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Amargosa Toad

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I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a rare desert amphibian this month, thanks to the folks at Basin and Range Watch.  The Amargosa toad lives along a roughly ten mile stretch of the Amargosa River and associated springs in the Nevada desert.  The toad's habitat is threatened by human development and pumping of water resources, but luckily some local residents and the Nature Conservancy are working to preserve some of its habitat along the river.

Although this toad only inhabits a small stretch, the Amargosa River actually stretches about 185 miles from Nevada into the Mojave Desert, just east of Death Valley National Park, and supports an array of wildlife, including migratory birds. 

BrightSource Energy's proposed Hidden Hills Solar project may be a potential threat to the Amargosa River and its tributaries.  Although the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff acknowledges that the Hidden Hills project impacts will be most severe for the Pahrump Valley groundwater basin…

Study: Lakes Mead and Powell to Dry Up

A US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station study predicts that water levels at Lakes Mead and Powell -- reservoirs created to help feed the west's unsustainable demand for water -- are likely to drop to zero in approximately 60 years, in part due to climate change and increased drought in the Colorado River watershed.  The west has already faced alarming water shortages due to rapidly expanding cities and agriculture drawing from reservoirs and groundwater, but the changing precipitation patterns are likely to aggravate this shortage.

Las Vegas has aggressively sought to secure its future supply of water, investing in a new drain pipeline to connect to Lake Mead.  Dropping water levels at Lake Mead threaten to sink below the level of the current pipeline siphoning water to the metropolis, and Las Vegas has implemented drastic water rate increases to pay for the new pipeline. 

Further down the road, Las Vegas plans a multi-billion dollar pipeline to the northern reaches o…

Coal Loses Control

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The "clean" coal car takes a beating in a fossil fuel-powered sport.

Sierra Industries

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Imagine if John Muir was in love with industry as the present day Sierra Club leadership.  If that were the case, I don't think we'd have a Sierra Club.  Mr. Muir would have been swept away with industry and the concrete canyons of the city.  Chris Clarke helps us imagine what John Muir would have thought of a once wild valley now filled with turbines and solar panels.  If we don't get renewable energy on a more sustainable path, we wont be able to share as many wild places with the next generations.  Check out Chris' full article here.

A sample from Chris' piece:
Even when the grand anthem had swelled to its highest pitch, I could distinctly hear the varying tones of individual turbines — GE, and Vesta, and Iberdrola, and Siemens — and even the infinitely gentle rustle of the withered red bromegrass at my feet. Each was expressing itself in its own way — singing its own song, and making its own peculiar gestures — manifesting a richness of variety to be found…

Sierra Club Publication Promotes Industry Over Wildlife

After flipping through the pages of the Sierra Club's latest issue of Sierra magazine, I am left with a deep disappointment as the organization -- of which I am a member -- continues to sound more like an industry lobby group than a conservation organization.   Much of the March/April issue is dedicated to exulting the wind industry, with less than a page of material that provides a weak description of the industry's impact on wildlife and wildlands, describing the death of birds and bats by wind turbines as "trivial," and placing a lot of optimistic emphasis on the industry's ability to self-regulate.  As another blogger put it, "Not From The Onion: Sierra Magazine’s All-Wind Issue."

The Sierra Club's communication team cannot seem to promote renewable energy while adhering to a conservation ethic, despite ample opportunities to do so, suggesting the wind industry carries substantial influence over the organization and that the battle to eliminate h…

Keystone And The Long Fight

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I would recommend reading a recent piece by David Roberts on Grist.  Mr. Roberts takes on critics who say that the environmental movement's focus on the Keystone XL pipeline is "unreasonable".  Although I have worried that the White House may consider Keystone as an easy escape from taking other bold positions to cut fossil fuels and protecting wildlands -- reject Keystone but then compromise on other fossil fuel policies -- I think Mr. Roberts lays out an excellent case for why we have to stake out bold positions, even if it means earning an "unreasonable" label. 

Our wildlands face a serious threat from climate change and continued human destruction.  This calls for "rapid, systemic change," as Mr. Roberts highlights.  This has its own special relevance in the desert -- beyond the need to cut fossil fuels and stem climate change impacts, we also need to demand more from the renewable energy industry.  We need to keep large-scale projects away from p…

NextEra Kills Golden Eagles as American Bird Conservancy Asks Interior to Reconsider Plan

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) this week asked the Department of Interior to reconsider its plan to allow wind energy companies to kill bald and golden eagles for a period of 30 years, instead of the standard five years.  ABC requested that Department of Interior delay its decision on the plan until President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, has time to review the proposal.ABC's request is urgent because wind energy projects already in operation have already had a significant toll on raptor and bat populations, and the wind industry continues to expand rapidly.  In the past month, NextEra Energy's North Sky River wind project killed its first golden eagle within weeks of beginning operation on the western edge of the Mojave Desert.  Both the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged a legal challenge against the North Sky River project, and NextEra ignored their concerns. Although the Sierra Club is a party to the protest, its