BREAKING NEWS There will be no military expansion into the Desert Refuge this year as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
Congress voted in support of the NDAA in early December and the negotiated language was a 25-year status quo extension of what the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) currently has. President Trump vetoed the NDAA and Congress overrode his veto at the end of the year.
A HUGE thanks for the years of support getting us to this point. “We welcome this news with a mix of great relief and lingering anxiety. We are incredibly grateful to our Congressional delegation, particularly Senator Cortez Masto and Congressman Horsford, for helping to deny any Nevada military facility expansion onto public lands in the 2020 NDAA. At the same time, we know this is a temporary reprieve. The military will not back down from its desire to take over valuable habitat like the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and fence out the public. But we won’t back down from our goal which has always been to secure permanent protection for and access to our public lands that remain abundantly wild and retain the highest of conservation values.” We will build on that victory and prepare with even greater energy and resolve for the next round, which we know is coming. The military will be back, and so will we.”
On July 1, 2020, the House Armed Services Committee approved H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 2845 of the legislation would have disastrous implications for the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, effectively handing control of over 800,000 acres of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the United States Air Force for military training. There was NO consultation with the Nevada delegation or Congressman Steven Horsford whose District includes the Desert Refuge. Thanks in part to the outrage from people across Nevada the Nevada delegation is fighting back. Representatives sent a joint letter urging House leadership to protect the Desert Refuge. In Daniel Rothberg of the NV Independent's recent article, the representatives voice their displeasure with the amendment and the lack of consultation. The Wilderness Society released an analysis recommending Section 2845 be stricken in its entirety.
A massive campaign across the nation erupted to Save the Desert Refuge and the media goes wild. The Nevada delegation engages big time and a new amendment arises (the Horsford Amendment) – this gets rid of the bad parts of the Bishop Amendment and keeps the good pieces. Through a complicated House Rules Committee process on July 17th the Horsford Amendment moved in a package to the House floor and was voted on and passed unanimously on July 20.
On July 9th Gov. Steve Sisolak requested congressional leaders axe the last-minute provision snuck into the defense authorization bill last week, that would give the Air Force the final say over how more than 800,000 acres of protected land are managed at the Desert Refuge. In a letter addressed to Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Adam Smith, the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Sisolak made it clear that this provision “clearly undermines Nevada’s ability to effectively manage wildlife and natural resources within our state borders.” For more on Sisolak's response, check out this Nevada Independent article by Daniel Rothberg.
On June 11, 2020 the Senate Armed Services Committee had proposed NO EXPANSION for the Nellis Test and Training Range! Just a status quo renewal of what they have for another 20 years. It's a great step toward saving the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
In April 2020, the Military submitted their legislative proposal to the armed services committees in Congress. If enacted, it would gut the refuge and shut out the public. We must NOT let that happen. We must let the armed services committees know that Nevada and Desert Refuge have given enough to the military. The final decision in Congress will be made this year in the National Defense Authorization Act. Help us save the refuge!
Protection of the Desert Refuge is a giant step closer thanks to you.
On December 19, 2019, Senator Cortez Masto introduced S-3145, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and Nevada Test and Training Range Withdrawal and Management Act, that pushes back hard against the massive military overreach into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been fighting for the Desert Refuge for the last 5-years. Congressman Horsford introduced the House companion bill and the entire Nevada delegation has signed on. This bill would designate 1.3 million acres of Wilderness (the biggest Wilderness bill ever in Nevada) and stop the military from turning the refuge into a bombing range and destroying precious habitat. The bill would keep the historic Alamo Road open to the public and would prevent the military from taking anymore primary jurisdiction of the refuge. We are deeply appreciative of Senator Cortez Masto’s leadership and the support from the entire Nevada Delegation.
This giant step forward is only possible because of all the support we have received from you. The fight will continue into the new year and we still need your support for the final push to protect the bighorn and all the other creatures that call the Desert Refuge home.
With your help we have created awareness with our #dontbombthebighorn social media campaign, taken our elected official 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 EIS, and helped form a large coalition with national regional and local groups all fighting for the refuge.
Past Actions that made a huge difference protecting the Desert Refuge
Our Nevada Legislators passed Assembly Joint Resolution 2 with nearly unanimous bi-partisan support! This resolution opposes the military expansion into more of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. A special thanks to Assemblywoman Cohen who championed Assembly Joint Resolution 2 and Senator Scheible for Senate Joint Resolution 3. Both resolutions were similar and in the end, leadership decided to move only one of them, AJR 2 to passage. click here to read final 3-page resolution
Thanks to all the folks who turned out in large numbers to attend the hearings in March. Everyone spoke in favor of the resolutions! The resolutions were quickly and unanimously passed out of the committees.
Breaking News On October 7, 2020 Senator Cortez Masto introduced draft legislation, entitled Northern Nevada Rural Land Management, Conservation, and Military Readiness Act.
On July 21, 2020 – the Trump Administration issued a Statement of Administrative Policy (SAP) regarding H.R. 6395 – NDAA - Here is the section that addresses the renewal of the Fallon Range Training Complex Land Withdrawal and Reservation (Section 2842).
The Administration appreciates section 2842, which would extend the current withdrawal and reservation of lands known as the Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) to November 6, 2046. However, the Administration strongly urges Congress to adopt DOD’s request to expand the FRTC to provide the area needed to fully accommodate modern military training requirements. This requested expansion of the range is essential to accommodate Naval Aviation and Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) training at Naval Air Station Fallon needed to support the National Defense Strategy. The FRTC is currently too small to accommodate realistic training with precision-guided munitions, and is too small for SEAL ground mobility maneuver training in a tactical and relevant environment.
On June 11, 2020 the Senate Armed Services Committee proposed no expansion for the Fallon Range Training Complex. Just a status quo renewal of what they have until November, 2041. They did however, also add the following language.
The committee recognizes the need for the Navy to effectively train sailors and marines in the most realistic environments. However, the committee believes that there is more work to be done with all relevant stakeholders, including other committees of jurisdiction, the Nevada delegation, tribes, hunters, environmentalists, and others. As such, the committee directs the Navy to reengage and develop a new compromise approach that balances training needs with those of all relevant parties.
Of course there is still a long way to go in the NDAA process and things may change BUT it's a great first step to Saving the Stillwaters!
On January 10, 2020, the United States Navy released their final Environmental Impact Statement to assess the potential environmental impacts of the proposed expansion of the Fallon Range Training Center in Churchill County. The document is the Navy's assessment of the environmental impacts of its plan to quadruple the size of the training complex. On March 13th, the US Navy issued their Record of Decision (ROD) for the Fallon Range Training Complex Modernization Final Environmental Impact Statement.
The Navy held a public meeting on the final EIS in Fallon on Jan. 28. The meeting included poster stations staffed by Navy representatives and a presentation overviewing the final EIS, followed by an opportunity for the public to provide oral comments. There was over an hour of comments from individuals including members of multiple tribes, exploration geologists, rock hounds, local residents, and conservationists. There were no comments in support of the expansion as outlined in the final EIS.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has reviewed the final EIS and has these comments in response.
Also, several members of the coalition fighting the proposed Air Force expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge signed on to this letter outlining their opposition to the Fallon expansion, as well.
History of the Navy's previous actions and public involvement:
Your voice was heard…
In May, 2019 the Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Joint Resolution 7 - "Expresses the opposition of the Nevada Legislature to the proposed expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex." The resolution was introduced by the Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining but a special thanks goes to Assemblywoman Peters for her work championing this resolution. A huge thanks to all of you who called, wrote and attended meetings at the legislature!
Click Here to read the final AJR 7.
The military had proposed to shut you out of more than 350,000 acres of valuable public land YOU own in order to expand the Fallon Naval Air Station bombing range across six counties in Nevada. Will you sign our petition asking your members of Congress to turn down this current proposal from the military?
The Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex is seeking to withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 606,685 acres of public lands managed by the BLM - and closing 359,928 of those acres to the public. If successful, this will increase military-controlled lands in the area to nearly 1,000 square miles - quadrupling their area of control from 239,575 acres. Their proposal includes the elimination of 74,400 acres of Wilderness Study Areas in parts of the Clan Alpine Mountain, Job Peak and Stillwater Range WSAs. We think Wilderness designation is a better option for conservation AND the military! Rather than getting rid of portions of WSAs, urge the military to support full Wilderness designation for the five WSAs surrounding their proposed expansions.
This is military overreach. Please tell your elected representatives the Navy needs to come back with a measured proposal that protects national defense while preserving the resources we value in Nevada.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been working through the military EIS process sending in comments, attending meetings and meeting with the Navy. We hope to bring other stakeholders together to find a way to protect our Wilderness Study Areas and ensure public access.
Read more for details below.
Watch the Stealth Land Grab Video and see what's at stake! Produced by an advocate for Nevada Wilderness and Native Rights.
Friends 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. 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 since 2016 but the most recent is S2804 introduced 11/6/19 by Senators Cortez Masto and Rosen and HR 6889 introduced by Representative Amodei on 5/15/20. We are hoping to see this important bill passed soon.
Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act (S 2804)
Here are links to the actual legislation and to Senator Cortez Masto's press release when she introduced the Pershing County bill on 11/6/19. This version of the bill was updated and simplified from the earlier versions introduced. The wilderness portion of the bill has not changed however.
Read more for information about each of the areas to be protected as Wilderness.
With COVID 19 needing Washoe County attention, the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act process was put on hold. Meetings took place early in the year but health and employment priorities were more pressing. In later summer, the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County began holding internal meetings again. As of August 2020, it is unclear where this process is heading and what the new time-frame may look like.
Two public meetings on the proposed Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act (TMPLMA) took place on February 18th and 20th at the Reno Sparks Convention Center. The meeting on the 18th was informational and the public comment meeting was held on the 20th. Thanks to so many of our supporters for turning out. It was clear that there was still a great deal of concern about both the expanded growth boundary and sale of public lands as well as concerns with the paltry amount of Wilderness being proposed. See the official notice here.
Here is a summary of the comments Friends has submitted regarding the latest proposal from Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks.
Click here to see a map depicting the Friends recommendation (our final recommendations for Massacre Rim/Bittner Triangle and Sheldon Contiguous are still to be determined).
Friends of Nevada Wilderness shares many of the same concerns that have been expressed by our friends and colleagues regarding the proposed "disposal boundary" inside of which certain public lands could be swapped or sold for local government and private development purposes. Because all of the Wilderness Study Areas in Washoe County are outside the disposal boundary, we would refer you to the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club for more information regarding that proposal.
Here is Washoe County's official TMPLMA web page.
After facing a number of obstacles in 2018 that prevented a successful outcome, Washoe County officials have restarted and rebranded the discussion they hope will lead to introduction of a public lands bill in Congress by mid-2020. Friends has participated in a number of stakeholder meetings in recent months and, once again, has submitted comments to Washoe County and the members of our Congressional delegation.
Washoe County led the process and discussion in 2017-2018, but is now partnering on a more equal footing with the cities of Reno and Sparks. What used to be called the Washoe County Economic Development and Conservation Act is now called the Truckee Meadows Public Land Management Act.
Their ambitious timeline, goals, and guidelines for the discussion are outlined in this document provided by Washoe County/Reno/Sparks staff.
Friends remains committed to securing permanent wilderness designation or other highly protective designations for hundreds of thousands of acres of the most wild and remote land in northern Washoe County stretching from just north of Pyramid Lake to the Oregon border.
These public lands, specifically Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) and Lands with Wilderness Characteristics (LWCs) retain high value as conservation lands:
- Wildlife habitat and wildlife corridor connectivity – especially for the Greater Sage-Grouse
- Watershed protection
- Airshed protection
- Cultural resource protection
- Dark Sky protection
- Dispersed outdoor recreation
As Friends continues in good faith to reach agreement with local government and other stakeholders, we will remain true to several basic principles:
- Intact ecosystems such as those found in WSAs and LWCs are under constant threat. Only permanent conservation status can preserve the values they provide.
- WSAs are federally-managed lands owned by the American people. The disposition of these lands can and should be determined only by the people’s elected representatives in Congress. Clearly, Washoe County residents have a voice in the decision-making process, but so do all Americans.
- Wide open public spaces are unique to the West. Nevada is adorned with relatively undisturbed lands that attract those who seek thrills, solitude, the beauty of a natural landscape, and physical and spiritual renewal. People come to live and play in Nevada because of the access to public lands. As the population grows in Washoe County, so will the demand to access these lands. This is a quality of life issue.
- WSA designation has preserved these special places. Widespread removal of wilderness protection would dramatically and permanently alter Nevada’s landscape.
Given our history of working on public lands bills over the past 20 years, and with these principles guiding us, Friends will continue to work with the the local governments and other stakeholders in hoping to reach final agreement on conservation protections in Washoe County.
We want to clarify that what Washoe County/Reno and Sparks proposal will likely include two main sections.
One will address what is commonly called the “disposal area.” Refer below to the most recent draft maps produced by the local governments. The disposal area is a broad rectangle stretching from Washoe Lake north to Red Rocks. There are numerous scattered blocks of BLM and Forest Service public lands that are being identified for "disposal". The stakeholder discussion will focus on which of these sections of land should logically be sold or transferred from the BLM for uses such as housing, schools, waste treatment, local parks, etc. We encourage everyone to carefully look at these maps. There should be public meetings later in the year on these disposal proposals.
The other part of the public lands bill will address permanent designation for the more wild and remote lands in northern Washoe County that are WSAs or LWC’s currently managed by the BLM or by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. These lands all lie north of Pyramid Lake and stretch to the Oregon border. They have next to no value for traditional urban or suburban development. However, as WSAs and LWCs, they remain vulnerable to other potential disturbance such as mining, drilling, powerline or pipeline construction, and new roads. Friends will concentrate on preventing the possibility of these types of disturbances on wilderness-quality lands and instead preserving them with permanent conservation designation.
Keep scrolling below to read more details about these special places and how Friends has been fighting for permanent conservation protection.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness has been participating with Clark County staff along with other conservation organizations, to provide information on Wilderness quality lands that need protection in Clark County.
Clark County developed a draft resolution on what they would like to see in a public lands bill. On June 5, 2018 they held a public open house to allow the public to review their draft proposal. The county had a 7-day public comment period that ended on June 12. On June 19th, Clark County Commissioners voted unanimously to pass that resolution to urge the Nevada Congressional delegation to begin drafting legislation regarding public lands development and conservation.
The County Commission has agreed to include about 82,000 acres of high value Wilderness in their proposal. This includes the Mt. Stirling Wilderness Study Area as well as expansions of a number of existing Wilderness areas such as Eldorado, Ireteba Peaks, South McCullough, and Muddy Mountains.
The resolution requests that our federally elected leaders consider expanding the disposal boundary of the Las Vegas Valley by about 44,000 acres and protect about 290,000 acres of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in the valley to help balance development.
Shortly after passage, Senator Cortez-Masto released a press release stating, “I look forward to working with the Commission, members of our Congressional delegation, and stakeholders across Nevada to develop balanced federal legislation that meets the county’s needs, prioritizes smart growth, and invests in conservation.” Friends of Nevada Wilderness and other conservation organizations have been working with county staff to identify conservation measures and appreciate their outreach and partnership. You can read her full statement by following this link.