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Monday, April 6, 2009

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a protected wildlife refuge, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, located 90 miles (145 km) west-northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, in southern Nye County. The refuge was created on June 18, 1984. This 23,000 acres (90 km²) refuge is part of the larger Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which also includes the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, and the Amargosa Pupfish Station.

The refuge was established to provide habitat for at least 24 indigenous plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Four fish and one plant are currently listed as endangered. This concentration of indigenous life distinguishes Ash Meadows as having a greater concentration of endemic life than any other local area in the United States and the second greatest in all of North America.

Ash Meadows provides a valuable and unprecedented example of desert oases that are now extremely uncommon in the southwest United States. The refuge is a major discharge point for a vast underground water system stretching more than 100 miles (160 km) to the northeast. Water-bearing strata come to the surface in more than 30 seeps and springs, providing a rich, complex variety of habitats. North and west are the remnants of Carson Slough, which was drained and mined for its peat in the 1960s. Sand dunes appear in the western and southern parts of the refuge. Numerous stream channels and wetlands are scattered throughout the refuge. Virtually all of the water at Ash Meadows is "fossil" water, believed to have entered the ground water system thousands of years ago.

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