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SAVE THE PLANET: Groups push ecology at Earth Day festival

Baking cookies in a solar oven is usually a fixture of Earth Day, but volunteers for environmental organizations had messages as well as goodies for the crowd that packed the event amid picture-perfect spring weather Saturday at Ian Deutch Park.

Children rode the turtle train, got their faces painted and there was an adopt-a-pet. Lines waited for free hamburgers and hot dogs cooked up by Corrections Corporation of America. Earth Day was first conceived by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis. and the initial event drew crowds nationwide in 1970.

Patti Scharf said she puts the solar oven to use on numerous weekend outings besides heating up cookies for the crowd. “We put them outside, we cook all weekend on that,” Scharf said.

Doug West, a salesman for Home Depot, was promoting the new LED light bulbs, what he called the wave of the future, The old, incandescent light bulbs will be phased out, he said, adding the LED light bulbs can save homeowners $108 during their long, 25-year lifetime.

“You figure you’ve got about 25, 30 light bulbs in your house, $108 per light bulb, 30 bulbs in a house, that’s a lot of savings,” he said.

The Nevada Division of Minerals had a display on various rocks found in the area.

The University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Service was circulating a survey, besides informing people what are suitable plants for growing in this arid climate.

UNCE Master Gardener Coordinator Debby Woodland said it is drawing up a list of plants for distribution to the public and for Nye County in its updated list for the landscaping ordinance. The plants should be drought tolerant and will grow well in high pH soils. Ash trees work, canyon hack berries are a good tree, many ornamental trees and pistachios, she said. There aren’t many evergreens available, but Woodland said Mondale pines are good for Pahrump Valley.

UNCE Educator Joy Belonga said she brought in a nationally-acclaimed program to strengthen families, especially youths between 7 and 14 years old that emphasizes family bonding meetings and how to help families solve problems together. It’s a pilot program now in Tonopah. She hopes to start in Pahrump this fall.

“Most people know us from just one program’s perspectives. That’s kind of the intent of the survey, how much do people know about us? Then it’s my role in the community to go out and do a couple of presentations about our work, because we’re in economic development, we’re in ag and natural resources,” Belonga said.

Jesy Simons, Southern Nevada technician for the Friends of Nevada Wilderness, said she was trying to sign up volunteers for projects like fixing hiking trails and picking up trash.

“We’re a statewide non-profit and we try to protect Nevada’s wilderness through volunteerism stewardship,” she said.

Carol Cantino, a member of the Red Rock Audubon Society, had a sign noting Nevada was the woodpecker capital of America with 19 species counted and a sign warning about the dangers of abandoned PVC pipes to birds, she said 43 dead birds were found in one PVC pipe in Johnnie.

“There’s still some PVC pipes out there that have to be removed from the desert and we’re also asking people to look in their own neighborhoods and when there’s pipes like that put chicken mesh or some type of wire to cover it,” Cantino said. “Cavity-dwelling birds like our mountain bluebird, rock wrens, ash flycatchers, they think this might be a nice place to nest, they go in there, they can’t get out.”

Contrary to belief, there’s lots of birds in this area, Cantino said.

Cantino said she still hears from people who use additives like maple syrup in hummingbird feeders. She said they should stick to the proper formula of one cup of sugar for four cups of water. “If you’re going to put out a hummingbird feeder do it properly,” Cantino said.

Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada had a booth, they were promoting their new water conservation plan. It offers a $50 bill credit for customers who replace toilets with a Water Sense toilet, $75 for replacing a washer with an Energy Star washing machine and a $75 bill credit for removing salt cedars, up to a maximum of $300.

Utilities Inc. Water Conservation Coordinator Judy Gillmore wasn’t discouraged that only 14 customers signed up for the bill credits, as reported in the company’s 2014 integrated resource plan. She said it was a test pilot program for the Public Utilities Commission.

“The response could be better but the ones that have utilized it are tickled to death. We just have to get the word out there. It’s still in process,” Gillmore said.

The high efficiency washing machines not only save water but save on the power bill, she said. Company literature says toilets consume 30 percent of indoor water in a home, the WaterSense toilets use 40 percent less water, which UICN estimates could save 7,770 to 9,400 gallons per year. Washing machines use up 22 percent of the home’s indoor water, the energy efficient models use 25 gallons per load, about half the traditional ones. Salt cedars send down deep roots, 30 feet is not uncommon, to suck up groundwater, they can consume up to 200 gallons per day.

Earth Day coordinator John Pawlak said the turnout was phenomenal, the best ever. He credited the involvement of groups like the Holiday Task Force, Pahrump Disabilities Outreach and the Pahrump Nuclear Waste and Environmental Advisory Board.

“This shows the good in our town. These people are here for the children, they’re here for the environment,” Pawlak said.

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