ELKO, Nev. Nov. 2, 2017 — Conservation groups filed comments today urging the U.S. Forest Service to halt plans to lease out 54,000 acres for drilling and fracking in the Ruby Mountains, one of Nevada’s most scenic and popular recreation areas.
“This may be the most inappropriate place in all of Nevada to drill for oil,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Rubies are an iconic emblem of the Silver State’s wild heritage, and we can’t let them be ruined for corporate profits. The Forest Service shouldn’t let oil companies drill or frack a single acre of this incredible natural treasure.”
Today’s comments note that the Ruby Mountains, in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest of northeast Nevada, are among the state’s crown jewels. Rising 7,000 feet above the floor of the Great Basin desert, the Rubies are a majestic sky island harboring robust populations of Nevada’s most cherished wildlife.
The largest mule deer herd in the state winters there. Streams are home to Nevada’s state fish, the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout. Sagebrush-covered slopes provide priority habitat for the imperiled greater sage grouse.
The Ruby Mountains lease auction is part of the Trump administration’s broader move toward “energy dominance.” Under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the administration has violated environmental review and endangered species protection laws, jamming through oil and gas lease sales with no substantive analysis of how they may harm wildlife, water or the climate.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is among those opposing the lease auction, calling the Ruby Mountains “stunning” on Twitter and imploring Nevadans to “make your voice heard if you don’t want to see them sold off.”
The coalition of 11 conservation groups submitting comments today includes the Center for Biological Diversity, Nevada Conservation League, Sierra Club, Basin and Range Watch, The Wilderness Society, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Defenders of Wildlife, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network and Great Basin Resource Watch. The Forest Service has received more than 11,000 comments, including from American Indian tribes and sportsmen’s groups.
“Nevadans and Americans from across the country have sent a resounding message to the Forest Service,” said Emily Lande, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “Drilling and fracking contaminate watersheds, drive down wildlife populations and cause permanent harm to our climate. We won’t stand by while Trump ruins one of Nevada’s most special places.”