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Will the Military Take Over the Desert National Wildlife Refuge?

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The Department of Defense (DOD) is poised to release details next month regarding its proposal to take over a significant portion of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR), close public lands, and incorporate them into the Nellis Test and Training Range.  A review of documents made public so far, however, suggests DOD may be inflating its need to close public lands and assume control of the wildlife refuge.  The Nellis Test and Training Range already spans 4,608 square miles, and within those vast lands there probably are opportunities to accommodate DOD's training needs without significantly eroding public access or wildlife protection.  The options that DOD has proposed so far, however, seem to ignore innovative management approaches and technological solutions that can limit the impact on our public lands.

Lay of the Land:
4,608 Square Miles:  Total area of the current Nellis Test and Training Range.3,292 Square Miles: Portion of the Nellis Test and Training Range where the …

Proposed Solar Project Could Run Into Trouble with the Military

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Solar Reserve’s proposal to build at least eight more solar power towers immediately north of Tonopah, Nevada probably will face an uphill battle, but not for the reasons you expect.  A review of documents submitted by the company to the Department of Interior regarding its proposed Sandstone Solar project suggests poor attention has been paid so far to the threat the project may pose to military aviation. The project would cover nearly 25 square miles with thousands of giant mirrors to reflect the sun's light.  Glint and glare emanating from the project could temporarily impair the vision of aircrew transiting a low-level military flight corridor next to the project, based on a study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories.

According to the Sandia study, the glint and glare emanating from mirrors associated with solar power tower projects can cause temporary after images (temporary vision impairment) for people within six miles of the project. This impact radius would affect n…

Trump Administration Plans to Charge $70 to Enter National Parks

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The Trump administration plans to raise entrance fees at many of our prized national parks to $70 during peak season.  If this policy is implemented, public lands that should be affordable for all of us to enjoy will become a luxury for the rich.  

According to the proposal, entrances fees at the following parks will be increased to $70 during peak season:
Acadia National Park Arches National ParkBryce Canyon National ParkCanyonlands National ParkGlacier National ParkGrand Canyon National ParkGrand Teton National ParkJoshua Tree National Park Mount Ranier National Park Olympic National ParkRocky Mountain National Park Sequoia & Kings Canyon National ParkShenandoah National Park Yellowstone National ParkYosemite National ParkZion National Park The Trump administration claims the fee is necessary to pay for a maintenance backlog at our national parks, but the administration could instead ask Congress to increase the budget for the National Park Service.  As of today, the National Pa…

Habitat Restoration or Destruction? Pinyon-Juniper Removal Under Scrutiny

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Are pinyon pines and Utah juniper invasive species?  The Department of Interior is enthusiastically proposing to cut down  large swaths of pinyon-juniper woodland across the Great Basin Desert, although conservation group Basin and Range Watch is raising doubts about the scientific basis for such projects.  The ostensible purpose of removing the pinyon-juniper is to help the greater sage grouse and reduce fire risk, although it appears more likely that the deforestation is to benefit private livestock grazing operations.  Interior's claims that the projects are intended to support the sage grouse were further undermined after Interior opened up important grouse habitat elsewhere to oil and gas drilling earlier this year, even though experts say protecting remaining habitat is the most important step we can take toward saving it from decline.

Restoring historic sage grouse habitat to the native shrub and grasslands that the species needs to succesfully forage and breed is not easy…

National Monument Review Remains in the Shadows

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The Department of Interior told me today that its lawyers are reviewing whether or not they will release Secretary Ryan Zinke's report on the future of our national monuments in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  It is absurd that a team of lawyers must decide whether or not the public has a right to know the results of a supposedly public review process, and Zinke's legally questionable recommendations to diminish our national monuments.  The Trump administration is concealing significant documents regarding the future of natural wonders and cultural treasures that were passed on to us by our ancestors, and that we count on sharing with the next generation.

Trump, Zinke and foes of public land protections have ironically claimed that the establishment of new national monuments has historically lacked transparency and sincere public outreach.  Yet Zinke only released a short summary of his recommendations that lacked specific details regarding which…

An Open Letter to Sate Senators Kevin de Leon and Ricardo Lara

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You know that the Trump administration is targeting California's people and places.  Rolling back regulations and undoing progressive policies.  It should come as no surprise to either of you that California's desert wildlands are also in the crosshairs.  Trump is considering reducing multiple national monuments in California; an unprecedented attempt to exploit wild places that we should be protecting and passing on to future generations.  It is within your power to counter one of Trump's assaults by simply allowing a vote on Assembly Bill 1000.  If you fail to do so, you should know that you break from at least a century of effort by Californians to protect our desert public lands. 

California's desert wildlands are among its greatest treasures.  And Californians have long fought to keep them that way.  Minerva Hoyt of Pasadena worked for years in the early 1900s to call attention to the destruction of California's desert, and eventually secured the designa…

An Unlikely Ally for Trump's Attack on the Environment?

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The Trump administration and Cadiz company won an unlikely ally for their efforts to cut down a national monument designated by President Obama, roll back environmental protections and ignore science.  Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas signed a letter promoting the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year from Mojave Trails National Monument and sell it to Orange County.

Cardenas' letter regurgitates Cadiz talking points defending the company, and opposing Assembly Bill 1000 (AB1000), state-level legislation that would increase scrutiny of the Cadiz water deal to prevent the company from harming natural springs that wildlife depend upon for survival.  It's not clear at first glance why Cardenas would support the Cadiz plan (although he received at least $2,500 in donations from Cadiz). 

Writer Judith Lewis Mernit's wisdom probably sheds the most revealing light on the mentality driving Cardenas' support for Cadiz:   "[T]he persist…