Las Vegas, Nevada, October 18, 2018 – Conservation organizations are outraged by the US Air Force’s lack of respect to the public interest with the release of its final Environmental Impact Statement on a plan to expand its Nevada Test and Training Range into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The military already controls 2.9 million acres in Nevada with no public access allowed, and this proposal would shut the public out of another 300,000 acres.
Earlier this year, the military held a public comment period during which over 32,000 comments were submitted by a broad swath of constituents including conservationists, sportsmen, Native American tribal leaders, ranchers, Las Vegans and rural community residents all calling for the rejection of this plan. The military’s proposal would seriously compromise the large expanse of desert habitat needed to maintain healthy bighorn sheep populations and also failed to consider the concerns of Native American Nations in Southern Nevada.
“The military should not expand into this beloved National Wildlife Refuge. The wildlife, culture and history at stake here is far too valuable to risk for unnecessary militarization,” said Christian Gerlach, national organizer with the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “The people, from Native American nations, to rural counties, to wildlife watchers, are united in support of preserving this refuge.”
These pristine lands would be used for live bombing exercises, runways and ground warfare simulation. The Air Force’s refusal to take public input into consideration is inexcusable.
“The Air Force is ignoring tens of thousands of people from Nevada and across the United States who urged them not to take this destructive step,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Nevadans love this wildlife refuge and they want its animals and cultural history to remain protected. It’s appalling that the refuge is being handed over for military industrialization, but we won’t let it go without a fight.”
“Desert National Wildlife Refuge is a vital part of the region’s economy, and offers some of the most spectacular landscapes our country has to offer, right on the doorstep of one of America’s most dynamic cities. The Air Force has other options for training, but Desert Refuge’s importance to the region, and its wildlife, is irreplaceable” said David Houghton, Director of WildLandscapes International.
“Ultimately Congress will be the final decision maker on the military’s proposal. We are now looking forward to working with our Congressional delegation to find a way to meet the needs of the Air Force while not taking more of the refuge from the public and the wildlife,” said Friends of Nevada Wilderness Southern Nevada Director, Jose Witt. “These are public lands and we all should have a say as to how they are used.”
The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states and was set aside by President Roosevelt in 1936 for the protection of desert bighorn sheep, Nevada’s state mammal. In 1974, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that 1.2 million acres of the refuge be protected as Wilderness which also benefits the wildlife on the refuge. The long-term protection along with the proposed Wilderness status makes the refuge an essential part of the conservation landscape in Nevada.