Following up: Don’t Bomb the Bighorn

At the end of last February, we urged you to take action to oppose military expansion into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) — America’s largest wildlife refuge. At 1.6 million acres, the refuge, which lies just outside of Las Vegas, is home to Nevada’s biggest population of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni). The DNWR was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1936 to protect bighorn sheep habitat. In 1971, the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that 1.2 million acres of the DNWR be designated as protected Wilderness under the Wilderness Act.

Despite this proposal, the Air Force’s Nevada Testing and Training Range (NTTR) already withdrew about half of the DNWR (826,000 acres), under the Military Land Withdrawal Act of 1999. The NTTR proposed to expand their range an additional 300,000 acres in December 2017. With this expansion, jets will be able to fly directly from Nellis Air Force Base over the Sheep Range into the Test & Training Range’s South (bombing) Range. Movable threat emitters simulating enemy fire will be installed within the Sheep Range, and the range itself will serve as a catch-basin for high-altitude missiles that stray off target.

Thanks to you and other concerned citizens, hundreds were present at the Air Force’s public meetings last January. 32,000 public comments were submitted opposing this military expansion during the comment period that ended in March. Nellis Air Force Base released the final LEIS October 17, 2018 during National Wildlife Refuge Week.

However, the fight is not over! The next step is Congressional Delegation of proposed alternatives. Friends of Nevada Wilderness is still working tirelessly on the “Don’t Bomb the Bighorn” campaign to protect the DNWR. If you haven’t already done so, please submit your comments now, or directly contact your elected representatives to oppose this military expansion that will threaten the DNWR, the bighorns and all of our wild desert neighbors.

Jessica Whalen

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