May 20, 1936 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Desert Game Range for “the conservation and development of natural wildlife resources” (EO 7373). The 2.25 million acre Game Range, under the joint administration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management, included most of the lands within the current Refuge boundary, but also stretched south to include portions of the Spring Mountains and the area currently occupied by Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
1939 - A 320-acre ranch at Corn Creek (now the site of the visitor center) was acquired from a private landowner under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This site became the administrative headquarters for the Game Range.
October 1940 - Approximately 846,000 acres of the Desert Game Range were reserved for the use of the War Department (U.S. Department of Defense [DOD]) as an aerial bombing and gunnery range (now known as the NTTR). The USAF’s use of a portion of the Desert Game Range was governed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 1949. The MOU was most recently updated in 1997 on December 22 and is due to expire Nov. 2021.
August 31, 1966 - Public Land Order 4079, established the Desert National Wildlife Range under the sole administration of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (now the Service). It also reduced the size of the refuge to 1,588,000 acres.
1971 – 88% or 1,443,100 acres was identified and recommended as wilderness by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Wilderness Act of 1964 due to the area’s extensive primitive and roadless qualities. Seven individual wilderness units were identified in this process.
1970-1985 - 440 acres in the vicinity of Corn Creek was purchased from a variety of private land owners under the authority of the ESA (16 USC Sec. 1534) and Refuge Recreation Act (16 USC Sec. 460k-460).
1999- The Military Lands Withdrawal Act of 1999 (PL 106–65) extended the Air Force’s withdrawal on the 2,919,890-acre Nevada Test and Training Range for 20 years. These lands were reserved for use by the Air Force: “ . . . (A) as an armament and high hazard testing area; (B) for training for aerial gunnery, rocketry, electronic warfare, and tactical maneuvering and air support; (C) for equipment and tactics development and testing; and (D) for other defense-related purposes . .” This withdrawal overlays approximately 845,787 acres of the DNWR. In addition, it transferred primary jurisdiction of 112,000 acres of bombing impact areas on the Desert NWR from the Fish and Wildlife Service to the Department of Defense. However, the Service retained secondary jurisdiction over these lands. All military withdrawn lands are closed to general public access.
November 6th, 2002 - President George W. Bush signed the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 (PL 107–282), which administratively transferred 26,433 acres of BLM land adjacent to Desert NWR’s east boundary to the Service. Desert NWR’s land base changed again with the passage of the Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act of 2004 (PL 108–424). As part of the Act, administrative jurisdiction over approximately 8,382 acres of land along the eastern boundary of Desert NWR and west of U.S. Highway 93 was transferred from the Service to the BLM for use as a utility corridor. In addition, 8,503 acres of BLM-administered land was transferred to the Service to be managed as part of the Desert NWR. This land is located at the northeastern boundary of the Desert NWR and the western boundary of Pahranagat NWR.
2015 – An attempt to transfer all of the overlapping NTTR acreage from the Service to the DOD (giving DOD primary jurisdiction/custody) was placed in an amendment in the 2016 Nation Defense Authorization Act. This amendment eventually failed due to the efforts of Senator Reid, Congressman Heck, and countless activists.
Spring 2016 – A similar attempt using the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to transfer to the DOD all NTTR lands with primary jurisdiction is still pending a vote in Congress.
August 2016 – Current - DOD notifies the public that they are seeking to extend the NTTR withdrawal with additional provisions. These alternatives are: 1.) continue the withdrawal with no changes (status quo) with an expiration date of 20 years, 2.) give primary jurisdiction/custody of NTTR lands to DOD, 3.) add more acreage to the NTTR which would include the southern range up to 300k acres, 4.) change the review period of withdrawals to 50 years or indefinitely, or 5.) would allow withdrawal to expire, ceasing all DOD operations on the NTTR.