How to Comment - Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Talking Points to Consider:

  • National defense is important but so is a balance of conservation. It is important that our military have places to train but it is also important to balance national defense with conservation and wildlife.
  • The Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) in Southern Nevada is already comprised of 2.9 million acres and the Air Force has complete fly-over access to the entire Desert Wildlife Refuge. Proposing to take primary control of an additional 300,000 acres of the Refuge that comprises critical wildlife habitat and popular outdoor recreational sites seems totally inappropriate.
  • Similar lands can be utilized for military purposes elsewhere adjacent to the NTTR.
  • The Air Force and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service share jurisdiction of 850,000 acres in the western portion of the Refuge for the sole purposes of training. These areas are already closed to the public and largely closed to US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists. Restricting public access to an additional 300,000 acres would result in a permanent loss of outdoor recreation that hundreds of visitors to this region currently enjoy including hikers, hunters, and Boy Scout troops. 
  • Concurrently with this process, the Fallon Naval Air Station is looking at taking over 600,000 additional acres of public lands.
  • The Nellis Test and Training Range received primary jurisdiction of 112,000 acres of public land in the last withdrawal. The Air Force can bomb these places at will which has made a permanent and lasting impact on the land.
  • 88% of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge was recommended for wilderness by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Known as the best remaining undisturbed example of a diverse Mojave Desert/mountain ecosystem, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge should be continued to be managed to conserve its high quality wild landscapes, and protect the abundant amount of wildlife that thrive in this wild corner of southern Nevada. The military expansion could allow for an entire new network of graded roads and structures to be built, an action that would destroy the wilderness qualities that this area currently possesses.
  • The Desert National Wildlife Refuge has been managed to protect the rich cultural history found in the region. Native Americans have lived in the area for over 12,000 years and evidence of their presence remains throughout the Refuge today including rock shelters, camps, rock art, hunting blinds, ancient artifacts, and agave roasting pits.  In addition, extensive emigrant and mining history is also evident in the area including the old 1800s wagon trails known today as the Alamo Road and the Mormon Well Road.
    • Over 200 cultural sites have already been lost from the portion of the Refuge overlaid with the NTTR. Further expanding the NTTR into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge could vaporize countless archaeological sites and resources – those known and those to be discovered.
    • The Sheep Mountain Archaeological Site, registered on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, covers 80% of the Sheep Range in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Because of its protective status and remote location, the cultural sites within this area remain intact. The Air Force proposed addition that would withdraw 50% of the Sheep Range would significantly damage and most likely destroy priceless cultural artifacts and sites.
  • The Desert National Wildlife Refuge protects irreplaceable habitat for one of the largest populations of desert bighorn sheep in Nevada. This iconic species is extremely intolerant of human interference and dependent on the steep rugged terrain of the higher elevations for escape habitat and lambing grounds. The military expansion of 300,000 additional acres could permanently displace bighorn sheep from seasonally crucial habitat, disrupt lambing in some areas, and dramatically affect population numbers and survival rates. The expansion could also reduce their seasonal migration routes that are dependent upon cross valley movements from one mountain range to the other.
    • In addition, removing access for wildlife biologists to what is traditional bighorn sheep habitat will severely weaken management practices and scale down our knowledge of seasonal migration patterns, population sizes, and overall species health.

 

  • Because of the Desert Refuge’s large size, tremendous range of elevation, and long history of protection, a mosaic of nearly every ecological community that occurs in southern Nevada has been preserved in as a wild condition as possible. The Desert National Wildlife Refuge boasts a wide range of elevation, topography, and rainfall resulting in a wide diversity of habitat for wildlife and plant biodiversity.
    • There are 500 species of plants that thrive due to the diverse plant zones that comprise the Refuge ecosystem. There are seven plant life zones in the Refuge that range from the typical Mojave Desert saltbrush valley floors to the expansive ponderosa pine forests and ancient bristlecone pines that exist in the higher elevations. The expansion of military jurisdiction over the majority of the Sheep Range would unravel the delicate ecosystems that make up this extensive and wild area.
    • Because of unpredictable moisture, many desert plants grow slowly and, as a result, plant communities recover slowly – if at all – from any form of disturbance. Loss of these plant communities represents a significant and irreplaceable loss of habitat for a wide variety of species. The extreme conditions of the desert ecosystem here provide little wiggle room for displaced wildlife species to move. A long-term loss of cover, feeding, and nesting habitat would be lost thereby dramatically affecting the 250 species of native and migratory bird species, resulting in a significant loss of bird diversity and density.
    • Loss of habitat would also affect mammal populations. Species with the smallest home ranges and least mobility (rabbits, gophers, and other small mammal species) would be permanently displaced and larger, carnivorous animals would lose a big part of their prey base.
    • Military expansion would significantly impact the 53 species of mammals, 30 species of reptiles, and 250 species of birds that live in the area. Sensitive, threatened, and endangered species include the desert tortoise, the white bearpoppy, the banded Gila monster, and the delicate rock daisy would be placed in further danger.

 

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