Springs are scattered over all elevations, landscapes, and climates in the Intermountain West, and they often capture our imagination as oases in the arid regions of North America. Archaeologists have shown how springs were the focus of many Native American activities, hydrologists understand them as 'windows' into ground water systems, ecologists see them as 'biodiversity hotspots', ranchers often rely on them as their only water source, and conservationists recognize that they are important riparian and aquatic systems critical to the survival of many obligatory spring-dwelling animals and plants. In spite of these recognitions, springs have been largely neglected as important cultural, scientific, and economic resources and most have been altered by human activities and non-native ungulates. As a consequence, few springs resemble their natural character and their fauna have experienced some of the highest extinction rates known in North America.
To provide direction for resource management and increase communication regarding the value of springs among scientists, stakeholders, and resource managers, the Desert Research Institute, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Energy, Southern Nevada Water Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Nevada Biodiversity Initiative and Biological Resources and Research Center, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation sponsored a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, during May 2002. The conference included posters and presentations by invited and participating speakers from academia, the private sector and Federal and State agencies to discuss hydrology, archaeology, ecology, resource management, and the paleoecology of springs. Two aspects of springs were not included in the conference. Fish were not discussed because of broad attention that is provided by other groups (e.g., the Desert Fishes Council), and representatives of the livestock industry declined an invitation to participate. Presentations that are included in this Proceedings provide a broad overview of the conference and insight into a wide variety of resource challenges. They also show how integrated assessments can facilitate effective management to restore the natural character of these small wetlands.
We thank the authors for the timely submission of their manuscripts and for their patience during the review process. We also thank the numerous reviewers of these manuscripts. A number of people were also instrumental in organizing the conference and contributing to its success. J. Payne, M. Herndon, and B. Kennedy coordinated conference registration and facility operation and J. Thomas, K. Pohlmann, and R. Hershey served on the conference organizing committee. We also thank the sponsors listed above for their interest in springs and for funding all aspects of this conference. The Lander Endowment provided funding to publish these proceedings.
Donald W. Sada
Saxon E. Sharpe