Water Resource Protection
MAJOR STATE AND FEDERAL STATUTORY, REGULATORY AND LEGAL CONSTRAINTS
State and federal law and policy establish standards for clean water, controlling growth in floodplains, and protecting the environment. While each of these goals is beneficial and consistent with the long term goals and values held by Nye County and its citizens, the immediate impact of the legislation is often limiting, particularly given that federal agencies either own or manage 98% of Nye County's land and water resources. The following provides summaries of the major state and federal statutory, regulatory and legal constraints impacting water planning and management in Nye County (Nevada State Water Plan, 1999).
The Endangered Species Act protects threatened and endangered plants and animals and their habitats. The Endangered Species Act provides protection not only to threatened and endangered species, but also to the water resources that support the habitat for these, and other sensitive species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) maintains a list of species, all of which are dependent upon water. The law prohibits any action that results in a "taking" of a listed species, or adversely affects habitat. USFWS has listed Nye County's protected species, which include 7 endangered and 10 threatened species. Twelve of these species occur in designated critical habitats in Nye County.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended is a basic charter for the protection of the environment. All proposed federal actions affecting public lands or resources must be reviewed for NEPA compliance, and an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared containing statements of the environmental effects. Any required NEPA document needs to consider the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action, including impacts to water resources associated with the saturated and unsaturated hydrologic zones.
The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976, as amended, determines how federal land management agencies can allow the lands they administer to be used. Decisions related to possible risks to water resources must comply with the appropriate federal and state laws, and be consistent with BLM's multiple use responsibilities under FLPMA.
Nevada State Resource Protection Programs and Authority
The State of Nevada Natural Heritage Program researches, collects, and analyzes information on hundreds of Nevada's sensitive plant and animal species. The Natural Heritage Program maintains lists of at-risk plants and lichens; at-risk animals; and watch-list plants and animals by county. As of March 2004, there were 270 Nye County plants and animals included on the Nye County rare species list. These are species that could qualify for listing as a threatened or endangered species in the future under current management and land-use situations.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) administrator, under NRS 503.589, has the authority to enter into agreements with other entities for the conservation, protection, restoration and propagation of species of native fish, wildlife and other fauna which are threatened with extinction. NDOW also manages more than 117,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Nevada. The primary management emphasis on WMAs is the protection of wetlands and waterfowl. The State Forester Firewarden, under NRS 527.300, has the authority to enter into agreements with other entities for the conservation, protection, restoration and propagation of species of native flora which are threatened with extinction.