Diverse support for joint resolution to oppose expansion of Air Force training facility

by Roger Moellendorf and Brian Bahouth

Activists gather outside the Nevada State Legislature on March 5, 2019 to testify in support of SJR3 - image - Roger Moellendorf, Nevada Capital News

Carson City – During a meeting of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on March 5, no one spoke in opposition to Senate Joint Resolution 3.  Nevadans representing the political left and right testified in support of the measure that would formally urge Congress to oppose the expansion of the United States Air Force in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada.

In Nevada, a joint resolution is treated like a bill and moves through both houses of the legislature and is potentially signed, vetoed or ignored by the governor, but a joint resolution does not actually change or enact laws.  Instead, a joint resolution “memorializes federal officials to engage in an action, proposes amendments to the Nevada Constitution, or ratifies amendments to the United States Constitution.”

The Nevada Test and Training Range

The Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) is the largest military training reserve in the world and currently consists of roughly 2.9 million acres of federal land that has been withdrawn from public use.  Congress authorized the withdrawal under the Military Lands Withdrawal Act of 1999. The current NTTR land withdrawal ends in 2021 unless Congress passes legislation to extend it, and indeed the Air Force has formally notified Congress of a “continuing military need” for the NTTR land withdrawal.  In coordination with the Department of Defense, the Air Force plans to submit a legislative proposal through the Department of the Interior to extend and expand the withdrawal.

Congress will make the final decision regarding the extension and expansion of the NTTR. As part of the withdrawal extension, the Air Force proposes to continue military operations on the current allotment of 2,949,603 acres. In addition to extending the existing land withdrawal, the Air Force is also proposing to withdraw up to an additional 301,507 acres to, “improve the range’s capacity to support military testing and training.”

Map shows proposed expansion alternatives and associated land areas – image – US Air Force.

The Air Force must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA process of assessing the potential impacts of the proposed training area expansion, which mandates the development of an environmental impact statement.  The Legislative Environmental Impact Statement or LEIS assesses the potential environmental consequences of extending the existing NTTR military land withdrawal beyond the current expiration date and the impacts of several options to expand the world’s largest military training reserve.

According to SJR3, “the  Desert National Wildlife  Range contains six mountain  ranges and seven distinct life  zones, with elevations ranging from 2,200 to nearly 10,000 feet, which provide habitat for hundreds  of species of native flora and fauna to include two species listed as endangered or threatened, the Pahrump poolfish and the desert tortoise.”

Patrick Donnelly is the Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity and spoke with Roger Moellendorf following the hearing.

“The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the best habitat for desert bighorn sheep in the southwestern United States, and it holds the largest herd of desert bighorn sheep in Nevada, over 700 animals.  This is really a resource of global importance representing the best of the Mojave Desert in Nevada,” Donnelly said.  “Turning it into a bombing range.  Industrializing it with airplane runways and radio towers and fencing and roads, this would fundamentally alter the character of this precious protected place and negatively impact the wildlife that lives there.”

State Senator Melanie Scheible is a Democrat from Las Vegas who represents Senate District 9.  Senator Scheible presented the bill to the committee she typically chairs, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, on March 5, 2019.

Hear Senator Scheible’s introductory remarks …

Patrick Donnelly is the Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity and offered a presentation about the proposed expansion.

Roger Moellendorf spoke with Patrick Donnelly following the hearing.  Hear that interview …

Roger Moellendorf spoke with Judy Larquier following the hearing.  Hear that interview …

Roger Moellendorf spoke with Larry Johnson, president Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife following the hearing.  Hear that interview …

A catalog of testimony in support of SJR3

If we misspelled your name, write us at feedback@nevadacapitalnews.org, and we’ll make the correction.

Fawn Douglas of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe

Jose Witt, Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Robert Gaudet, president of the Nevada Wildlife Federation

Tiffany East is the legislative chair and a member of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners.

Larry Johnson, president Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife

Anne Macquarie, chair, Sierra Club Toiyabe Chapter

Christian Gerlach, Sierra Club Nevada

Mike Reese, president Southern Nevada Coalition for Wildlife

Brett Jefferson Nevada Wild Sheep Foundation and the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn

Karen Boger, Nevada Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Greg Smith, Nevada Bighorns Reno

Maurice White

Byron Brewer

Stephanie Meyers

Eric Roberts

Kyle Davis

Megan Wolf, Patagonia

Dan Kaffer

Judy Larquier

Chip Carrone

James Katzen

Jim Boone

Jim Woods

Tom Clark

Jonathan Lesperance, Nevada Wildlife Coalition and Nevada Sporting Dog Alliance

Herme Hyatt, Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Terry Robertson

Melanie Croft

William Mullaney, president of the Nevada Waterfowl Association

Kurt Kuznicki