Nevada Lands Bill Would Create Monument, and Encourage Sprawl

Nevada Senators Reid and Heller introduced a bill (S. 3346) on 27 June that would designate a new national monument, but the legislation would also allow the construction of a new transmission line through that monument and give away significant swaths of other public lands to developers and utility companies throughout the southern Nevada region.  The legislation is being touted in the press as a significant conservation bill, but the national monument may only be a sweetener to accompany compromises that will facilitate Las Vegas' continued sprawl into desert wildlands.

Disposal of Public Lands
Residents of southern Nevada have fought for years to establish the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, and the bill would indeed protect 22,650 acres of the area and transfer that land to the National Park Service.  But the "Las Vegas Valley Public Land and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument Act of 2012"  would provide significant benefit to developers and indust…

Massive Wind Project Continues to Consume Mojave

The Alta Wind Energy Centercontinues to consume and industrialize dozens of square miles of desert habitat in the western Mojave Desert.  The total project area already encompasses over 50 square miles -- nearly 1.5 times the size of Manhattan -- and continues to expand.   Hundreds of wind turbines -- each over 420 feet tall -- require new roads and pads carved into desert soil to supply Southern California Edison (SCE) customers with "guilt free" wind energy.  Don't tell SCE customers that wind turbines require immense amounts of cement, steel and copper to deliver that energy to them, not to mention natural gas "peaker" plants running in the background.   Meanwhile, a UCLA study found that Los Angeles County could meet much of its energy demands with solar panels on rooftops or over parking lots

The Bureau of Land Management is now accepting comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the expansion of Alta wind project onto public lands.…

The Most Sought After Wasteland

Many people still entertain the notion that the desert is a "barren" wasteland, devoid of life and human value, as a recent KCET piece points out.  Beyond the obviously erroneous ecological assumptions behind that notion, I am also amazed at how many people portray the desert as an endless resource waiting to be granted utility by human genius.  The fact of the matter is that we have struggled to manage demand for desert resources for decades, and humans -- out of love and ignorance -- have demanded more from the the desert than it can give.  The relatively recent debate over siting renewable energy projects in the desert is just the latest chapter.
As Congress set forth in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976:"the California desert environment and its resources, including certain rare and endangered species of wildlife, plants, and fishes, and numer­ous archeological and historic sites, are seriously threatened by air pollution, inadequate Federal manageme…

Brilliant Blooms

On my last visit to the Mojave National Preserve,  I came across many of the cacti pictured below sporting brilliant red blooms, which I believe are Mojave mound cactus (welcome corrections on this identification!).  I never tired of admiring each one, which made it difficult to get anywhere in a timely manner.

John Muir, dead at age 175.

"What creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of that unit--the cosmos? ... They are earth-born companions and our fellow mortals." - John Muir, born 1838.

It is devastatingly ironic to me that the organization that John Muir created is transforming itself into a surrogate of the industrial menace that ravages what he loved. I've written on this before, and I ask for your patience once more.

If the Sierra Club leaders continue with their approach of supporting industry as the solution to the problem that is destroying nature, its credibility as an environmental organization will be severely eroded, and Sierra Club leadership may not notice the decline.  The Sierra Club will have failed at its founding purpose - the appreciation of nature and the protection of what John Muir called "God's cathedrals", referring to beautiful natural landscapes consisting of miracles big and small.

The Sierra Club today w…

Reid Gardner Coal vs. Energy Efficiency

A study commissioned by the Sierra Club found it is cheaper to shut down the dirty Reid Gardner coal power plant in the year 2013 and invest in energy efficiency measures than to keep the toxic plant running.  Despite the overwhelming benefits to health and economy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to consider allowing the coal power plant to run with marginal reductions in emissions, which inflict the nearby community of Moapa, and fill desert skies and National Parks with haze.

According to the study, shutting down all four Reid Gardner coal burners by 2013 would save Nevada residents $59 million dollars over the next 20 years, based on a scenario in which Nevada Power invested instead in enough energy efficiency upgrades to reduce power consumption by just 2%.  I suspect the report used a conservative estimate for the savings from energy efficiency measures. Consider California's requirement that energy vampires like cell phone chargers become more energy effi…

Foolish Landscape Defender

"John Muir is a fine Scotchman...but for all that it is too foolish to say that the imperative needs of a city to a full and pure water supply should be thwarted for the sake of a few trees or for scenery, no matter how beautiful it might be." -- Andrew Carnegie quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, 1913.