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Showing posts with the label Mojave Desert

Suburban Sprawl Continues Creep Across Desert

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The revival of the housing market has renewed a perennial threat to desert wildlands - urban sprawl.  Developers are considering plans for large new suburban developments across the southwest, years after such large developments mostly stalled when the housing industry began to crash in 2006.  At a time when most of our efforts have been focused on protecting public lands from industrial-scale development, urban sprawl underscores the need for local efforts to protect open space under private ownership.

The NASA video above shows the extent of Las Vegas' urban sprawl since 1972.
Along the Mojave River in California, the Tapestry project could result in the destruction of nearly 9 square miles of juniper woodland and chaparral habitat in the Summit Valley to make way for at least 16,196 homes.  The area is popular for hiking, jogging, and mountain bike riding.  During environmental surveys, biologists observed or detected western pond turtles, coastal horned lizards, bobcats, mul…

Supervisor Lovingood Lays Out Hollow Case Against Monuments

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San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood traveled to Washington last week to testify against the potential establishment of national monuments in the California desert, but his concerns rang hollow.  His most concrete complaints centered on the prospects of a long-shuttered gold mine located over 70 miles from the nearest San Bernardino County city and owned by a Canadian company.  Lovingood's testimony reveals that his opposition to the monuments is politically motivated, rather than practically rooted and that he is out of touch with his constituents.

Lovingood Picks a Battle Over Castle Mountains

Most San Bernardino County residents would fall in love with the Castle Mountains if they saw them.  But Supervisor Lovingood's testimony suggests he has a different vision for this remote stretch of the county.  Lovingood expressed concern to officials in Washington that the nearby Castle Mountain gold mine may have difficulty operating if a desert monument is established …

What are you doing on Tuesday?

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Now is our moment to protect public access to desert wildlands for future generations to enjoy.   Tuesday is an important opportunity to tell government officials that we cherish the vast open landscapes that the California desert has to offer.  Our presence will send a message that we are tired of losing public lands to private, for-profit destruction.  At stake will be the White House's consideration of the Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains and Sand-to-Snow National Monuments.  Without these monuments, our desert will transition from a humbling, natural landscape to an industrial checkerboard. 


The desert that early inhabitants experienced was a lot more expansive than the desert we know today, and if we don't take action now, our grandchildren will inherit a landscape unrecognizable to us and preserved only in our photographs.  Since 2009, dozens of square miles of our desert wildlands have been bulldozed and converted into energy projects and subdivisions. The alternative to…

Cook's Desert Bill is a Political Ransom Note

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A new bill introduced by Congressman Paul Cook would encourage the destruction of over 246 square miles of desert wildlands in exchange for widely supported conservation designations.  The bill - the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act - panders to harmful, for-profit uses of public lands, including in the heart of the Mojave Desert along Historic Route 66.

The bill appears to be an effort to counter the desert conservation and recreation legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein, who decided earlier this year to seek establishment of desert monuments through the Antiquities Act because of roadblocks in Congress.  Contrary to misinformation I have seen spread online, the monuments would not "restrict access" for people that enjoy and explore desert wildlands.  I say this as a person that uses designated routes to access remote areas of the desert for camping, hiking and photography.  Unlike the monument proposals, Cook's bill would promote th…

Conservation Legislation Loaded with Poison Pills

Congress may grant public lands some new conservation designations before the end of the year, but at a substantial cost.   The House of Representatives and Senate have agreed on draft legislation that will pair conservation proposals with land transfers and special allowances for the mining, timber, grazing and energy interests.  The Senate is expected to pass the bill, which also includes the long-sought Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument north of Las Vegas.  In the last days of a Democrat-controlled Senate, it is a dismal sign of the times to come if even "bi-partisan" conservation deals are so heavily laden with gifts to industry.

Nevada's New Monument

If the legislation passes the Senate - a move expected within the next week - it would establish the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument on over 22,000 acres just north of Las Vegas.  However, the monument would come with its own dose of destructive compromises.  The bill directs the National Park Service…

Mojave Soundscape

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I've written recently about the desert's visual resources. The term itself - visual resources - seems so inadequate; as if you could actually quantify the serenity and beauty of a desert landscape.  The Mojave Desert has a soundtrack that is equally difficult to capture.  When I'm not in the desert, I can at least enjoy the photos I took of the landscapes, but my cheap camera microphone is never going to pick up all of the beautiful sounds.   I have tried using the video function on my camera to record the sound of the coyotes in the distance, but I'm left with a couple of faint yips drowned out by the breeze hitting the microphone.

Luckily a pair of naturalists, Sarah Koschak and Andrew Skeoch, travel the world recording the sounds of nature, and compiled sounds from the Mojave Desert in an album available on their website.   Sarah wrote about realizing her wish to camp amongst Joshua trees under a starry sky, and listening to the yip of the coyotes.  Near the Gran…

Update on Utility-Scale Energy Projects in the Desert

Although distributed generation continues to chart a sustainable path to produce clean energy, many poorly-sited renewable energy projects threaten to continue the fragmentation and industrialization of our southwestern deserts.  If all of the projects are built, they would rival the destructive impacts of climate change and urban sprawl on desert species.  As long-time readers of this blog know, there have been plenty of bad projects approved on public lands in the desert, with some good news sprinkled here and there.  The list below - not at all comprehensive - provides an update on the status of some of the most significant projects.

Projects that are completed or under construction will be in Red; projects approved but not yet under construction in Yellow; and still pending environmental review and approval in GreenAll told, the list below represents over 100 square miles of intact desert that has now been destroyed or industrialized, and over 150 square miles that could be des…

Desert Solar Policy Codifies Status Quo

The Department of Interior today released the final version of a policy that will smooth the way for industrial-scale solar energy development on public lands throughout America's southwestern deserts.   Even though Interior weakened environmental protections seen in earlier drafts, and crafted the policy to meet industry demands--essentially putting on paper what is already Interior's de facto policy of allowing solar companies to bulldoze wherever they please--several national environmental groups still applauded the announcement, including the Sierra Club, NRDC, the Wilderness Society, and the national Audubon Society.  Their statements of support for the policy probably represent efforts to put positive spin on what is ultimately an environmental catastrophe for the renewable energy industry and our public lands.

Corporate Giveaway of Public Lands The final policy--which is expected to be signed by Secretary Salazar later this year--designates nearly 30,000 square miles of d…

Environmentalism for the 1%

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The departure of the Sierra Club's chairman -- Carl Pope -- comes during a dark moment for environmentalism.  The vanguards of the green movement have compromised their core conservation ethic, forging alliances with corporations and ignoring the grassroots in order to make way for an unchecked renewable energy industry that is more intent on destroying public lands than saving them.

A recent Los Angeles Times article highlights how Pope may be a casualty of this attempt to gain influence in Washington and Wall Street, but his approach has been practiced by other national environmental groups,  including the Wilderness Society, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife.  These groups have desperately sought acceptance among business and political elites, painting themselves as job creators by selling out America's landscapes to big wind and solar firms, and then bragging about the jobs they have supported.  What have they gained? Loss of respect among th…

Vermont Wind Facility A Perfect Example of Greenwashing

Wind turbines are not green, and the video below shows the ugly side to this utility-scale energy behemoth that is altering thousands of square miles across the country.  Not only do they require massive amounts of steel to produce, they are transported by diesel guzzling trucks for hundreds of miles, tons of concrete is needed to pour their foundations, and wide access roads are bulldozed into the land and mountain ridges where they are installed.  Once the blades are spinning, they become a huge threat to rare wildlife, such as golden eagles, hawks, owls, bats, sandhill cranes, etc.  Research indicates that at least 440,000 birds are killed each year by wind turbines, and that number is expected to climb to 1,000,000 per year by 2030 as more wind facilities are constructed.

The video below shows scenes of destruction in Vermont as a mountain ridgeline is blasted away to make way for wind turbines.

This is Green Energy? from Catamount on Vimeo.

But most big environmental organizations …

BLM to Host Public Meetings on Off-Road Plan

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is holding two public meetings to gather information on issues to consider and evaluate as it develops a new off-highway vehicle (OHV,  off-road vehicle, ORV) management plan for the western Mojave Desert.  You can find more information about the meetings by visiting the BLM announcement, but they will be held on 27 and 29 September.
Ridgecrest, 6:30-9:30PM, 27 September 2011, Kerr McGee Center, 100 W. California Ave., Ridgecrest, CA 93555 , phone: (760) 499-5151    Barstow, 6:30-9:30PM, 29 September 2011, Hampton Inn, 2710 Lenwood Road, Barstow, California   92311, phone: (760) 253-2600Hikers, rock hounds, OHV riders, campers, photographers, and people just looking to escape from the daily grind expect the BLM to maintain the desert's natural qualities while providing us access to the places we love, which is a difficult task.  Without a proper management plan and sufficient law enforcement, the desert ecosystem would not be able to sustain t…