Riparian property acquisition is required pursuant to the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) and associated Incidental Take Permit(TE034927-0) Permit Condition K.
Clark County Riparian Reserve Units
It's for the Birds!
In 2012, the Desert Conservation Program (DCP) established the Clark County Riparian Reserve Units to restore and preserve desert riparian habitat within the Muddy and Virgin River watersheds. The Muddy River Reserve Unit and the Virgin River Reserve Unit (collectively, the Riparian Reserve Units) were established for the protection of six sensitive bird species covered under the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP). The six covered bird species include the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, the threatened yellow-billed cuckoo, Arizona Bell's vireo, blue grosbeak, summer tanager, and vermilion flycatcher.
Riparian areas provide valuable nesting habitat for migratory birds as well for resident birds and wildlife. As partial mitigation for private land development activities in Clark County, the DCP is required to buy and conserve land in desert riparian areas to protect these sensitive birds. Located in the northeastern part of the county, the Clark County Riparian Reserve Units really were created for the birds!
What's happening on the Riparian Reserve this quarter:
To streamline development and compliance with the Endangered Species Act throughout Clark County, the DCP administers the MSHCP and associated Incidental Take Permit on behalf of the 7 Permittees (Cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City, Mesquite, Clark County, and the Nevada Department of Transportation). In addition to many other permit requirements, Permit Condition K requires the DCP to obtain private lands in desert riparian habitats on the Virgin River, Muddy River and Meadow Valley Wash watersheds to conserve habitat for riparian birds covered by the MSHCP.
The early properties were purchased by The Nature Conservancy on behalf of the DCP, with the first purchase – 12 acres along the Muddy River - occurring in 2002. In total, 116 acres of riparian property were acquired by The Nature Conservancy on behalf of the DCP along the Muddy River. In 2010 and 2012 the properties were formally transferred to the DCP and the Muddy River Reserve Unit was created. Additional transfers have added to the Reserve. To date, approximately 116 acres on the Muddy River and 665 acres on the Virgin River have been acquired into the Reserve System. Although no properties have been pursued on the Meadow Valley Wash, due to lack of willing sellers, the DCP plans to continue to expand the Riparian Reserve Units on the Virgin and Muddy Rivers as partial mitigation for private land development. The total number and location of acres to be acquired by the DCP within each watershed is dependent on a variety of factors including:
- Willing sellers’ location and availability
- Quality and condition of the riparian habitat
- Resolution of any boundary survey issues
- Funding availability
- Permittees mitigation needs and requirements
- Approval from the Board of County Commissioners
Acquisition Selection Tool
As new properties become available, they are evaluated for suitability for the Reserve System and prioritized based on specific environmental and administrative criteria.
Environmental Criteria includes the evaluation of potential or confirmed presence of covered riparian birds and their habitat on the property; the property’s proximity to other sensitive lands that could further expand the habitat; consideration of the restoration potential at the site, such as availability of water and presence of native plants; and the level of disturbance at the site that could increase management costs, such as presence of weeds or structures that require removal, like fences or septic tanks.
| Administrative Criteria
- Ease of management
- Complexity of land acquisition process
- Potential for degradation of habitat if not purchased for conservation
| Environmental Criteria
- Species evaluation
- Proximity to sensitive lands
- Restoration potential
- Level of disturbance
The Administrative Criteria considers factors such as ease of management, which includes accessibility to the site and current and previous land use practices. The complexity of the land acquisition may increase if buildings need to be removed or if there are unclear property boundaries. The final Administrative Criteria area provides a higher score if the existing riparian habitat is likely to degrade if not acquired and protected.
The Reserve System will continue to grow as mitigation is needed on behalf of the Permittees and as funding allows. Acquisitions by the DCP are restricted by fair market values and are at the discretion of the Board of County Commissioners.
The DCP completed the Clark County Desert Conservation Program Riparian Reserve Units Management Plan in 2015. This plan outlines goals and objectives that are the guiding principles for managing activities on all Riparian Reserve Units. It is updated every two years, or as needed.
Management Goals and Objectives for the Riparian Reserve Units
| Goal 1
| Manage reserve units to provide habitat for the six MSHCP covered avian species.
| Restore, create, and enhance habitat for riparian bird species.
| Goal 2
| Manage reserve units to support resource values for other MSHCP and sensitive species when practicable.
| Manage habitat to benefit other MSHCP species.
| Manage habitat to avoid harm to aquatic species.
| Goal 3
| Manage reserve units to meet conservation and landowner obligations.
| Manage reserve units to control invasive plant species and noxious weeds.
| Manage reserve units to reduce threat of fire and maintain safe conditions.
| Mange property rights and property infrastructure.
| Build and maintain positive relationships in the community.
| Goal 4
| Expand property holdings of desert riparian habitats for MSHCP covered species.
| Acquire conservation easements to public and private lands with willing landowners as appropriate.