Warm Springs Natural Area is protected under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which provides specific guidelines on how the property is restored, preserved, managed and used.
Under the SNPLMA and through collaborative efforts with regional, state and federal stakeholders, the Southern Nevada Water Authority maintains strategic goals and objectives for the Warms Springs including:
- Protect the endangered Moapa dace and native species.
- Restore habitat and preserve ecological integrity of the property.
- Support low-impact public use.
- Promote public education opportunities.
- Preserve cultural and historic resources.
In partnership with local, state and national stakeholders, the Southern Nevada Water Authority maintains a stewardship plan for Warm Springs. The collaborative plan provides a framework and direction for management.
Protecting native fish
Isolation from other rivers for thousands of years has resulted in the evolution of a unique group of aquatic species at Warm Springs Natural Area. Most significant is the endangered Moapa dace, which is found nowhere else in the world but in these warm, spring-fed waters.
Protection of native fish through habitat restoration and population recovery is a priority at Warm Springs. Southern Nevada Water Authority scientists help protect fish habitat by stabilizing stream banks and channels, restoring and enhancing spring pools, and managing invasive plants and animals.
In the case of the Moapa dace, these efforts have helped the population of this small fish increase over the past several years. Stream restoration, improved habitat and the removal of non-native fish species have significantly increased the fish population.
The SNWA team works to protect native fish by:
- Installing fish barriers to control the travel of fish populations.
- Eradicating or controlling non-native species.
- Restoring and protecting the flow of streams and springs.
- Stabilizing stream banks and restoring plants along the waterways.
- Connecting springs with streams to increase spawning opportunities for the Moapa dace.
- Installing drift stations to improve the dace's habitat.
Protected species management
In addition to the endangered Moapa dace, other federally and state protected species live at Warm Springs. The property is managed for protected species and rare or sensitive species that could receive protection status in the future due to habitat loss or population declines. Protected species and those considered for protection are identified within:
Restoring homes for wildlife
Resource management of Warm Springs Natural Area focuses on protecting and restoring natural habitats for all wildlife. The goal in habitat restoration is to advance the recovery of native species by encouraging diversity in species, habitat structure and ecological processes. In addition to the natural environment, Warm Springs consists of facilities, equipment and support infrastructure used to carry out the management objectives for the property.
Restoring native vegetation
Restoring the native vegetation within Warm Springs will require a long-term commitment, including reintroduction of lost native flowering plants and a gradual replacement of Bermuda grass with salt grass, scratch grass and other grasses native to the environment. Activities currently being undertaken to restore native vegetation include:
- Producing native plants in the Warm Springs Natural Area nursery for transplanting into disturbed sites.
- Planting trees along streams to improve bird habitat.
- Establishing native shrubs and grasses to out-compete invasive weeds.
- Reintroducing native plant species to increase diversity.
- Establishing native plants along the Muddy River and its tributaries to stabilize stream banks.
Managing invasive plants
Salt cedar, Russian knapweed, Malta star thistle, Russian thistle and Bermuda grass are all invasive plants that are not native to the area. Plants like Russian knapweed and Bermuda grass are pervasive and threaten to replace native plants. Russian thistle poses a major threat in the case of wildfire.
Any undesired plant in a given location can be classified as a weed; however, not all weeds are equal. Some weeds are labeled “noxious” and require abatement action according to Nevada state law.
Additional vegetation management efforts include monitoring the palm tree population. Palm trees are removed where they affect water flow, for fire breaks, and in sensitive areas. Other palm trees may be trimmed to reduce fire danger near structures, power lines, and visitor areas. Although California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) are generally believed by most scientists to be introduced by humans, they are iconic to the area and provide critical wildlife habitat, especially for bats. Fan palms are removed for fire breaks, where they impact streamflow, and are trimmed for fuels reduction.