Defending the Desert

A 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization

 
 

 

 

WELCOME

Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, culture, and history of the ecosystems and wild lands of the desert.

Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.

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Southern Nevada Public Land Planning

January 14, 2018 - Las Vegas NV - We attended the public meeting held by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their Resource Management Plan revision. We commented specifically on how the public land deserts of the region do not need any more Solar Energy Zones--there are already five designated, with only one actually being used by developers for solar projects, and another with a speculative application that has gone nowhere.

More precisely, these solar energy zones are labeled by BLM as "Designated Leasing Areas" (DLAs), preferred areas for solar and wind development by the agency. Feedback about whether or not these are preferred by public land users and the lands themselves, are sought by BLM. We support the alternatives of Distributed Energy Resources, such as rooftop solar, instead of grading and bulldozing pristine desert ecosystems and wildlands.

We also commented on a wind-free designation we are proposing for the tortoise-rich Piute Valley area, to prevent the beautiful hills near Searchlight from being developed by wind projects next to the California border and the new Castle Mountains National Monument.

Other concerns about how BLM manages the southern Nevada public lands we all own, are national monuments such as Gold Butte, OHV routes and races, and protection of natural resources.

Stay tuned, we will be submitting written comments on this Resource Management Plan and will share.

Public Input Needed on the Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan Revision

December 31, 2017 - Las Vegas, Nevada - The original 1998 Resource Management Plan of this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office is being revised. The area covers southern Nevada, and includes how our public lands are managed with respect to renewable energy development, land disposal, conservation areas such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concer, lands with Wilderness characteristics, and Gold Butte National Monument.

The public information meetings will be held at the following locations:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 – Old Overton Gym, 353 W. Thomas Overton, Nevada 89040

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 – Mesquite City Council Chambers, 10 E. Mesquite Blvd, Mesquite, Nevada 89027

Thursday, January 11, 2018 – Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino, 4949 N. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89130

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino, 681 S. Hwy 160, Pahrump, Nevada 89048

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – Heritage Park Senior Facility, 300 S. Racetrack Road, Henderson, Nevada 89015

Thursday, January 18, 2018 – Searchlight Community Center, 200 Michael Wendell Way, Searchlight, Nevada 89046

The public information meetings will be held from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. on the day of each scheduled meeting. The meetings will begin with an open house format where participants can ask questions and visit various resource stations, with formal presentations at 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. The public will be able to verbally provide information beginning at 7:00 p.m. with a three minute time limit. Court reporters will be available to record verbal provided information. See https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage¤tPageId=12407

Our Comments to Save the Palen Desert in the Colorado Desert of California

^Summer rains brought a lush wildflower bloom to the Palen desert even in November and December 2017. Sand verbena (Abronia villosa) iss abundant. Shall this be graded and crushed when solar panels can easily be placed on rooftops in the built environment?

December 10, 2017 - Our comment letter opposing the proposed Palen Solar Project on desert managed by Bureu of Land Management in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA>>here.

Nellis Military Base Expansion Draft Environmental Review Document Out

^Will desert bighron sheep in the Sheep Range, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, be threatened with increase noise, war games, live-fire ordinance testing, road-building and training exercises?

December 8, 2017 - The Legislative Environmental Impact Statement for the Nellis Test and Training Range Expansion, which will possibly take 220,000 acres of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Desert National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada, has been released.

The new Desert Report has a good article explaining the basics and here is the web page from DOD: http://www.nttrleis.com/announcements.aspx.

We met with Congresswoman Dina Titus, (D-Nevada) about this issue ten days ago. She represents many people in her district who support the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and we made her aware of the how the area protects desert bighorn sheep, and has a recreational value to the public.

This decision will be made by a DOD team designated by Congress so it is very important to tell Congress you oppose the expansion now! More on this soon.

Here is the announcement:

The Air Force has published a Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the Draft Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nevada Test and Training Range Land Withdrawal. The publication of the NOA began a 90-day public comment period which will end on 8 March, 2018.

The Draft Legislative EIS and supporting documents are available on the project website at www.nttrleis.com. The Draft Legislative EIS is also available at various libraries and repositories - a list of locations is also provided on the project website.

The Air Force plans to hold five public hearings from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the dates and at the locations listed below. During the meetings, the Air Force will provide information on the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed action and solicit public comments on the Draft LEIS.

•Wednesday, January 17, 2018: Caliente Elementary School, 289 Lincoln Street, Caliente, NV 89008

•Thursday, January 18, 2018: Pahranagat Valley High School, 151 S. Main Street, Alamo, NV 89001

•Tuesday, January 23, 2018: Aliante Hotel, 7300 Aliante Parkway, North Las Vegas, NV 89084

•Wednesday, January 24, 2018: Beatty Community Center, 100 A Avenue South, Beatty, NV 89003

•Thursday, January 25, 2018: Tonopah Convention Center, 301 Brougher Avenue, Tonopah, NV 89049

The agenda for each public hearing is as follows:

•5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. – Open House and written comment submission

•6:15 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Air Force Presentation

•7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Public Hearing/Oral Comments

The project website (www.nttrleis.com) can be used to submit comments on the Draft Legislative EIS or comments may also be submitted by mail to the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, 4430 Grissom Ave., Ste. 107, Nellis AFB, NV 89191. Please direct any requests for information or other inquiries to the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, 4430 Grissom Ave., Ste. 107, Nellis AFB, NV 89191, by e-mail at 99ABW.PAOutreach@us.af.mil, or by phone at (702) 652-2750.

Thank you,

Michael Ackerman

Program Manager

NEPA Division (AFCEC/CZN)

Cultural Values and Sacred Sites Threatened by Massive Palen Solar Project

December 1, 2017 - Our dear friend Mr. Alfredo Figueroa provided us with this comment letter opposing the Palen Solar Project and gave us permission to publish it here. There are significant Cultural Resources that will be harmed and destroyed if this energy sprawl project is built. We join with La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle in opposing this badly-sited project.

^Protest by local indigenous groups and desert activists opposing an earlier version of the Palen Solar Project (which would cover the desert beyond)--this has never been a good location to develop an energy sprawl project, when rooftops in the cities are begging to be covered by solar panels. The Cuauhtemoc Dancers.

The letter starts:

"My name is Alfredo Acosta Figueroa and one of the Chemehuevi Tribal Monitors of the sacred sites, Elder, historian and coordinator of La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle.

"La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle is comprised of 13 Indigenous and culturally aware individuals who mostly reside along the Colorado River from Needles down to Yuma and are dedicated to protecting these sacred sites." Read more >>here.

Streamlining an Already Questionable Sage Grouse Conservation Initiative?

sage grouse hen

^A controversial bird, Greater sage grouse hen at Hart Mountain, Oregon.

November 25, 2017 - We have been contemplating how to comment on the report titled "Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation and Cooperation with Western States" put out by the Department of Interior under Secretary Ryan Zinke, apparently put out in response to Western states' feedback to the complex federal-state-private set of agreements set under Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in 2015.

And this was in response to the decision by US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 that the Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that listing was precluded because of a backlog of "higher priority species" (see https://www.endangeredspecieslawandpolicy.com/2010/03/articles/fish-wildlife-service/greater-sage-grouse-listing-warranted-but-precluded/).

The Service admitted that such factors as habitat fragmentation, energy development, and grazing were part of the problem causing a drop in populations of sage grouse. Yet they forged ahead to work with private landowners to conserve the candidate species. This would include financial and technical assistance, and the ability to develop conservation agreements among various federal agencies to provide regulatory assurances to landowners who take actions to benefit the species, including cattle ranchers, mining companies, and fossil fuel drillers. Thus the Sage Grouse Initiative was born (subtitled "Wildlife Conservation Through Sustainable Ranching"), as well as individual state initiatives that attempt to conserve the grouse but also continue economic development in its habitat.

An unsustainable deal for the species? The exact nature of the conservation agreements, and whether they actually work or not, is a main question we have. More >>here.

Plenty of Birds Around Crescent Dunes Solar Power Tower

November 3, 2017 - Tonopah NV - The solar flux seen today from the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project was in evidence on the morning of October 30, 2017, although clouds shut the facility down for the afternoon. We hiked around the proposed project site of the massive Sandstone Solar Project--ten more power towers--and noted the diversity and numbers of birds in the area.

We saw over 100 horned larks, a Northern harrier, juvenile red-tailed hawk, a Western meadowlark, a few ravens, and more birds around the solar plant's evaporation ponds: 70 ducks flying around, pintails and possibly buffleheads, as well as 40 gulls, including California gulls and ring-billed gulls. See more photos >>here.

See the article in the Pahrump Valley Times by Daria Sokolova: Glare from proposed Nye solar project raises concerns.

Ruby Mountains Oil and Gas Lease--We Oppose!

October 25, 2017 - Ruby Mountains, Nevada - Basin and Range Watch opposes any energy project that is ill-sited and would cause harm to the natural ecology of a region in the deserts and mountains of the Great Basin of Nevada. A recent slough of poorly placed oil and gas exploratory drilling leases on public lands is simply unacceptable. One region with pending leases is in the Ruby Mountains of northern Nevada, an area comparable to the Sierra Nevada on a small scale, full of glacially-carved U-shaped valleys, and lakes. Lamoille Canyon is a spectacular Great Basin hike. We have hiked here a lot in the past and will post photos of our travels in an upcoming article. The birding and wildlife-viewing of this area is unparelled.

We have joined a coalition of organizations that oppose drilling and fracking in this region.

Please add your support to this coaliton. See the Center for Biological Diversity action alert page here: http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=17728

See the article in the Nevada Independant.

See also the Elko Daily Free Press article.

 

Yuma Clapper Rail Threat Near Ash Meadows

September 4, 2017 - Amargosa Valley NV - Solar developer First Solar has applied for an Incidental Take Permit with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to possibly kill or injure up to 2 Federally Endangered Yuma clapper rails (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) for their proposed 785 acre Sunshine Valley Solar Project which will be built 8 miles from Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Mojave Desert, Nevada. The company is developing a Habitat Conservation Plan for this project with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Different species of rails have been found dead at solar facilities in the deserts. In total, over 185 species of birds have been documented as mortalities for recent large-scale solar facilities in California. The large photovoltaic projects are thought by some to mimic lakes and attract birds which collide with the panels. Above is a map of the project near Ash Meadows. In 2014 taxonomists split the Yumma clapper rail from the clapper rail, and made it a new species, Ridgway's rail (Rallus obsoletus). But US Fish and Wildlife seems to still use the older designation.

See the Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy for the Sunshine Valley Solar Project that Basin and Range Watch obtained by Freedom of Information Act request >>PDF.

Help Stop Remote Nevada Deforestation Project

^Old growth pinyon-juniper woodland in the wild and remote North Egan Range of eastern Nevada is threatened with removal.

August 24, 2017 - Ely, Nevada -The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Ely District is seeking public comments on the Egan and Johnson Basin Restoration Project Preliminary Environmental Assessment. The project location is in both the Egan and Cherry Creek Ranges, located north of Ely, Nevada. Comments are due by Monday, August 28, 2017. While the BLM is calling this "restoration", the reality is that they intend to thin out this native forest on over 84,000 acres. The tree removal treatment methods being considered for this project include hand thinning, chaining, mastication (shredding), whole tree thinning, mulching/chipping, prescribed fire and fuelwood harvest. Treatments would focus primarily on removing pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) from sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities. More >>here.

 

 

^Desert near the town of Ocotillo CA, west side of the Imperial Valley.

Basin and Range Watch is honored to be able to continue the mission and many of the projects of the Desert Protective Council, as it dissolves in 2017. We are saddened to see this great desert group, founded in 1954, leave the scene. DPC members voted to formally dissolve the organization into Basin and Range Watch, and we will work hard to continue the excellent educational programs and tradition of desert conservation of the Desert Protective Council. We will of course continue publication of El Paisano, the magazine of news and education in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Comment Deadlines:

Southern Nevada Resource Management Plan Revision comments due February 2, 2018 >>BLM

Draft Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nevada Test and Training Range Land Withdrawal comments due March 8, 2018 >>DOD

 

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"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire

 

"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower

 

"Only within the 20th Century has biological thought been focused on ecology, or the relation of the living creature to its environment. Awareness of ecological relationships is — or should be — the basis of modern conservation programs, for it is useless to attempt to preserve a living species unless the kind of land or water it requires is also preserved."

Rachel Carson, Essay on the Biological Sciences, in, Good Reading (1958)

 

 

 

 

 

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Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.