By Rose Strickland
Several years in the making, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) released its final 2022 updated State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) last month. 367 iconic species have been identified for protection as Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) along with 20 critical habitat types, including Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands. See: https://www.ndow.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/2022-SWAP-Full-Doc-FINAL-print.pdf. The SWAP is 367 pages long with 3 large appendices, but is an excellent resource, especially for newcomers to our state, on Nevada’s wildlife and wildlife habitats and NDOW’s conservation and protection efforts.
The SWAP is a comprehensive statewide plan for conserving the state’s wildlife and habitat resources and for participating in the federally authorized grants programs. These programs support state actions that broadly benefit wildlife and habitats, but particularly the SGCN identified by each state. In Nevada, the SGCN includes 75 avian species. You may be surprised about which species are included on this list in Chapter 3. The Pinyon Jay is on the SGCN list, along with several species of shorebirds, eagles, flycatchers, thrashers, bitterns, hawks, owls and a cuckoo. Detailed species accounts are in in Appendix E. The bird section is 162 pages long in this comprehensive appendix.
Also in Chapter 3 is a new subsection on terrestrial invertebrates, with a initial focus on bees and butterflies. In part, bees and butterflies were selected because of their amazing diversity. Did you know there are 210 species and many endemic subspecies of butterflies, and over 800 species of bees in Nevada? NDOW recognizes that these critters are “...a key component of Nevada’s landscape, serving as native plant and crop pollinators; as prey for countless fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, and mammal species; and as herbivore communities in natural ecosystems. Protecting invertebrate communities is crucial to the support of other SGCN and key habitats across the state.”
NDOW also recognizes that plants are critical for fully functional ecosystems. While the agency does not have regulatory oversight for plants, the SWAP does consider threats that impact plants which are critical elements of wildlife habitats.
In Chapter 4, the SWAP includes a section called “Key Habitat Description and Elements of Pinyon-Juniper Woodland." It dives into the details of habitat threats, climate change vulnerability, conservation strategy, priority research needs, and 47 key SGCN species dependent on these woodlands, including our imperiled Pinyon Jays.