Nevada's history as a state has been largely a story of the exploitation of its natural resources. Mining has torn down mountains and poisoned streams and groundwater. Uncontrolled grazing by vast herds of sheep and cattle has denuded grasslands and left them prey to the invasion of noxious plant species and vulnerable to wildfire. Clear-cut logging has changed the composition of forests and induced serious soil erosion. More recently, military testing, including hundreds of atomic blasts to test the efficacy of nuclear weapons, has irreversibly polluted vast expanses of fragile desert land. And rampant development throughout the state over the past four decades, along with the public's growing demand for recreational facilities, has placed intolerable demands on the arid state's limited water resources and threatened the survival of numerous rare plant and animal species.
Nevada's Environmental Legacy is an informed and readable survey of environmental policies and problems in the Silver State since the beginning of Euro-American settlement. Historian James W. Hulse links events in Nevada to broader national economic and political trends and to changing perceptions of the value of the austere ecology of the desert West. He also addresses the consequences of new threats to environmental stability, such as overdevelopment, and discusses recent efforts to prevent further deterioration and reverse the damage done by decades of greed and heedless exploitation.