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Searchlight Wind Project Retreats, But Future of Wildlands Remains In Doubt

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The Searchlight Wind project threatening wildlands in Nevada's Piute Valley has been cancelled, according to Basin & Range Watch communication with the Bureau of Land Management.  The Searchlight Wind project would have converted nearly 29 square miles of wildlands into an industrial zone, with 87 towering wind turbines and at least 35 miles of new access roads carved into the desert around the small outpost of Searchlight.  The project suffered legal setbacks after Basin & Range Watch and the Friends of Searchlight Desert and Mountains pointed out that the Department of Interior's environmental review downplayed the project's potential impacts on wildlife.


The Piute Valley, however, continues to face the threat of industrial-scale energy development.  A Sweden-based company plans to build the Crescent Peak Wind project on the western edge of the Valley along the California-Nevada border.  The project, if built, would industrialize an even larger swath of desert wi…

The Absurdity of the Cadiz Water Export Scheme

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The Department of Interior this month reversed a policy to make it easier for the Cadiz company to pump billions of gallons of water from an ancient Mojave Desert aquifer - killing off natural springs that wildlife depend upon - to ship that water to the lush landscaping of Orange County.   Cadiz still has other hurdles in its way, but the company's tenacity and willingness to line the pockets of politicians could spell doom for Mojave wildlife.

Cadiz Calls it Conservation
The Cadiz company has a contract to export nearly 16.3 billion gallons (yes, that is billion with a 'b') a year for 50 years from the Mojave to the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) in Orange County.  The Cadiz company claims that it will only pump water that would otherwise evaporate from a dry lake bed and that the aquifer will naturally recharge from rainfall, leaving no significant impacts on wildlife or groundwater levels.  According to Cadiz propaganda, this isn't a water export scheme, bu…

Clark County Leaders Look to Encourage More Sprawl

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Clark County Commissioners seem intent on approving more urban sprawl in the Las Vegas Valley at a meeting on February 7.  On the meeting's agenda is a plan by Gypsum Resources to build a nearly 5,000-home community on top of Blue Diamond Hill on the edge of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a popular outdoor escape near Las Vegas, Nevada.  The County Commissioners have been advised by their own planning commission not to approve the project because the development would be a significant departure from the county's original master plan that requires the area remain low-density and rural.

The County is suing a grassroots community group opposed to the Blue Diamond Hill sprawl in an effort to undermine opposition to the plans, suggesting the County Commissioners are on the side of the developer.  If built, the tract homes and businesses would be visible to visitors at Red Rock Canyon, increase light pollution, and add significant traffic congestion to nearby roads that…

Desert Monuments Anchor a Legacy as Future Looks Uncertain

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President Obama designated two new desert monuments yesterday - Gold Butte in Nevada, and Bears Ears in Utah - barring unnecessary destruction on 1.65 million acres of public lands and preserving these landscapes of significance for recreation opportunities, cultural heritage, and wildlife.  The President's proclamation adds to several other desert monuments he has designated, including: Mojave Trails, Sand-to-Snow, and Castle Mountains in California, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, and Basin and Range in Nevada.  (For an excellent resource on things to see and how to get around Gold Butte in Nevada, check out the birdandhike website.)


Conservation designations are a smart move as we find ourselves in the midst of a wildlife extinction crisis driven largely by habitat loss.  Biologist Edward Wilson has even proposed that a far more aggressive conservation effort is needed than the current pace of occasional monument designations.  But the polit…

What Does A Trump Administration Mean for the Desert?

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The outlook for desert wildlands is dismal under a Trump Administration, and we will have to be even more vigilant and vocal to stop Washington from undermining the legal and administrative pillars that protect our public lands and wildlife and to keep  bulldozers off of intact habitat.  I have been critical of some of the Obama Administration's choices and policies regarding wildlife and wildlands, but there was always give and take within the bounds of existing laws and a relatively strong role for science in how policies were formulated; that probably will not be the case under Trump.

Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress probably will slow or reverse progress we have made greenhouse gas emissions, and they will severely weaken or eliminate the legal and bureaucratic institutions that protect our wildlands and wildlife.  Science will be ignored in policy formulation and decision making. Budgets for the folks at the Department of Interior and the Environmental …

Does The Military Really Need More Desert Bombing Ranges?

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The Department of Defense's recent request to close off additional public lands in Nevada is simply unreasonable in light of the vast amount of land already available to the military for testing and training purposes.  The military is preparing to ask Congress to expand two of its test and training ranges in Nevada by as much as 1,416 square miles, including portions of popular public lands outside of Las Vegas. 

The military has not explained why the 21,000 square miles of existing test and training ranges throughout the southwestern states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico are not sufficient (this total does not count other training ranges in other states and the Pacific Ocean, or smaller military facilities in the southwestern states). At this early stage in the environmental review process, the military has only explained that expanding the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) would “improve the range’s capacity to support testing and training.” For the prop…

What to Watch For in the DRECP Announcement

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