ranchers about the best use of their own private lands. The state has its own departments of Natural Resources and Agricultural and Mining. Water conservation in Nevada is also a pressing problem. The relatively small amount of water available from streams is used almost to its maximum extent. Some groundwater, or water beneath the earth’s surface, is also available.

To conserve this supply, comprehensive state water laws regulate well-drilling and the pumping of groundwater. Hoover and Davis dams on the Colorado River benefit Nevada and the other Southwestern states by providing water storage, hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood control, and recreational resources for tourists.

Despite Nevada’s wide-open spaces, its urban areas—Las Vegas and Reno—have air pollution problems. During the late 1970s the U.S. government began to consider storing nuclear waste underground at Yucca Mountain, in the desert of southwestern Nevada. After years of study, the government approved the construction of a storage facility at Yucca Mountain for storing highly radioactive used fuel rods from nuclear power plants. Opposition from Nevada residents, along with concern that the site might not be safe from earthquakes and other hazards, has delayed construction of the site. If built, it would become the first nuclear waste storage facility in the United States. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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