Military Land Expansion into a National Refuge in Southern Nevada
Every American citizen should respect and value the role that our military personnel and training facilities play in providing security and defense capabilities for our country. The Nevada Chapter is invested in upholding the functionality of the Nevada Test and Training Range. As sportsman and women invested in Nevada’s wildlife, however, we are also dedicated to helping conserve healthy habitat for fish and game. Consequently, we are concerned by the proposal by the U.S. Air Force to expand the NTTR into what’s currently the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
Located approximately 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas, the NTTR and DNWR are largely managed by the Air Force and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The Air Force currently utilizes over 2.9 million acres for its military operations. These areas are closed to the public. Now, Air Force now is seeking the withdrawal from the DNWR of an additional 301,507 acres.
Questions remain unanswered about how the region’s wildlife will be affected by the proposed increased activity in military operations. Various small game as well as mule deer and antelope inhabit the DNWR, and hunting is allowed for small game and bighorn sheep. Additionally, both residents and visitors rely on the refuge for hiking, camping and other recreational uses. All these activities depend upon the pristine and wild landscape the DNWR currently offers.
An Air Force proposal for the refuge lands would increase aircraft use by 30 percent and create additional vehicle and munitions use along with the creation of two aircraft runways, 25 acres of ground disturbance, 60 miles of fence and up to 15 half acre pads for emitters. These changes will negatively impact wildlife and people alike.
We applaud the Air Force’s work researching the impacts of its proposal and how it has involved the public, including hosting multiple public meetings and addressing local community input in the government’s alternative plans. An example of this is the military listening to the public’s access concerns and adding a proposal to maintain public access to four trailheads and five springs within the new proposed military boundaries.
However, given the importance of the refuge lands to fish, wildlife and outdoors users of all stripes, we need to set a higher priority on securing public access to public lands – and on conserving places that provide valuable habitat. Therefore, the chapter urges the Air Force to adopt “Alternative 1” as outlined in its proposal as a future management approach.