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Showing posts with the label Interior

Green Groups Silent as Solar Company Plans Destruction of Mojave Wildlands

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The Department of Interior in early June released its draft environmental review indicating that plans to replace 11 square miles of intact desert wildlands in southern Nevada with the Gemini Solar project would result in significant impacts on wildlife and outdoor recreation.   The project proposed by Arevia Power would install photovoltaic solar panels on land that is currently home to rare plants, desert kit fox, tortoises and other wildlife.  Photovoltaic solar panels are just as easily installed on rooftops, parking lot canopies, and on already-disturbed lands, calling in to question the need to sacrifice desert wildlands to generate electricity. (California has installed over 8,000 megawatts of distributed solar generation with relatively modest policy incentives.)

Arevia Power's plans to destroy these Mojave wildlands will displace or kill nearly at least 260 desert tortoises, and dozens of kit foxes and burrowing owls, according to the draft environmental impact stateme…

Fight Back Against Potential Cuts to Mojave Trails National Monument

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Although Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's report to the President recommending significant cuts to a "handful" of national monuments remains secret, many people that appreciate desert wildlands are concerned that Mojave Trails National Monument is on the list.  That is because Congressman Paul Cook encouraged Zinke in June to remove protections from swaths of Mojave Trails  to accommodate the Cadiz company's plans to pump 16 billion gallons of water a year and sell it to an Orange County water district.  The Cadiz company owns a parcel of private land surrounded by the monument.  The proposal to cut the monument would open up a pathway for the company to build a pipeline to transport the water out of the desert; a plan hydrologists are concerned could dry up natural springs across a large portion of the Mojave.
If you are a California resident, please take a stand against this potential cut to Mojave Trails and follow this link to urge your state representatives to…

Documents Show Destructive Industry Influencing Monument Review

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President Trump and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke have arbitrarily selected 27 of our national monuments for review, and Zinke is expected to issue recommendations later this week on whether to reduce or eliminate some of the monuments as if they are contestants in some corrupt beauty pageant.  Zinke has already deemed six as worth protecting, citing reasons that could apply to all 27.  The other 21 face an uncertain future, probably driven largely by industry's desire to access and destroy more of our public lands for profit. 

Removing protections from these national monuments likely will spark a legal battle that will determine the future of vast swaths of public lands.  At issue is a simple question: is any President allowed to reduce or eliminate a national monument established by a previous President? If the answer is yes, we undo our promise of sharing millions of acres of protected wildlands with future generations.  Eagerly urging the administration's review of the…

The Future of Our Public Lands in a Photo Contest

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The Department of Interior, after announcing plans to review and potentially scale back protections for public lands, just re-posted the 2016 winner of its "Share the Experience" photo contest in the category of "scenic landscape."  It is indeed a beautiful photo of Fantasy Canyon on public lands in Utah.  But I have to wonder if the Secretary of Interior is sending a signal about the future of scenic landscapes by sending this around on social media today.  Had the photographer zoomed out much more, they would have revealed a landscape that not many of us consider scenic.

Fantasy Canyon is a small parcel - about ten acres - of land surrounded by dozens of square miles of oil drilling rigs and mining.



Monuments Make America Great

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We are all familiar with the swirl of controversy surrounding the designation of national monuments.  People hear that all roads in a new monument will be closed.  Recreation will be outlawed.  That monuments are only created to protect wildlife.  I wouldn't support national monuments, either, if that were true.

I don't just visit public lands to enjoy the wildlife that share the land with me.  I need lonely dirt roads that stretch over the horizon.   A remote campsite where I can relax with a beer in hand as the shadows of a mountain range creep across a wide valley at sunset.  I need monuments to keep the lights of the city far away, so I can see the the millions of stars above that remind me of my own insignificance in this universe.


Others visit monuments for activities I may not personally enjoy.  That's usually what sparks the debate that divides people who all equally love the land, but all have different ways of enjoying it. Some of us go rockhounding.  Others go h…

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 …

What to Watch For in the DRECP Announcement

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Road to Recovery for Declining Tortoise Population Increasingly Narrow

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The desert tortoise population continues to experience a significant decline, despite 26 years of recovery efforts under the Endangered Species Act.  Since 2004 - years into the recovery effort - the overall population has declined by nearly 32%, and the decline is even steeper in certain portions of the tortoise's range.

This startling trend is not evident in the Department of Interior's public posture, which is optimistic on the ability of landscape-level planning to protect habitat linkages and project-level mitigation to offset local population losses.  A closer examination of land management and mitigation practices calls into question Interior's resolve to arrest the decline of the desert tortoise as its habitat becomes increasingly fragmented.


Tortoise Population Spirals Downward
When the desert tortoise was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, initial research and anecdotal evidence suggested human impacts were chiefly responsible for d…