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Showing posts from 2018

Nevada Ballot Measure a Catch-22 for the Mojave

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"As we focus on climate change, we must also act decisively to protect the living world while we still have time. It would be humanity’s ultimate achievement." - E.O. Wilson Nevada is poised to vote on whether to increase its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) - the share of electricity required to come from renewable sources - to 50% by the year 2030, without any plan for protecting Nevada's increasingly vulnerable wildlands. An increased RPS without corresponding plans to protect wildlands is sure to spur a second rush of solar and wind projects, but continuing to burn fossil fuels will compound the ongoing harmful effects of climate change on that same landscape.  A more sensible path - providing stronger incentives for solar on rooftops and over parking lots and diverting larger projects to already-disturbed lands - has eluded the state's policymakers and environmental groups. 
The ballot measure - Question 6 - will essentially authorize Nevada's…

Trump Proposes Fracking in Western Mojave

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The Trump administration is proposing to open up hundreds of square miles of western Mojave slopes and central California grasslands to hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking).  Oil and gas companies' fracking technique involves injecting thousands of gallons of toxic fluids into the ground to break open pockets of fossil fuels.  Not only do these fluids contaminate groundwater supplies, allowing fracking will also make it more profitable for oil and gas companies to industrialize vast swaths of grassland, Joshua tree woodland, and oak woodland to energy exploration.


Oil and gas fracking in this area would bring miles of access roads, well pads, and evaporation ponds containing toxic chemicals harmful to wildlife. Not to mention the additional greenhouse gas emissions that such drilling would enable, worsening the ongoing impacts of climate change on wildlife and humans alike. 

Particularly hard hit would be the wildlands north of Tehachapi stretching all the …

Gemini Solar Project Threatens Vibrant Ecosystem

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The Gemini Solar project proposed for desert wildlands next to the Valley of Fire State Park could displace or kill over 260 desert tortoises and dozens of kit foxes, American badgers and western burrowing owls, according to recently released wildlife surveys (1, 2). Climate change poses an urgent threat to these same wildlife, but it is inexcusable to bulldoze wildlands to install the same solar panels that can just as easily be installed on rooftops or already-disturbed lands.  If we are destroying wildlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then we are perpetuating the stunningly short-sighted sacrifice of nature to continue feeding otherwise unsustainable consumption, despite readily available options that have much lower impact on wildlife.


Wildlife Surveys Highlight Poor Location Choice for Solar Project

Biologists conducted two surveys in 2018 and 2017 and discovered that the proposed Gemini Solar project site currently hosts a diverse array of wildlife.  Based on the surveys,…

Nevada Outdoor Enthusiasts and Conservation Groups Losing Ground

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Nevadans are poised to lose access to hundreds of square miles of desert and mountain wildlands over the next few years, and elected officials appear to be looking the other way.  The crush of proposals to convert desert and mountain wildlands into sprawling solar and wind facilities, natural gas drilling fields, expanded military bases, and urban sprawl has left outdoor enthusiasts' efforts divided as they chase each individual threat.  When desert communities in neighboring California faced a similar onslaught, the chorus of concern prompted policy changes at the local, State and Federal level to better guide development and protect desert wildlands and rural areas. No such rescue effort appears on the horizon in Nevada.

Nevada's wildlands are treasured by hikers, backcountry 4x4 groups, hunters, campers, astronomers, photographers, wildlife-watchers, mountain bikers, rockhounds and a myriad of others.  The outdoor experience they cherish is one of vast landscapes where…

Should Orange County Get Mojave Groundwater?

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UPDATE - August 26th, 2018:  California State Senator Richard Roth just introducted SB120, a companion bill to  AB1000, that would have the same effect: ensure proper environmental review of the Cadiz groundwater pumping scheme.  Please call California State Senate leader Toni Atkins' office and ask her to make SB120 a priority. You can reach her office at (916) 651-4039.

The Cadiz company intends to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year for 50 years from the Mojave desert and sell it to a water district in Orange County.  This plan would harm natural springs that dozens of species of wildlife depend upon for survival, according to a peer-reviewed study.  The California legislature has one more opportunity to put an end to this terrible idea if it can pass Assembly Bill 1000 (AB1000).  The bill was introduced in Sacramento last year and would require additional scrutiny of plans by the company to export desert groundwater for profit.  If you are a California resident, you can c…

Wind Project Expected to Jeopardize Eagles, Mule Deer, Bighorn

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A preliminary study released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) further underscores that the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project will spoil an outdoor gem in southern Nevada, threatening a golden eagle hot spot and impeding mule deer and bighorn sheep habitat.  The Sweden-based wind company hopes to begin construction of this project on public lands by next year if it can secure BLM's approval.

Study Shows Turbines Would Jeopardize Golden Eagles


The study, contracted by project developer Eolus Wind, erroneously downplays the potential impact on golden eagles. However, the data presented shows that golden eagles use the proposed project site extensively.  According to the preliminary study, nearly 118 golden eagle nests were identified within ten miles of the proposed project.  During the surveys golden eagles were spotted flying above the proposed project site 36 times. The data clearly establishes that golden eagles frequently use the area for forage, and fly at heights that w…

Mojave Road Experience in Jeopardy

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A quintessential rite of passage for Mojave explorers will no longer offer the same journey into unconfined and wild desert that generations of travelers have shared if a Sweden-based company gets its way.  A document released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under a Freedom of Information Act request indicates that towering wind turbines of the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project would be visible from a majority of the Mojave Road in the eastern Mojave desert.


The Mojave Road is a historic route traversed for centuries by Native Americans, European explorers and present-day adventurers.  Much of the route crosses public lands and the natural character of the landscape provides travelers an experience not much different from that of generations past.  Joshua trees and creosote bushes dominate the landscape for miles around, with little reminder of the industrial era.  But that could change now that the BLM is reviewing an application by Sweden-based company Eolus Vind to develop…

The Curious Case of the Clapper Rail and the Solar Project

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The Department of Interior abruptly changed its assessment regarding the threat posed to the endangered Yuma Ridgway's rail (also called the Yuma Clapper rail) by industrial-scale solar projects, clearing the way for First Solar to build  the Sunshine Valley Solar project next to one of the bird's few remaining strongholds.  In 2014, Interior initially described the potential for the endangered birds to die at the Sunshine Valley Solar project as "likely."  The more recent Interior memo, obtained by Basin & Range Watch,  now describes the threat as "unquantifiably low." Interior's recent memo does not explain why it downgraded the threat even after two of the endangered birds were found dead at large-scale solar projects in the desert southwest in recent years. 


Fewer Than 1,000 Birds Remaining

The reclusive Yuma Ridgway's ail is known to nest and forage in marshes along the Colorado River, the Salton Sea, and at Ash Meadows National Wildlife …

BLM Seeks Public Input on Wind Project That Would Jeopardize Joshua Tree Woodland

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The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public input on a Sweden-based company's plans to replace several thousand acres of public lands in southern Nevada with towering wind turbines and dozens of miles of wide access roads.  The Crescent Peak Wind project would involve as many as 220 wind turbines each standing 410 feet tall.  Public comments can be e-mailed to blm_nv_sndo_crescentpeak@blm.gov by June 13.

I have hiked and camped on the wildlands that would be industrialized by this project.  The area hosts a beautiful Joshua tree woodland that is rich with wildlife.  The photos below were all taken within the proposed footprint of the Crescent Peak Wind project.   The BLM should deny the permit for this wind project, and instead protect this area for its amazing biodiversity and opportunities for primitive recreation.

















Las Vegas Sprawl Plan Would Undermine Wildlands, Recreation

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Local officials in Las Vegas have are looking to expand the metropolitan area's urban sprawl much deeper into desert wildlands, encroaching on two National Conservation Areas and bolstering plans for an ill-conceived major airport south of the city that would send air traffic over the Mojave National Preserve.

The Nevada Independent reported that Clark County - home of Las Vegas - wants Congress to consider legislation that would hand over nearly 62 square miles of public lands to the County for future urban development.  The effect of continued urban sprawl would span across much more than just the 62 square miles of land bulldozed for more roads, housing, strip malls and warehouses.   For one, urban encroachment would reach the doorstep - or begin to surround - prized recreation areas.  Hiking in Sloan Canyon or parts of Red Rock Canyon will be less desirable if the sights and sounds of human develop begin to intrude on areas that currently offer a natural escape from these eleme…

Trump Planning to Hand Over Desert Wildlands to Industry

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The Trump Administration is expected to initiate an administrative process this week likely intended to undo protections for public lands in the California desert and allow more large-scale renewable energy projects and mining.  A notice of intent filed by the Department of Interior indicates that its plans to weaken the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) are driven by unspecified "public concerns," but particularly states that Interior wants to review limitations that the DRECP places on large-scale renewable energy projects, including wind, solar and geothermal. The DRECP was finalized in 2016 after a lengthy public comment and review process that involved extensive consultation between the Department of Interior and State of California.

Undermining our Desert Backcountry

The DRECP was initially implemented in response to significant public concern sparked by industry proposals for renewable energy projects that would have destroyed vast swaths of desert wil…