LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Imagine being the caretaker of our state’s wide-open spaces. It sounds like a dream job for some, but there are real challenges involved.
The challenge of protecting that land has fallen on one woman, because open positions may take several months to fill.
The Desert Wildlife Refuge is the largest in the lower 48. More than 2500 square miles of rugged natural beauty — and just one single person to look after it.
“I’m the only one right now. I am the iconic lone ranger,” said Amy Sprunger — Manager of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. “On any given day I wear a variety of hats. I might be a janitor. I might be visitor services.”
Two open vacancies may not be filled until the fall, so she’s on her own for a while.
“There have been significant portions of my career here at desert where I have been the only employee,” Sprunger said.
“It’s a constant challenge of not having enough people to do the work on the refuge, so we depend a lot on our volunteers,” added Kevin DesRoberts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Volunteers like Kristine Castle are critical to keeping the doors open.
“Because there are so few employees here, we really take on a more important role,” Castle told 8 News Now.
The refuge is home to one of the largest populations of big horn sheep, hundreds of species of birds and reptiles and plants. So, even when they are fully staffed, managing all of this is a huge job.
A wide swath of the desert refuge is used by the Air Force as the Nevada Test and Training Range, but the remaining thousands of untouched acres are a stunning example of life in the Mohave Desert, even if they only have one caretaker.
“I wish I had more time to drive through and love this land like I do,” Sprunger said.
Rather than fight the crowds at Red Rock, caretakers encourage visitors to seek out the refuge. It’s about a half hour north of Centennial Hills and free to explore.