Save the Desert National Wildlife Refuge!


Thanks to you, the resolutions in the state legislature are moving through the process with strong bi-partisan support! Both resolutions have passed nearly unanimously out of the floors and now will be heard through the opposite houses. 

Folks turned out in large numbers to attend the hearings on March 5 (Senate) and March 6 (Assembly). Everyone spoke in favor of the resolutions! The resolutions moved into committee work sessions on March 18 (Assembly) and March 21 (Senate) where they were quickly and unanimously passed out of committee.

Senator Scheible added an amendment to the Senate Joint Resolution 3 to include opposition to the proposed military expansion of the NTTR near Beatty.  The amended joint resolution passed the Senate unanimously on April 17th (vote count 20-0).  

Assemblywoman Cohen added an amendment to Assembly Joint Resolution 2 to include language on the importance of cultural resources.  The amended joint resolution passed the Assembly unanimously on April 18th (vote count 40-1).  

Why: DNWR is the largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states, exhibits a stunning diversity of plant and animal life and includes some of the highest value bighorn sheep habitat in the country. We must speak in a loud voice to get the bi-partisan support needed to get the resolution passed, and help convince Congress that Nevada values our wildlife, our unique desert environment, and open access to our public lands. 

Read the original Resolution: SJR 3 - Senator Melanie Schieble sponsor

Below is the actual language from the resolution directed to our members of Congress:

RESOLVED  BY  THE SENATE  AND ASSEMBLY  OF  THE STATE  OF NEVADA, JOINTLY, That the  members  of  the  80th  Session  of  the Nevada  Legislature  strongly  oppose  the  range  of  alternatives  and sub-alternatives   set   forth   in   the  final  legislative  environmental impact statement, especially Alternative 2 and Alternative 3C given that their approval by Congress would result in an unacceptable loss of  public  access  to  and  in  the  degradation  of  the  Desert  National Wildlife Refuge; and be it further RESOLVED, That the members of the 80th Session of the Nevada Legislature urge Congress to work collaboratively with all interested parties to develop a compromise alternative that would both enhance training  opportunities  for  the  United  States  Air  Force  and  continue to provide essential protections for Nevada’s wildlife and outdoor recreational experiences for Nevadans and visitors;


Submit your comment online:

Type in SJR3, then select “In Favor” and you can also add additional comments and your personal information.

As the military proposal to takeover much of the Desert Refuge grinds on, we've been working hard with our elected leaders, state and federal, to educate them on the issue. We've been providing tours to the Refuge so they know exactly what is at stake. It's likely that Congress will be taking this issue on this spring and will keep you posted. Meanwhile, check out our new video "Refuge" below. 

October 17, 2018: 

The military JUST dropped the final Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. This bomb of a proposal was ironically released during National Wildlife Refuge Week; what a way to celebrate the destruction of one of the largest, most intact and wild refuges in the lower 48. I hope you are as outraged as we are! At first glance it does not appear that the military listened to the 32,000 comments submitted during the draft process or at the public meetings, rejecting their expansion proposals and opposing the shutting down of public access. 

Here are the links to the military proposal:

Final LEIS Documents:

General Website:

Save The Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Save The Desert National Wildlife Refuge Pt. 2

Donate to help Backcountry Pictures produce more webisodes on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

October 31, 2018: The Desert Refuge makes NPR's State of Nevada

Our Southern Nevada Director, Jose Witt, appears on NPR's State of Nevada expert panel to express how military expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge will impact the public and why it must not be allowed.

Read full article and download the audio on the NPR State of Nevada Website here.

DON'T BOMB THE BIGHORN UPDATE: The desert bighorn sheep thank you for your outpouring of support for them and for their home in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge!

In total, 32,000 of us sent comments to the Air Force in favor of keeping the Desert National Wildlife Refuge as it stands today! This amazing accomplishment is thanks to people like you. The comment period and public meetings are over, but our work to protect the refuge still has a long way to go. We will continue working with our Nevada Congressional delegation, the media, local elected officials and others to show strong support for permanent protection of the Desert Refuge as Wilderness. "Don't Bomb the Bighorn!"

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge,  just outside the city lights of Las Vegas, is nearly 1.6 million acres and home to one of Nevada’s largest desert bighorn sheep populations. In 1971, about 1.2 million acres of the Desert Refuge were proposed as Wilderness by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Immediately threatened by this round of military expansion is the broader Sheep Range proposed Wilderness (Sheep Range, Las Vegas Range, Gass Peak).

Yucca trees and the Sheep Range

On December 7, 2017, the military released their Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) with details on how much more of the refuge and proposed Wilderness they want to take over - it is a LOT!  Hundreds of you turned out to the military's public meetings in January and 32,000 comments went into the military opposing their expansion by the end of the comment period in March. We have been working feverishly to ensure that the word is out about what is happening just north of Las Vegas in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

The Air Force still wants to withdraw an additional 300,000 acres of the Desert Refuge to add to their monstrous 2.9 million acre Nevada Testing & Training Range! We will need to continue the fight! 

The Final Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS)  for the proposed expansion of the Nevada Testing and Training Range into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge was officially released October 26, 2018. Since it has been released, a motion for a congressional vote on which alternatives to pass can be introduced at any time! We are determined to put the pressure on our Nevada elected officials to stand up for the Desert Refuge by exercising the status quo alternative which keeps the refuge open for public access. 

If you haven't already, please sign our Save The Desert petition to our Nevada Congressional Delegation.  We're also urging all opponents of this expansion to directly contact your elected representatives.  Let's tell them #DontBombTheBighorn!!


Click here to read more about the military's jurisdiction over the Desert Refuge, and what's at stake if they intrude further on refuge lands.


In the 1940's, the military gained joint administration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the western half of the Refuge. This eliminated public access and called any future wilderness designation for that portion of the Refuge into question. Now, the Air Force is looking to seize control of most of what's left of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. This would not only threaten wildlife and indefinitely close public access, it would remove the possibility of future wilderness designation for the area. Most of the Refuge was recommended for Wilderness in the 1970’s by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and it is up to us to make sure these high quality wild lands do not become lost forever! The Air Force is currently seeking public comment. It is critical you voice your concerns and oppose any transfer of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the military.




Originally protected in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide habitat for the iconic desert bighorn sheep, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) is the largest wildlife refuge in the contiguous United States. Since the Refuge was established, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the Refuge to protect its rich biological diversity and wildlife habitat, maintain the integrity of the recommended wilderness areas, and safeguard invaluable cultural resources. The military already controls millions of acres of land in Nevada and they have unlimited ability to fly over the Refuge for training purposes. We have already sacrificed enough of the Desert Refuge, it is time to make a stand for what remains.


Please stand up for one of our nation’s most precious resources – The Desert National Wildlife Refuge with its large tracts of undisturbed wild lands that provide invaluable habitat for threatened, sensitive, and endangered wildlife species.



At the end of 2016, the Department of Defense released a draft of their proposed alternatives to the current management in their scoping plan. They accepted comments about this scoping document and are using the input they received to release another draft of proposed alternatives to management for the Refuge. Thank you to everyone that submitted comments and who attended public meetings to make their voice heard.

Friends of Nevada Wilderness submitted a comprehensive letter that addressed our concerns on impacts to wildlife, proposed wilderness, and public access to the Department of Defense in regards to the expansion proposal.

Read Friends of Nevada Wilderness' submitted letter here



Air Force Proposal


View the Air Force proposal website here.

About the Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Created in 1936 to provide habitat and protection for desert bighorn sheep, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest refuge in the contiguous United States. Encompassing six major mountain ranges and nearly 1.6 million acres in Nevada, it provides the highest quality, intact habitat for desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife that depend on Great Basin and Mojave Desert ecosystems. With the exponential growth of Las Vegas over the past decades reaching right up to the refuge boundary, this haven for wildlife is critical.

Last year, Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Joe Heck helped prevent the transfer of more than 800,000 acres of National Wildlife Refuge System lands from becoming bombing ranges to the Air Force. Unfortunately, the latest attack on southern Nevada's wild gem, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is yet again under attack - this time directly under military request.

Don’t Bomb the Bighorn!


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wilderness Appendix for DNWR

Desert National Wildlife Refuge website

Friends of Nevada Wilderness Expansion Comments

History & Timeline of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge

National Wildlife Refuge Association Petition

PBS Outdoor Nevada episode on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Related News Articles:

Desert Companion: By Land and By Air 

Las Vegas Review Journal: Conservationists Sound Alarm Over Air Force Plan (Sept. 15, 2016)

Pentagon to Lawmakers: Let Interior Keep Refuge

One View: Proposed Military Base Expansions Threatens 800k Acres

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