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Showing posts with the label Nevada

Mowing Vegetation as Mitigation: Trump Administration Practice Goes Unchallenged

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The Trump administration is again touting the practice of mowing thousands of acres of desert vegetation as environmentally-responsible, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary.  The draft environmental review of the Yellow Pine Solar project in southern Nevada claims that vegetation mowing - as opposed to bulldozing - will yield positive outcomes that are highly doubtful.   This positive framing of the construction practice misleads the public and decisionmakers and ignores decades of scientific research regarding the impacts of mechanized disturbance on desert wildlands.  According to the draft environmental review:
"Mowing is becoming the standard on large site-type ROWs to prevent permanent impairment of public lands (as mandated by FLPMA) and in lieu of off-site mitigation...Mowing methods are designed to help preserve soils, biological soil crusts, soil seed banks, native perennial vegetation diversity and structure, and cacti and yucca species, and to resist wee…

Unlikely Allies: Trump Administration Joins Enviros to Plan Solar Project on Prime Tortoise Habitat

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The Trump Administration this month released an assessment that concludes that a solar developer can crush and mow vegetation across several square miles of prime desert tortoise habitat, and still consider those lands as viable habitat for the species.  The silence of some national-level environmental groups regarding the unconventional and unscientific conclusion appears to signal their comfort taking risks with a species already facing significant peril, as well as these groups' inability to champion more sustainable locations to generate clean energy in Nevada.

The biological opinion released by the Trump Administration constitutes the official position of the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the impacts of the proposed Gemini Solar project; its curious willingness to declare heavily disturbed lands as viable tortoise habitat was necessary for the project's approval because the project would be built on lands that have been identified as a vital habitat linkage sustain…

Desert Wildlands Need Your Voice in Vegas

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is hosting two public meetings on plans to mow down nearly 11 square miles of intact desert wildlands to build the Gemini Solar power project, which would be located northeast of Las Vegas along the entrance road to Valley of Fire State Park.  It will be very important for concerned citizens to attend because most environmental groups have taken a muted stance on the project, even though it is expected to displace up to 260 desert tortoises, and wipe out beavertail and silver cholla cacti, burrowing owl nesting locations and imperil a rare plant found in only a few places in the Mojave.

[UPDATE: These meetings have concluded, but you can still submit comments by e-mail up to September 5.  Scroll down for details on how to submit comments.]
Any member of the public is welcome to attend the meetings, and public comment sessions are during the last hour of each session:

Public Meeting #1 - Las Vegas
When: Tuesday, July 23rd, 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Where: Suncoast…

Nevada Ballot Measure a Catch-22 for the Mojave

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"As we focus on climate change, we must also act decisively to protect the living world while we still have time. It would be humanity’s ultimate achievement." - E.O. Wilson Nevada is poised to vote on whether to increase its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) - the share of electricity required to come from renewable sources - to 50% by the year 2030, without any plan for protecting Nevada's increasingly vulnerable wildlands. An increased RPS without corresponding plans to protect wildlands is sure to spur a second rush of solar and wind projects, but continuing to burn fossil fuels will compound the ongoing harmful effects of climate change on that same landscape.  A more sensible path - providing stronger incentives for solar on rooftops and over parking lots and diverting larger projects to already-disturbed lands - has eluded the state's policymakers and environmental groups. 
The ballot measure - Question 6 - will essentially authorize Nevada's…

Gemini Solar Project Threatens Vibrant Ecosystem

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The Gemini Solar project proposed for desert wildlands next to the Valley of Fire State Park could displace or kill over 260 desert tortoises and dozens of kit foxes, American badgers and western burrowing owls, according to recently released wildlife surveys (1, 2). Climate change poses an urgent threat to these same wildlife, but it is inexcusable to bulldoze wildlands to install the same solar panels that can just as easily be installed on rooftops or already-disturbed lands.  If we are destroying wildlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, then we are perpetuating the stunningly short-sighted sacrifice of nature to continue feeding otherwise unsustainable consumption, despite readily available options that have much lower impact on wildlife.


Wildlife Surveys Highlight Poor Location Choice for Solar Project

Biologists conducted two surveys in 2018 and 2017 and discovered that the proposed Gemini Solar project site currently hosts a diverse array of wildlife.  Based on the surveys,…

Nevada Outdoor Enthusiasts and Conservation Groups Losing Ground

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Nevadans are poised to lose access to hundreds of square miles of desert and mountain wildlands over the next few years, and elected officials appear to be looking the other way.  The crush of proposals to convert desert and mountain wildlands into sprawling solar and wind facilities, natural gas drilling fields, expanded military bases, and urban sprawl has left outdoor enthusiasts' efforts divided as they chase each individual threat.  When desert communities in neighboring California faced a similar onslaught, the chorus of concern prompted policy changes at the local, State and Federal level to better guide development and protect desert wildlands and rural areas. No such rescue effort appears on the horizon in Nevada.

Nevada's wildlands are treasured by hikers, backcountry 4x4 groups, hunters, campers, astronomers, photographers, wildlife-watchers, mountain bikers, rockhounds and a myriad of others.  The outdoor experience they cherish is one of vast landscapes where…

Wind Project Expected to Jeopardize Eagles, Mule Deer, Bighorn

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A preliminary study released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) further underscores that the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project will spoil an outdoor gem in southern Nevada, threatening a golden eagle hot spot and impeding mule deer and bighorn sheep habitat.  The Sweden-based wind company hopes to begin construction of this project on public lands by next year if it can secure BLM's approval.

Study Shows Turbines Would Jeopardize Golden Eagles


The study, contracted by project developer Eolus Wind, erroneously downplays the potential impact on golden eagles. However, the data presented shows that golden eagles use the proposed project site extensively.  According to the preliminary study, nearly 118 golden eagle nests were identified within ten miles of the proposed project.  During the surveys golden eagles were spotted flying above the proposed project site 36 times. The data clearly establishes that golden eagles frequently use the area for forage, and fly at heights that w…

Mojave Road Experience in Jeopardy

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A quintessential rite of passage for Mojave explorers will no longer offer the same journey into unconfined and wild desert that generations of travelers have shared if a Sweden-based company gets its way.  A document released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under a Freedom of Information Act request indicates that towering wind turbines of the proposed Crescent Peak Wind project would be visible from a majority of the Mojave Road in the eastern Mojave desert.


The Mojave Road is a historic route traversed for centuries by Native Americans, European explorers and present-day adventurers.  Much of the route crosses public lands and the natural character of the landscape provides travelers an experience not much different from that of generations past.  Joshua trees and creosote bushes dominate the landscape for miles around, with little reminder of the industrial era.  But that could change now that the BLM is reviewing an application by Sweden-based company Eolus Vind to develop…

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…