Nevada Executive Branch Agencies
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Divisions and Records
As Nevada moved away from the Boards and Commissions form of state administration, and to further the process toward professionalizing the state bureaucracy the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was established in 1957. The Nevada State Legislature believed that the consolidation of natural resources activities into a single unified department under unified guidance and control would be beneficial as it would permit development of a long range, integrated and correlated program.
The original legislation brought together existing natural resources agencies under this umbrella department under a departmental director. The divisions as part of this original alignment were Water Resources, Forestry, Oil and Gas (along with the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) and State Lands. The Director became a member of the State Commission of Industry, Agriculture and Irrigation, and a member of the Irrigation District Bond Commission. The Director was also to coordinate all studies in the state concerned with the supply, development, use and conservation of water.
After the original legislation the Department continued to add and subtract divisions as different state administrations defined what was a natural resources agency and the federal authorities introduced new programs that required state oversight. The Director became a member of the Colorado River Boundary Commission when it was established in 1959 by the Legislature. The purpose of the Commission was to determine the location of the common boundary with the State of Arizona, who had established a similar commission Also that year Governor Grant Sawyer created the Governor's Natural Resources Council for the purpose of better coordination of the activities of the several federal and state agencies operating in the field of natural resources; the Director was named chairman of this council.
In 1963 the State Parks system was incorporated in the Department and the Division of State Parks came into being. Two years later the Legislature placed the State Multiple Use Advisory Committee on Federal Lands within the Department. Also during the 1960's the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, bi-state agency involving Nevada and California was created with the Director playing a very active role as a member of the TRPA.
Changes came to the Department in 1973 as the Legislature added more divisions. These included the Division of Conservation Districts and the Division of Colorado River Resources. Two commissions were also included within the Department: these were the State Conservation Commission and the State Environmental Commission. Four years later the Division of Colorado River Resources changed its name to the Division of Water Planning. Another change was the replacement of the Oil and Gas Division with the Division of Mineral Resources. New divisions joining the Department were as the Division of Environmental Protection and the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.
The Division of Mineral Resources left the Department in 1983 to become its own state agency, with no other major changes within the Department until 1993. During that legislative session the Nevada Natural Heritage Program, the Division of Wildlife and the Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses were added to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Also created by the Legislature was the Advisory Board on Natural Resources of which the Director was a member. Also in 1993 the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology was removed from the Department. In 2003 the Division of Wildlife was removed from the Department and in 2005 the Division of Water Planning ceased to exist as it became a program within the Division of Water Resources.
Currently the Divisions of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources consist of Water Resources, State Lands, Forestry, State Parks, Conservation Districts, Environmental Protection, Environmental Commission, Conservation Commission, the Commission for the Preservation of Wild Horses, and the Nevada Natural Heritage Program.
Photo: Marlette Lake photo by John Nulty, in the collections of the Nevada State Archives. Lake Tahoe can be seen on the left edge of the photo.