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Clark County Leaders Look to Encourage More Sprawl

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Clark County Commissioners seem intent on approving more urban sprawl in the Las Vegas Valley at a meeting on February 7.  On the meeting's agenda is a plan by Gypsum Resources to build a nearly 5,000-home community on top of Blue Diamond Hill on the edge of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a popular outdoor escape near Las Vegas, Nevada.  The County Commissioners have been advised by their own planning commission not to approve the project because the development would be a significant departure from the county's original master plan that requires the area remain low-density and rural.

The County is suing a grassroots community group opposed to the Blue Diamond Hill sprawl in an effort to undermine opposition to the plans, suggesting the County Commissioners are on the side of the developer.  If built, the tract homes and businesses would be visible to visitors at Red Rock Canyon, increase light pollution, and add significant traffic congestion to nearby roads that…

Desert Monuments Anchor a Legacy as Future Looks Uncertain

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President Obama designated two new desert monuments yesterday - Gold Butte in Nevada, and Bears Ears in Utah - barring unnecessary destruction on 1.65 million acres of public lands and preserving these landscapes of significance for recreation opportunities, cultural heritage, and wildlife.  The President's proclamation adds to several other desert monuments he has designated, including: Mojave Trails, Sand-to-Snow, and Castle Mountains in California, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, and Basin and Range in Nevada.  (For an excellent resource on things to see and how to get around Gold Butte in Nevada, check out the birdandhike website.)


Conservation designations are a smart move as we find ourselves in the midst of a wildlife extinction crisis driven largely by habitat loss.  Biologist Edward Wilson has even proposed that a far more aggressive conservation effort is needed than the current pace of occasional monument designations.  But the polit…

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 …

Does The Military Really Need More Desert Bombing Ranges?

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The Department of Defense's recent request to close off additional public lands in Nevada is simply unreasonable in light of the vast amount of land already available to the military for testing and training purposes.  The military is preparing to ask Congress to expand two of its test and training ranges in Nevada by as much as 1,416 square miles, including portions of popular public lands outside of Las Vegas. 

The military has not explained why the 21,000 square miles of existing test and training ranges throughout the southwestern states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico are not sufficient (this total does not count other training ranges in other states and the Pacific Ocean, or smaller military facilities in the southwestern states). At this early stage in the environmental review process, the military has only explained that expanding the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) would “improve the range’s capacity to support testing and training.” For the prop…

What to Watch For in the DRECP Announcement

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Air Force May Reduce Public Access in Nevada Wildlife Refuge

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The Department of the Air Force is proposing to withdrawal an additional 301,507 acres (approximately 471 square miles) of public land to expand the already-massive Nevada Test and Training Range.  The proposed withdraw will likely involve restricting public access and degrading important wildlife habitat, including lands in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge near Las Vegas, and also parcels in the upper Amargosa Valley north of Beatty, Nevada (see map below).   This effort is separate from proposed legislation currently sitting in Congress that would withdrawal even more land from the Refuge.

The Air Force is in the initial stages of its environmental review process, and will be sharing more details about its plans at public scoping meetings in October.  However, a study conducted for the Air Force and published online earlier this year suggests the Air Force wants greater flexibility to place ground targets in lands in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.  It is not clear why the e…

County Rejects Environmental Certification of Soda Mountain Solar

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The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject the environmental analysis of the Soda Mountain Solar project, placing a significant hurdle in the path of a project that would have threatened important wildlife habitat next to the Mojave National Preserve.  Supervisors Lovingood, Gonzales, and Rutherford expressed concern during a lengthy meeting today that the environmental analysis was inadequate and did not address the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's input regarding impacts on desert bighorn sheep.  During closing comments, Supervisor Lovingood pointed out that projects of this scale would be better located on already-disturbed lands in the County, and mentioned specific sites as examples.

Regenerate Power,  the company that now owns the Soda Mountain Solar proposal after corporate behemoth Bechtel pulled out of the project, proposed to build the project along Interstate-15 and next to the Mojave National Preserve.  However, the location chosen …