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Ill-conceived project threatens Gerlach & Wild Washoe

UPDATE!

Friends of Nevada Wilderness has signed on to a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management Winnemucca District for allowing Ormat Technologies, Inc. to proceed with drilling 19 exploratory geothermal wells adjacent to the town of Gerlach.

The Burning Man Project is the lead plaintiff in the case filed in Nevada federal court.

The plaintiffs argue that BLM illegally gave Ormat the green light for exploratory drilling without analyzing the full impacts of development of a large-scale geothermal plant adjacent to the town.

“We all know that Ormat wants to build a full-scale plant, which is ill-conceived at that location to begin with,” said Shaaron Netherton, Friends’ Executive Director. “The fact that BLM conducted such a superficial analysis of Ormat’s plans for exploratory drilling is such bad precedent, we felt we had no option but to join the action.”

The suit alleges BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not properly analyzing the impacts of the final project, which Ormat has previously described as two new power plants, each producing 24 megawatts of electricity per hour, as well as an electrical substation, up to 23 geothermal production and injection wells, 4.6 miles of above-ground pipelines, access roads and a 26-mile overhead power line running from the power plants to the North Valley Substation in the San Emidio Desert.

The plants would be built on both Bureau of Land Management and privately-held land.

“Gerlach is an iconic town in Nevada,” Netherton added. “The history of the area, the amazing wide-open spaces, the dark skies, the peace and quiet – they all mean so much not just to the people who live there but to many more people who come from all over to recreate there. These drilling wells alone will change the landscape, but construction of a large-scale geothermal plant would be disastrous. We support development of alternative energy, but not at the expense of an entire community and a beloved landscape.”

New Wilderness and Conservation in the NDAA

 

The Navy has been trying for more than 20 years to expand the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) at the Fallon Naval Air Station in Churchill and neighboring counties. Those efforts were resisted by you, the conservation community, because of the Navy’s indifference to mitigating the environmental impacts of expanding its bombing range and other facilities. As time went on Congress pressed the Navy to work with local stakeholders including the counties, Tribes, State of Nevada, conservationists, land owners and users of public lands. The Navy listened and promptly ignored the input, barely budging from their original proposal for control of over a half-million additional acres of American public lands.  Over the last several months however, the Navy’s efforts gained momentum in the U.S. Congress and with the Biden Administration. Now it appears that the expansion will be signed into law by the end of December 2022.

When the expansion became inevitable, we shifted our focus to make sure any expansion is adequately mitigated with extensive new conservation measures. Our delegation worked hard with input from Churchill County, the Walker River Paiute Tribe, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and many other stakeholders. We fought hard for more conservation until the last minute. While it pains us to see any military expansion, given the political realities, we came to appreciate that this National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will also designate more than 180,000 acres of new Wilderness Areas, preserve wildlife habitat, protect lands with wilderness qualities and, very importantly, protect the ancient sacred lands of Indigenous people. On December 6th the NDAA language was released and on December 8th the House voted 350-80 to approve the bill. The Senate voted to pass the NDAA on December 15th, 83-11.

H.R.7776 - James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (117th Congress) was signed into law by Presdient Biden on December 23, 2022.

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As a result of the NDAA, Nevada will get its first new Wilderness since 2014. Here are the conservation measures we expect to see signed into law soon.

New Wilderness Areas

Clan Alpine Mountains  128,362 acres  (Churchill County)       

Desatoya Mountains      40,303 acres  (Churchill County 32,537 and Lander County 7,766)

Cain Mountain               14,050 acres  (Churchill County 7,664 and Lander County 6,386)

  Total Wilderness      182,715 acres
Churchill County map
Lander County map

New National Conservation Areas

Numunaa Nobe National Conservation Area (much of the former Stillwater and Jobs Peak WSA and lands around the Grimes Point Recreation Area) for 160,224 acres.

Pistone- Black Mountain National Conservation Area  3,415 acres

New Special Management Areas

Numu Newe Special Management Area (for cultural resources)  217,845 acres

Special Protection Area

Monte Cristo Mountains Protection Area (an area very important to local Indigenous communities) 17,688 acres located in the expanded B-17 Bombing Range. Navy must not bomb this area and any ordinance or debris from bombing exercises that lands there must be removed within 45 days.

 

Burbank Canyons

Burbank_Canyons_1.jpgBurbank Canyons is a beautiful little 13,395-acre area in Douglas County with perennial streams, aspen groves, great hiking, and excellent solitude. Raptors, mule deer, bear, mountain lion, sage grouse, and various bird species live here. Wilderness designation will give it permanent protection.

Its protection has been included in various versions of the Douglas County Public lands bill over the past decade. Currently it is included as part of HR 5243, the Northern Nevada Economic Development, Conservation and Military Modernization Act of 2021, introduced by Congressman Amodei 9/14/21. We hope to see this beautiful area get permanent protection in 2022.

Nye Country - the Heart of the Great Basin

Once again, our tried-and-true strategy to listen to stakeholders’ concerns, negotiate in good faith, assist in seeking out common-sense solutions and just plain hang in there, has resulted in a local agreement to designate almost 427,000 acres of new Wilderness Area in Nye County. We’re also very excited that local officials have agreed to what we’re calling the 216,000 acre Lunar Starlight National Conservation Area, a historic effort to preserve a truly unique Western landscape.

We will look to Senator Rosen and Congressman Horsford and their staff to condense all of this hard work into federal legislation that we fervently hope will come to pass. Nye County is home to some of the crown jewels of wild lands and we are cautiously optimistic that Nye could become the wild heart of the Great Basin.

Wild Washoe

Thanks to the leadership of Senator Jacky Rosen and her top-notch staff, we are now encouraged by the direction of discussions that could very well lead to a Truckee Meadows/Washoe County public lands bill weighing more heavily in favor of conservation. We hope to see a bill introduced this year.

Draft maps indicate that about 223,000 acres of Wild Washoe County could receive Wilderness designation along with 542,000 acres of National Conservation Area designation. We’re also working with other conservation partners, hoping to maintain open public access to popular recreation areas closer to the urban population, like the Virginia Mountains/Tule Peak and the Petersens. About 151,000 acres closer in to Reno could be protected as special management areas of some kind.  

We have worked with the Senator’s staff to provide mapping and ground-truthing various concerns and working out detailed solutions and whatever else we can do to move the process forward. Finally, after years of various attempts at Washoe County legislation, much of it unacceptable to the conservation community and fought off by all of our supporters, it appears we’re on the right path. Stay tuned as we may soon be calling on you once again, our
volunteers and supporters, to encourage your elected leaders to get to the finish line and Keep Washoe Wild!

 

 

Save the Desert National Wildlife Refuge!

On July 21, 2022 after months of Senator Cortez Masto and her staff working to improve the southern Nevada bill she introduced early in 2021, Clark County pulled out saying there wasn't enough disposal of public lands and other development pieces remaining in the bill. The bill, which was to have had a mark up hearing was pulled off the list by the Senator. It is our plan to continue to work with the Senator's office on our highest priority which has always been the protection of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge from military expansion and closure to the public.

The fight will continue and we still need your support to protect the bighorn and all the other creatures that call the Desert Refuge home. With your continued help we have created awareness with our #dontbombthebighorn social media campaign, taken our elected officials and their staff on tours, worked with great photographers to showcase the beauty and importance of the refuge through images, partnered with BackCounty Pictures for the production of the amazing Desert Refuge videos, walked the halls in Washington DC talking to our delegation and key, attended many meetings, reviewed, analyzed and commented on the NTTR LEIS, and helped form a large coalition with national regional and local groups all fighting for the refuge.

 

On March 3, 2021 Senator Cortez Masto and Congresswoman Titus along with the entire Nevada delegation introduced the Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act (S 567 and HR 1597) that would have provided permanent protection for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. 1.3 million acres are to be designated as Wilderness and will be strong protection from military expansion further into the refuge!  Click to read a text of the bill and a map is available here.

 

Pershing County Public Lands Bill

PershingCounty_ReconMarch16_kkuznicki_8099_copy.jpgFriends of Nevada Wilderness has been proud to work with members of the Nevada delegation, the Pershing County Commission and many stakeholders to advance a comprehensive lands bill for Pershing County that aims to conserve important areas as wilderness and provide economic development for the County. Passage of this bill will ensure the permanent protection of 136,072 acres of Wilderness, while also providing tools to help resolve the checkerboard land issue. Several versions of the bill have been introduced into Congress over the last 5 years and we are hopeful that 2022 will be the year this important bill passes.

Read more about the beautiful areas that would be protected.

 

 

 

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