Urban Sprawl Encroaching Nevada's Open Spaces

Jun 2, 2016

A new interactive map allows users to track how much natural land has declined across the West, due to sprawl, agriculture, energy development and infrastructure.
Credit disappearingwest.org

A new study that looks at land loss across the American West shows urban sprawl encroaching on Nevada's wide open spaces. 

Public lands make up about 80 percent of Nevada, but a new map shows just how much we humans have been spreading out over the last decade.

The findings come from researchers at the nonprofit Conservation Science Partners and funded by the Center for American Progress to track the decline of natural landscapes.

Nicole Gentile helped direct the project, called "The Disappearing West."

“The overwhelming takeaway from this study is that we are losing a football field worth of natural areas every two-and-a-half minutes in the West,” says Gentile.

The main stressors include urban sprawl, agriculture and logging, energy development and infrastructure.

Between 2001 and 2011, in Washoe County, the proportion of land loss was about 19 percent higher than the rest of the state, mostly due to development.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to residents of Reno and around the state that the leading cause of this loss was actually urban sprawl," she says, "so I can imagine if you’re driving around and seeing a lot of housing developments that that story makes a lot of sense.”

Gentile says they hope that by quantifying the problem, local and land management decision makers can better determine which areas to develop and which to protect for future generations.

GO THERE: The project’s website, disappearingwest.org, allows users to see a breakdown of land loss by state, county and type of development.