Defending the Desert

A 501(c)(3) Non-profit organization





Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, culture, and history of the ecosystems and wild lands of the desert.

Come visit and experience the great beauty of spring wildflowers, vast open vistas, bird watching trails, and wildlife viewing.





Basin and Range Watch BLOG


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Larger Changes to Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Proposed by Bureau of Land Management

February 8, 2018 - California Desert - The Trump Administration would apparently like to open up even more California Desert to massive renewable energy sprawl. We predicted this would happen as the original 22.6 million-acre DRECP was weakly made, vague, and did not include the counties and private land owners. Too much streamlining was built into the plan, opening it up to attack in different administrations.


More >>here, including dates of public meetings.

Interior Allows Mining Claims to be Staked in Conservation Lands

February 7, 2018 - California Desert - The Bureau of Land Management announced today that it is canceling the mineral withdrawal proposal from public lands managed now under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). This inlcudes 1.3 million acres of National Conservation Lands designated under the DRECP. Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) may also be involved.

The BLM press release says: "In making its decision, the BLM recently reviewed mineral exploration levels and mining data in the California desert, as well as the expected impacts from future activities associated with locatable mineral extraction. The BLM concluded that impacts of future mineral exploration and mining, subject to existing environmental regulations, do not pose a significant threat to the protection of cultural, biological and scientific values."

We talked with BLM, and they told us now any new mining activity would have to undergo individual Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). BLM could say, no exploration with vehicle entry, helicopter only (which would have its own impacts) based on the stipulations of the National Conservation Areas. Unless of course, Interior can somehow change those regs too.

Disturbance caps still apply for how much land can be subjected to these projects, although these may be raised in the future with the Trump revision of the DRECP.

Conservation Designation Proposed by Groups for Castle Mountains Area in Nevada

February 5, 2018 - Basin and Range Watch wrote a petition to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to nominate public lands in the Piute Valley, Castle Mountains, New York Mountains and McCullough Mountains for status as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). These lands are primarily located in Clark County, Nevada and are roughly 38,000 acres in extent. Part of the reivsion of the Southern Nevada Resource Management Plan, we are taking this opportunity to seek heightened conservation status for this area, which is threatened by urban development, mining, and the Crescent Peak Wind Project proposal.

The Castle Mountains contain a unique arid grassland community in both California and Nevada. This area contains the only stands of diverse C4 perennial grasslands west of the Colorado River, subtropical grasslands that are normally found in the Sonoran Desert uplands in Arizona and Mexico. Grass species common in this plant community flower and seed during the warm seasons of summer and fall, especially after strong monsoon rainfall events. Normally found in the Sonoran Region, and even as far east as the Great Plains, grasses such as Black grama (Boutelua eriopoda), Blue grama (B. gracilis), Sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), are found in this corner of the Mojave Desert uplands, ranging into a small area of adjacent California in the Castle Mountains National Monument and Mojave National Preserve. This arid summer monsoon grassland community grades below into diverse creosote scrub (Larrea tridentata) and above into Blackbrush scrub (Coleogyne ramosissima) and one of the world’s largest Joshua tree woodlands (Yucca brevifolia), providing a
wide diversity of habitats for reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Read the ACEC Nomination >>here.

Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) Thrown Open for Revision by Trump

^Construction equipment on the Palo Verde Mesa during construction of a utility-scale solar project near Blythe CA. The desert was graded away here. Do we need more?

February 2, 2018 - California Desert - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is opening a comment period and review of the DRECP, a gigantic plan that itself revised the original California Desert Protection Act, and that we opposed because it carved up the Mojave and Colorado Deserts for massive renewable energy development. As a trade off, the DRECP designated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) and National Conservation Lands (NCLs) to protect the remaining areas of the desert. The DRECP was finalized in 2016. Now that seems to be going backwards.

If you read this Federal Register announcement, it indicates that this revision might be for President Trump's upcoming Infrastructure Funding proposal.

The Interior Department announcement says in part: "In particular, the BLM seeks comment on the Areas of Critical Environmental Concern that were designated, including where private lands lie within the external boundaries of such designations, as well as comments on increasing opportunities for increased renewable energy development, recreational and off-highway vehicle (OHV) access, mining access, and grazing."

BLM is seeking to possibly remove or reduce ACECs that were designated under the lengthy DRECP pprocess, and lift disturnbacne caps on ACECs to allow more transmission lines, communication lines, etc. Given the present Interior Department stance on National Monuments, the National Conservation Lands designated in the California Desert under DRECP may not even be safe.

We will oppose this, especially since the overgeneration problem of utility-scale solar power plants has not been solved. We do not need more large-scale solar in the remote desert, we need more energy efficiency, conservation, and rooftop solar with battery storage.

See the Mojave Desert Blog for an excellent overview of this new threat to the desert.

Public Meetings Show Huge Opposition to Southern Nevada Military Base Expansion

January 24, 2018 - North Las Vegas NV and Beatty NV - We attended public hearings hosted by the Air Force, and gave public comments opposing the plans to expand the Nellis Test and Training Range into 300,000 acres of public land. This includes over 200,000 acres of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. More photos >>here.

New Owner Wants Nipton to Grow

January 21, 2018 - Nipton CA - This little corner of the East Mojave Desert in San Bernardino Valley, nestled in Ivanpah Valley next to the Mojave National Preserve, has been a favorite stop for travelers for decades. But the new owners want to build housing on the 80 acre property, for as many as 2000 people.

”We fully expect to acquire additional real estate to build additional housing to support hundreds, if not a couple thousand more people in the area, gainfully employed,” said the owner and general manager Stephen Shearin.

“I think between two and a half to five years you’ll see 2,000 people living and working and paying taxes in a vibrant economy.”

This is partly based on an existing housing need for workers at the nearby Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine and the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal says.

A new "city" in this wildland area could impact the park unit adjacent to Nipton, as well as cut off desert tortoise connectivity in critical habitat to the north and east.

Groundwater Pumping and Land Subsidence

January 21, 2018 - Apple Valley CA - The Mojave Water Agency is hosting a talk by Michelle Sneed, hydrologist for US Geological Survey, in Apple Valley this Tuesday, January 23 from 5-7:30 PM. For more information and to register for this free event, see the pdf.

Military Expansion Proposal in Southern Nevada

^Sketch by Laura Cunningham, 2004, while working as a biologist at Dogbone Lake in the South Range, Nellis Test and Training Range.

January 16, 2018 - We are reviewing the Draft Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) for the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR) public land withdrawal. Some of our comments follow.

The Military Land Withdrawal Act of 1999 withdrew about 2.9 million acres of public land for military use at the Air Force Range in southern Nevada--a huge area of desert basins and mountains--and now that the current withdrawal is set to expire on November 6, 2021, the military wants to take more. Congress will have to make the final decision on the withdrawal through legislation.

We support the status quo, that Congress should renew the current withdrawal, maintaining the present acreage as Department of Defense (DOD) land, closed to the public.

We do not support any of the Alternatives that ask Congress to increase the size of the NTTR and take more public land (managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management). See our complete coverage >>here.

Southern Nevada Public Land Planning

January 14, 2018 - Las Vegas NV - We attended the public meeting held by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their Resource Management Plan revision. We commented specifically on how the public land deserts of the region do not need any more Solar Energy Zones--there are already five designated, with only one actually being used by developers for solar projects, and another with a speculative application that has gone nowhere.

More precisely, these solar energy zones are labeled by BLM as "Designated Leasing Areas" (DLAs), preferred areas for solar and wind development by the agency. Feedback about whether or not these are preferred by public land users and the lands themselves, are sought by BLM. We support the alternatives of Distributed Energy Resources, such as rooftop solar, instead of grading and bulldozing pristine desert ecosystems and wildlands.

We also commented on a wind-free designation we are proposing for the tortoise-rich Piute Valley area, to prevent the beautiful hills near Searchlight from being developed by wind projects next to the California border and the new Castle Mountains National Monument.

Other concerns about how BLM manages the southern Nevada public lands we all own, are national monuments such as Gold Butte, OHV routes and races, and protection of natural resources.

Stay tuned, we will be submitting written comments on this Resource Management Plan and will share.

Public Input Needed on the Las Vegas Resource Managament Plan Revision

December 31, 2017 - Las Vegas, Nevada - The original 1998 Resource Management Plan of this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office is being revised. The area covers southern Nevada, and includes how our public lands are managed with respect to renewable energy development, land disposal, conservation areas such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concer, lands with Wilderness characteristics, and Gold Butte National Monument.

The public information meetings will be held at the following locations:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 – Old Overton Gym, 353 W. Thomas Overton, Nevada 89040

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 – Mesquite City Council Chambers, 10 E. Mesquite Blvd, Mesquite, Nevada 89027

Thursday, January 11, 2018 – Santa Fe Station Hotel & Casino, 4949 N. Rancho Drive, Las Vegas, Nevada 89130

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 – Pahrump Nugget Hotel and Casino, 681 S. Hwy 160, Pahrump, Nevada 89048

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 – Heritage Park Senior Facility, 300 S. Racetrack Road, Henderson, Nevada 89015

Thursday, January 18, 2018 – Searchlight Community Center, 200 Michael Wendell Way, Searchlight, Nevada 89046

The public information meetings will be held from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. on the day of each scheduled meeting. The meetings will begin with an open house format where participants can ask questions and visit various resource stations, with formal presentations at 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. The public will be able to verbally provide information beginning at 7:00 p.m. with a three minute time limit. Court reporters will be available to record verbal provided information. See¤tPageId=12407

Our Comments to Save the Palen Desert in the Colorado Desert of California

^Summer rains brought a lush wildflower bloom to the Palen desert even in November and December 2017. Sand verbena (Abronia villosa) iss abundant. Shall this be graded and crushed when solar panels can easily be placed on rooftops in the built environment?

December 10, 2017 - Our comment letter opposing the proposed Palen Solar Project on desert managed by Bureu of Land Management in Chuckwalla Valley, Riverside County CA>>here.

Nellis Military Base Expansion Draft Environmental Review Document Out

^Will desert bighron sheep in the Sheep Range, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, be threatened with increase noise, war games, live-fire ordinance testing, road-building and training exercises?

December 8, 2017 - The Legislative Environmental Impact Statement for the Nellis Test and Training Range Expansion, which will possibly take 220,000 acres of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Desert National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada, has been released.

The new Desert Report has a good article explaining the basics and here is the web page from DOD:

We met with Congresswoman Dina Titus, (D-Nevada) about this issue ten days ago. She represents many people in her district who support the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, and we made her aware of the how the area protects desert bighorn sheep, and has a recreational value to the public.

This decision will be made by a DOD team designated by Congress so it is very important to tell Congress you oppose the expansion now! More on this soon.

Here is the announcement:

The Air Force has published a Notice of Availability (NOA) in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the Draft Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nevada Test and Training Range Land Withdrawal. The publication of the NOA began a 90-day public comment period which will end on 8 March, 2018.

The Draft Legislative EIS and supporting documents are available on the project website at The Draft Legislative EIS is also available at various libraries and repositories - a list of locations is also provided on the project website.

The Air Force plans to hold five public hearings from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the dates and at the locations listed below. During the meetings, the Air Force will provide information on the potential environmental impacts associated with the proposed action and solicit public comments on the Draft LEIS.

•Wednesday, January 17, 2018: Caliente Elementary School, 289 Lincoln Street, Caliente, NV 89008

•Thursday, January 18, 2018: Pahranagat Valley High School, 151 S. Main Street, Alamo, NV 89001

•Tuesday, January 23, 2018: Aliante Hotel, 7300 Aliante Parkway, North Las Vegas, NV 89084

•Wednesday, January 24, 2018: Beatty Community Center, 100 A Avenue South, Beatty, NV 89003

•Thursday, January 25, 2018: Tonopah Convention Center, 301 Brougher Avenue, Tonopah, NV 89049

The agenda for each public hearing is as follows:

•5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. – Open House and written comment submission

•6:15 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. – Air Force Presentation

•7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Public Hearing/Oral Comments

The project website ( can be used to submit comments on the Draft Legislative EIS or comments may also be submitted by mail to the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, 4430 Grissom Ave., Ste. 107, Nellis AFB, NV 89191. Please direct any requests for information or other inquiries to the 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, 4430 Grissom Ave., Ste. 107, Nellis AFB, NV 89191, by e-mail at, or by phone at (702) 652-2750.

Thank you,

Michael Ackerman

Program Manager


Streamlining an Already Questionable Sage Grouse Conservation Initiative?

sage grouse hen

^A controversial bird, Greater sage grouse hen at Hart Mountain, Oregon.

November 25, 2017 - We have been contemplating how to comment on the report titled "Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation and Cooperation with Western States" put out by the Department of Interior under Secretary Ryan Zinke, apparently put out in response to Western states' feedback to the complex federal-state-private set of agreements set under Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in 2015.

And this was in response to the decision by US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 that the Greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) warranted protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that listing was precluded because of a backlog of "higher priority species" (see

The Service admitted that such factors as habitat fragmentation, energy development, and grazing were part of the problem causing a drop in populations of sage grouse. Yet they forged ahead to work with private landowners to conserve the candidate species. This would include financial and technical assistance, and the ability to develop conservation agreements among various federal agencies to provide regulatory assurances to landowners who take actions to benefit the species, including cattle ranchers, mining companies, and fossil fuel drillers. Thus the Sage Grouse Initiative was born (subtitled "Wildlife Conservation Through Sustainable Ranching"), as well as individual state initiatives that attempt to conserve the grouse but also continue economic development in its habitat.

An unsustainable deal for the species? The exact nature of the conservation agreements, and whether they actually work or not, is a main question we have. More >>here.

Ruby Mountains Oil and Gas Lease--We Oppose!

October 25, 2017 - Ruby Mountains, Nevada - Basin and Range Watch opposes any energy project that is ill-sited and would cause harm to the natural ecology of a region in the deserts and mountains of the Great Basin of Nevada. A recent slough of poorly placed oil and gas exploratory drilling leases on public lands is simply unacceptable. One region with pending leases is in the Ruby Mountains of northern Nevada, an area comparable to the Sierra Nevada on a small scale, full of glacially-carved U-shaped valleys, and lakes. Lamoille Canyon is a spectacular Great Basin hike. We have hiked here a lot in the past and will post photos of our travels in an upcoming article. The birding and wildlife-viewing of this area is unparelled.

We have joined a coalition of organizations that oppose drilling and fracking in this region.

Please add your support to this coaliton. See the Center for Biological Diversity action alert page here:

See the article in the Nevada Independant.

See also the Elko Daily Free Press article.

Help Stop Remote Nevada Deforestation Project

^Old growth pinyon-juniper woodland in the wild and remote North Egan Range of eastern Nevada is threatened with removal.

August 24, 2017 - Ely, Nevada -The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Ely District is seeking public comments on the Egan and Johnson Basin Restoration Project Preliminary Environmental Assessment. The project location is in both the Egan and Cherry Creek Ranges, located north of Ely, Nevada. Comments are due by Monday, August 28, 2017. While the BLM is calling this "restoration", the reality is that they intend to thin out this native forest on over 84,000 acres. The tree removal treatment methods being considered for this project include hand thinning, chaining, mastication (shredding), whole tree thinning, mulching/chipping, prescribed fire and fuelwood harvest. Treatments would focus primarily on removing pinyon pine (Pinus monophylla) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) from sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities. More >>here.



^Desert near the town of Ocotillo CA, west side of the Imperial Valley.

Basin and Range Watch is honored to be able to continue the mission and many of the projects of the Desert Protective Council, as it dissolves in 2017. We are saddened to see this great desert group, founded in 1954, leave the scene. DPC members voted to formally dissolve the organization into Basin and Range Watch, and we will work hard to continue the excellent educational programs and tradition of desert conservation of the Desert Protective Council. We will of course continue publication of El Paisano, the magazine of news and education in the desert.








Calendar of Comment Deadlines:

Southern Nevada Resource Management Plan Revision comments (EXTENDED) due March 23, 2018 >>BLM

Draft Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Nevada Test and Training Range Land Withdrawal comments due March 8, 2018 >>DOD


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"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire


"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower


"Only within the 20th Century has biological thought been focused on ecology, or the relation of the living creature to its environment. Awareness of ecological relationships is — or should be — the basis of modern conservation programs, for it is useless to attempt to preserve a living species unless the kind of land or water it requires is also preserved."

Rachel Carson, Essay on the Biological Sciences, in, Good Reading (1958)






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Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.