By Richard Stephens – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
One of the greenest, most pleasant spots in Oasis Valley, less than eight miles north of Beatty, is now a bona fide eco-tourism attraction.
Some 50-60 people attended the opening of The Nature Conservancy’s Torrance Ranch Preserve Oct. 27, many of them arriving by motor coach from Las Vegas.
The Nature Conservancy TNC , which now owns several properties in the Beatty area, acquired the Torrance Ranch property in 1999. The group has been working ever since to return it to its natural state as a habitat to local wildlife and plants.
The site’s nature trail includes a boardwalk that extends over the wetlands and affords a view of spring water flowing amid lush vegetation. There is also an informational kiosk at the beginning of the trail, and interpretive signs along the way giving information on the indigenous species, including the Amargosa toad and the Oasis Valley speckled dace.
Jim Moore, TNC’s Oasis Valley project manager, recounted the history of the organization’s conservation efforts in the Beatty area.
Moore referred to legal efforts to have the Amargosa toad listed as an endangered species as the “bomb dropped” by an organization in Colorado. The toad immediately became a hot topic of conversation among Beatty residents.
“The last thing they wanted,” said Moore, “was an endangered species in their midst that could hamper economic development and control of private land. We wanted to avoid that added burden on the local community, local businesses, and local government.”
Moore said that many locals were wary and suspicious of TNC at first, but that now everyone seems to be supportive of the efforts to save the toad’s habitat.
“We were able to navigate a very complicated social and political environment,” said Moore, giving full credit to Beatty resident Shirley Harlan, who was honored with an award at the Torrance Ranch opening.
“Without Shirley’s die-hard persistence, I would not have been able to set foot here,” said Moore.
Eventually the Amargosa Toad Working Group was formed, with membership including the TNC, the Beatty Habitat Committee, Nye County, federal and state wildlife agencies, and others, who signed off on a course of action to protect toad habitat, with the result that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final ruling of “unwarranted” on the petition to list the toad as endangered.
“It has been 18 years since the first listing petition,” noted Moore, “and the toad is doing well.”
On its website, TNC says, “The restoration approach developed at Torrance Ranch has been successful in attracting local and migratory birds and in supporting native amphibians, fishes and thriving native plant communities. The work being done here has become a model for how to create and sustain wetland habitats and is being implemented at additional sites in the Oasis Valley, including the Parker Ranch, the Spicer property, Crystal Springs complex and others.”
“As the natural communities recover at The Nature Conservancy’s Torrance Ranch Preserve and other locations along the Amargosa River, they are becoming a unique destination in Southern Nevada — a place of natural beauty and diversity for animals and people alike.”