Angelyn Tabalba


Las Vegas, NV — Today, representatives of Nevada conservation and community groups celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Situated just north of Las Vegas, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest national wildlife refuge outside of Alaska. It was established 85 years ago this week, on May 20, 1936. 

These groups also highlighted the importance of legislation from Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Representative Dina Titus that would permanently protect these public lands. 

The Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, introduced earlier this year by Senator Cortez Masto and Representative Titus, is the largest conservation legislation in Nevada’s history. It would protect two million acres of public lands and is supported by the entire Nevada congressional delegation. This legislation would permanently protect the Refuge, stopping any further military expansion and keeping public access open. 

The Refuge totals 1.6 million acres and includes valleys, mountain ranges, desert woodlands, and coniferous forests. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages these lands, the Refuge could cover Rhode Island twice – and still have enough room left over for a quarter of a million football fields. 

It is teeming with life and home to 500 plant species, 320 bird species, and 53 mammal species, including the iconic desert bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and collared lizards. Visitors to the lands may hike, camp, watch for wildlife, and experience the wonders of these solitary and stunning public lands. 

Below are statements from representatives of conservation and community organizations on the significance of this anniversary and the importance of permanently protecting these special public lands. Photos of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge are available here

Shaaron Netherton, Executive Director, Friends of Nevada Wilderness:

“Friends of Nevada Wilderness has long been a champion for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and our volunteers love doing projects on the refuge that benefit wildlife and recreation. We are happy to be celebrating the 85th anniversary of the refuge’s creation and are grateful for the support of the entire Nevada Congressional delegation ensuring this amazing place remains open to the public and protected for future generations to love and cherish.”

Paul Selberg, Executive Director, Nevada Conservation League:
“The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most pristine and untouched landscapes in the country, encompassing 1.6 million acres of wildlands and a diverse Mojave Desert ecosystem. For 85 years, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge has been protected as an ecological sanctuary to Nevada’s plant, wildlife, and habitat and a cultural site for Indigenous Peoples, yet it remains vulnerable to military expansion. The best way to honor, conserve, and defend the Wildlife Refuge is with permanent protection, ceasing threats of any military development and preserving a culturally significant and vital natural resource for generations to come. We are grateful to our conservation champions Senator Cortez Masto and Representative Titus for introducing historic legislation to protect Nevada’s most treasured outdoor spaces.”

Jocelyn Torres, Conservation Lands Foundation’s Senior Field Director based in southern Nevada:
We join in celebrating the Desert National Wildlife Refuge anniversary and applaud Senator Cortez Masto, Representative Titus, and the entire Nevada delegation for advancing legislation to enhance protections, so that generation after generation of Nevadans can continue to celebrate and enjoy these public lands.

Annette Magnus, Executive Director,  Battle Born Progress:
“The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is sacred land, habitat for the iconic bighorn sheep, and home to some of Nevada’s most spectacular intact desert landscapes. In order for it to continue to thrive without the threat of military expansion, we need permanent protection for the refuge, and we need it now. We must safeguard critical wildlife habitat and important cultural sites while  preserving public access to the refuge and opportunities for recreation. DNWR deserves permanent wilderness protection to keep our public lands in public hands for future generations to enjoy.”

Russell Kuhlman, Executive Director, Nevada Wildlife Federation:

“By establishing the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in 1936, one of the last remaining strongholds for the desert bighorn sheep, we were able to pull a species from the edge of extinction. Safeguarding this habitat and landscape from development has not only helped the wild sheep repopulate Nevada and the Western United States, but has been a place of enjoyment for generations of Nevadans and our visitors.”

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