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.

>>Contact

emailbasinandrange@gmail.com


 

 

twitter

Basin and Range Watch BLOG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.

Thank You for Your Support!

November 29, 2017 - We raised more than we expected for Giving Tuesday, and this will help us go far this winter to work on conserving large intact landscapes with connected ecosystems, habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. Thanks again.

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.

Military Expansion into Desert National Wildlife Refuge: Environmental Review to Start this Winter

November 1, 2017 - Southern Nevada - We have found out through personal communication that the Legislative Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed 300,000 acre expansion of the Nellis Air Force Base will be released on December 8th, 2017. Nellis wants to expand on 220,000 acres of public lands on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada to make a military buffer for increased bombing. Several new roads, runways, towers and additional infrastructure would be built in the refuge and public access would be cut odd. An additional 80,000 acres of BLM land is also being looked at. More background >>here.


Public meetings have been scheduled, but the schedule has still not officially released yet. Here is the schedule:


Jan. 17 - Caliente, NV (Caliente Elementary School)
Jan. 18 - Alamo, NV (Pahranagat Valley High School)
Jan. 23 - Las Vegas (Aliante Casino + Hotel)
Jan. 24 - Beatty, NV (Beatty Community Center)
Jan. 25 - Tonopah, NV (Tonopah Convention Center)


5:00-6:30 pm (open house/comments)
6:30-7:00 pm (USAF presentation)
7:00-9:00 pm (open house/comments)


Comments will not be accepted in a public form. You will have to submit them privately to a court reporter. Information can be viewed here: http://www.nttrleis.com/index.aspx

Avian-Solar Interactions Symposium (Part 1)

October 26, 2017 - Sacramento CA - Basin and Range Watch attended the August 16 Technical Symposium on Avian-Solar Interactions in Sacramento CA, organized by the Collaborative Working Group of various agencies. Sandra Brewer of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Amedee Brickey of the US Fish and Wildlife Service gave introductions. Karen Smith of Argonne National Laboratory gave a review.

symposium

In addition, the solar industry based group, Avian Solar Working Group gave an introduction: Jodie Gless of NextEra Energy, and Aimee Delach of Defenders of Wildlife.

Overview of Avian-Solar Interactions

Wally Erickson of WEST, Inc. gave a talk summarizing some current avian mortality numbers in California and Nevada for Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, Blythe Solar Energy Project, McCoy Solar Project, Silver State South Solar Farm (in Nevada), and California Valley Solar Ranch. A standardized approach to searching for dead carcasses was used, so that 20-45% of the solar arrays were searched, and rows were walked. 25-100% of chainlink fences were driven and searched. We were not clear how often searches were conducted, but Erickson said that for Desert Sunlight Solar Farm the solar field was searched 2, 3, or 4 days per week. For much more on this avian-solar interactions symposium, see >>here.

Palen Solar Photovoltaic Project Back

^The Palen Dunes sand transport corridor which may be threatened by a large fenced 3,500-acre utility-scale solar project. The Palen-McCoy Mountains and wilderness are in the distance.

October 26, 2017 - Riverside County CA - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is set to release a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement with a 45 day comment period, for a proposed 500 megawatt photovoltaic solar power plant near Desert Center, Riverside County, California. The Right-of-Way application area comprises about 4,200 acres, with a proposed project footprint of about 3,400 acres. The proposed project also includes construction of a 6.7-mile single circuit 230 kilovolt generation interconnection (gen-tie) transmission line connecting the project to the Southern California Edison (SCE) Red Bluff Substation. EDF Renewables is seeking to build the project. See the Federal Register notice pdf.

The project site is partially within a sand-transport corridor, and past incarnations of the project have been controversial because of this. The area also has a good population of Mojave fringe-toed lizards. For more of the history of the project and natural area of the desert, see our archives.

BLM and Riverside County will hold a public meeting on the Project DSEIS/SEIR/LUPA on November 14, 2017 from 4 to 6 pm at UCR Palm Desert Center Room B200 located at 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92211.

Comment deadline December 10, 2017.

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.

Sandstone Solar Project Proposed in Nevada

Solar Reserve

^The Crescent Dunes solar power tower in operation.

October 25, 2017 - Tonopah NV - On September 3 we attended a Nye County Commission meeting in Tonopah, where SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith was in attendance to pitch his proposed Sandstone Solar Energy Project.

This is the preliminary map of the north section of the proposed 22,000 acre Sandstone North Solar Project, which would be up to a 10 tower concentrated solar thermal project located entirely on Bureau of Land Management lands (BLM), although documents obtained by Basin and Range Watch from BLM apparently indicate 8 solar power towers would be located on Variance lands designated under the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision; another two concentrated solar power plants/solar power towers might be in the Miller's Solar Energy Zone to the west of this, in Esmeralda County, Nevada. The map was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA). See the map and more about the County Commission meeting >>here.

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.

Tule Wind Project Construction in McCain Valley

August 10, 2017 - Eastern San Diego County CA - The 450 foot turbines are now being delivered for the Tule Wind Project. The 62 turbine project will be located on 12,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in scenic McCain Valley located east of San Diego, California. The project was contested by land owners and conservation organizations over the location and the Bureau of Land Management did not listen. McCain Valley will no longer be scenic and happens to be very important for raptors. In fact, the Tule Wind Project is within the range of the California Condor. You can monitor the destruction yourself by checking the BLM's compliance monitoring web site for the project. These web sites are considered mitigation for the destruction: http://www.tulewindeccmp.com/#Background

 

 

^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:

Palen Solar Photovoltaic Project Comments Due December 11, 2017 >>BLM

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

 

About Us

Contact

Donate

Store

Pinyon-Juniper Woodland

Science

Trump Administration

Renewable Energy

Avian-Solar

Transmission

Public Lands

Land Exchanges

Military Base Expansions

Mining

Groundwater Mining

News Archive

Birding

Wildlife

Flora

Cartoons

Links

Newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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)

 

 

 

 

 

Sign up for our Newsletter on threats to the desert, action alerts, and natural history notes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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