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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…