Nevada BHA Comments on Proposed Removal of Wilderness Protections on Desert National Wildlife Refuge

The Nevada Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the draft LEIS for reauthorization and expansion of the Nellis Test and Training Range (NTTR). BHA seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. Our membership values wild lands and wildlife. We are driven to protect what little is left of our public lands heritage before the values that once were common throughout the landscapes of this country and Nevada are lost forever.

As noted during the scoping process, we respect and value the role that our military personnel and training facilities play in providing security and defense capabilities for our country, but we also believe that mission needs for the military can be met without compromising important public land resources for the wildlife that our organization also highly values. Therefore, our organization supports Alternatives 1 and 4A, which allows for these issues to be revisited again in 20 years.

A key issue for BHA is access to public lands because, especially in Nevada, we depend on public lands and the accessibility of those lands to hunt and fish. We are therefore opposed to Alternatives 2 and 3 – especially 3C. The removal of wilderness protections undermines the primary objective of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which is to protect habitat for bighorn sheep. While the Air Force has been a good partner with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the missions and priorities of the organizations are fundamentally different. The transfer of jurisdiction to the USAF removes public access for recreation of all kinds – including scouting and hunting which are sure to be limited regardless of any restricted accommodations.

Hunting for bighorn is one of the area’s primary recreational values. Sportsmen and NDOW have invested a lot of time and money on guzzlers that could now become off-limits. The expansion of ready access areas, firing zones, temporary or permanent roads, threat emitters, fencing, runways or other military infrastructure could permanently displace bighorn sheep from seasonally crucial habitat, disrupt migration and lambing, and impact population numbers and survival rates. With these animals already fighting off outbreaks of disease, it’s critical we protect our prime habitat areas.

Given the fact that the USAF is already operating within a portion of the Refuge, we believe Alternatives 1 and 4A offer the most balanced approach for land use in the area.

Sincerely,

Howard Watts III

Board Member

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