weather icon Clear

Test range expansion would total more than 300K acres

The Air Force is seeking to expand the use of the Nevada Test and Training Range by more than 300,000 acres of public land, a plan that is raising concerns in the conservationist community.

“The Air Force published a Federal Register notice on August 25 stating that it would conduct the (Environmental Impact Study) on both renewing the existing public land withdrawal, which covers approximately 2.9 million acres, and the withdrawal and reservation for military use of another 301,507 acres of public land to expand the existing range,” the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said in announcing the plans via news release.

But “outdoor advocates are sounding the alarm” about the plan that would add to the test range, which currently covers more than 2.9 million acres in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties, the Las Vegas-Review Journal newspaper reported Sept. 14.

Roughly 227,000 acres of the proposed expansion could restrict public access to several popular spots in the remote heart of Desert National Wildlife Refuge and a hiking trail to Hidden Forest Cabin, a century-old log structure that may have harbored Prohibition-era bootleggers, the newspaper said.

Reaction to the plan

“I’m kind of astounded,” John Hiatt, an avid hiker and longtime conservationist told the Review-Journal. “This is some of the most pristine land in Southern Nevada in terms of human impact. This would completely change that area forever.”

In a separate interview with the Tonopah Times-Bonanza &Goldfield News, Hiatt detailed some of those concerns.

“I think it’s pretty significant,” Hiatt said. “If the option is adopted that basically takes the 227,000 acres on the east side of the area of the refuge that the military now controls, if they take that, that will eventually cut off public access to the west of the Sheep Range.”

“That is where most of the public activity on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge takes place,” Hiatt added.

What’s next

A Sept. 18 Review-Journal editorial pinpointed much of the proposed expansion to a rural corridor running west of U.S. Highway 93 and north of Las Vegas. Before the test range can be expanded, an environmental study is needed. In addition, public hearings are planned for Beatty, Tonopah, Caliente, Alamo and North Las Vegas.

“Based on the environmental analysis, the Secretary of the Interior will make a recommendation to Congress” on the proposal, the BLM’s statement said of the process. “However, Congress, not the Secretary, will make the final decision on both the requested extension and proposed expansion.”

The Air Force also seeks to extend use of the existing test range. The current arrangement expires in 2021.

A closer look

In announcing the Air Force’s request Sept. 1, the BLM also reports that:

■ The Air Force expansion would also overlap a designated energy transmission corridor in two locations (Beatty and near Tule Springs National Monument), the current Vegas to Reno off-highway race course and proposed mountain bike and hiking trails in the Beatty area.

■ The BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nevada Department of Wildlife will take part in preparation of the environmental analysis.

■ The Air Force will consider existing uses of the expansion area.

■ Of the 301,507 additional acres the Air Force is seeking, about 266,000 acres are managed for desert bighorn sheep by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

“The Nevada Test and Training Range already includes much of this refuge’s land,” the BLM statement said. “More than 35,000 acres of the expansion area are managed by the BLM.”

Contact reporter David Jacobs at djacobs@tonopahtimes.com

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
BLM Nevada oil, gas lease sale raises thousands

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Nevada quarterly oil and gas lease sale resulted in competitive bids for 9,163.88 acres of the 32,342.43 acres offered.

Nye County’s credit rating increases first time in 8 years

Following several consecutive years of financial strain and instability, Nye County has taken many steps to get back on a positive fiscal track and the fruit of that effort can be seen in the most recent Moody’s Investor Service report, which shows the county’s credit rating has increased for the first time in eight years.

Pahrump community remembers 9/11

More than two dozen area residents attended the 5th annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony at the Calvada Eye on Wednesday morning, exactly 18 years after the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Pahrump ready to celebrate Fall Festival

Cooler weather finally seems to be making its way to Pahrump, signaling the approach of the biggest event the town sees each year, the Pahrump Fall Festival.

‘Storm Area 51’ festivals are cleared for takeoff

The events are expected to draw up to 15,000 people to Lincoln County per day, plans filed to the county revealed.

California Lottery

No one matched all five numbers and the mega number in the Wednesday, Sept.11 drawing of the California Super Lotto. The next jackpot will be at least $10 million.

Fires keep Pahrump area crews busy

Structure fires dominated the majority of service calls for local fire crews as of late.