A large crowd, many from Las Vegas, turned out for the ceremony, which included the premier of a new film about the refuge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A virtual oasis on the northeast edge of the Mohave Desert, the Pahranagat Wildlife Refuge is a place where migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway come to rest and rejuvenate.
Acting Refuge manager Amy LaVoie said she hopes the 5,000 square foot visitor’s center and administrative offices will inspire people “to come and take a day or two and visit the refuge. We have many new things to inspire you to come back another time. Find something to connect with and rejuvenate yourself, just like the migrating birds.”
Also on hand for the opening were elders of the Southern Paiute Nuwuvi nation, who gave a special blessing before the ribbon cutting. Other dignitaries attending included Polly Wheeler from Sacramento, Assistant Regional Director of Refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in California, Nevada, and the Klamath Basin, and former County Commissioner Ed Higbee, both of whom gave a few appropriate remarks.
A total of about $7 million in funds from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act helped the refuge be able to give itself a face lift, build new trails, staff facilities and the visitor center filled with many interesting exhibits and informative reader boards, as well as the small theatre for showing films and having future meetings and lectures.
Southern Paiute Tribal representative Richard Arnold said in his remarks, “This place is very important to the Southern Paiute culture. All the seven tribes from Nevada, Southern California, Utah, and Arizona have deep-rooted ancestral ties here and we can come here to reconnect, and it helps keep our world in balance.”
Because the refuge is a place of water and wetlands in the desert, it attracts over 260 different species of birds, plus a number of other types of fish and wildlife.
Wheeler said, “We can all agree on the need to respect the land and the common ties we have to the land, whether we are from here or just come through here. The new center displays a collective vision of how best to display the refuge to the public and to deliver a message of conservation, as well as the degree of collaboration with our Native American partners and their sense of history.”
Wheeler said approximately 18,000 visitors already come to wildlife refuge each year, and that number is expected to grow significantly with the opening of the visitor’s center. “As a community resource, the center can offer meeting space for groups and organizations, and for teachers to bring their students to enhance their educational experience.”
She said each of the 50 states has at least one National Wildlife Refuge, and encouraged people to visit as many others as they can.
Martin Tyner with the Southwest Wildlife Foundation in Cedar City, Utah, gave a well-attended special presentation featuring three of the birds his organization has rescued: a Harris Hawk, Desert Falcon, and Golden Eagle.
The center is open at no charge Thursday through Monday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Tuesday and Wednesday.