• Steve Brown

Good News, Bad News...

Castle Mountains National Monument, from the Mojave National Preserve.
Castle Mountains National Monument, from the Mojave National Preserve.

Those of us in the desert are used to things not always going our way. But this past week has seen some victories, and some defeats, not just in the Mojave, but across the desert Southwest. Here's a brief run down of some of what has transpired recently...

Good News!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rejected the application for the Crescent Peak Wind project. The project, just across the border in Nevada from the Mojave National Preserve and Castle Mountains National Monument, would have sited a large wind farm in part of the world's largest Joshua tree forest.

In addition, the project would have "impaired wildlife, beautiful views, and the cultural viewshed into Spirit Mountain," noted David Lamfrom of the National Parks Conservation Association. Spirit Mountain is part of the origin stories of eight Native American tribes in the region, and was the first Traditional Cultural Property created by the National Park Service.

Important in this victory were the Fort Mojave and Chemehuevi tribes, along with hunting, recreational, and environmental groups.

More Good News! For now, anyway...

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a stunningly beautiful natural destination not far outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It's convenient location, however, has made it a target for developers who can't wait to locate thousands of homes nearby as Las Vegas continues to sprawl.

This week, a plan to build thousands of homes, along with commercial development, on a site surrounded on three sides by Red Rock Canyon, was removed from the Clark County Commission agenda. The move leaves the development project in limbo, but provides at least a reprieve before a future hearing.

Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager, who represents the district where Red Rock Canyon is located, announced the hold on the agenda item. The move means that two new commissioners will be seated in January, and another appointed, prior to any new hearings on the proposed development.

More information on this issue:

Bad News on the Border...

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge brought by three conservation groups about the Trump administration's ability to ignore roughly two dozen environmental laws while constructing a border wall. Thee justices declined to hear the appeal by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Defenders of Wildlife. Their lawsuits alleged construction operations would harm plants, rare wildlife habitat, and threatened species.

Preparation for construction of the border wall is underway along the lower Rio Grande River Valley, leaving organizations based there, like the National Butterfly Center, alarmed at the potential for destruction. The center notes that the border wall will: eradicate an enormous amount of native habitat and host plants for butterflies, as well as breeding and feeding areas for wildlife, and land set aside for conservation of endangered and threatened species, including birds that migrate through, or over-winter in, the area.

Flooding is another problem anticipated by creation of the border wall, as well as fragmenting the gene pool for wildlife (weaking species genetically). The National Butterfly Center notes that not all migratory birds or butterflies can or will cross the border wall as planned. The Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, as one example, only flies roughly six feet in the air. A 30 foot wall becomes an impenetrable barrier to species like the owl.

The center also notes that nocturnal wildlife will be negatively impacted by the planned flood lighting of the wall's "control zone."

Cultural and community impacts are anticipated as well. The Catholic Church is engaged in battling the federal government to maintain access to a historic church that the wall would cut off from the community it has served for roughly 150 years. Ranchers will have their herds denied access to water as river access is walled off. Tribal nations face destruction of their ways of life that have been in place for thousands of years. Meanwhile, data indicates the number of "illegal" migrants living in the U.S. is at its lowest number in years.

Wait and See...

In the Wait and See category, we have the Paradise Valley plan for a new city situated on the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park, the appointment of a new Third District Supervisor for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, and the hearing of the Renewable Energy Conservation Element language for the Board of Supervisors. We'll keep you apprised of new developments and how to have your say.

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