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Conservation group challenges Nevada fracking plan

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A NASA Earth Observatory map shows the dry Nevada deserts east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

BLM lease sales based on flawed, incomplete analysis, environmentalists say

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation advocates are formally challenging a Bureau of Land Management proposal to lease lands for natural gas exploitation in north-central Nevada based in part on the federal agency’s failure to require an in-depth environmental study.

The lease sale could open up more than 174,000 acres around Tonopah and Austin on 102 lease parcels. In filing the protest, the Center for Biological Diversity spelled out a laundry list of concerns about the BLM’s process, highlighting the fact that the agency’s evaluation of the proposed lease doesn’t come close to addressing key environmental concerns. Instead of developing more fossil fuel resources, the emphasis in Nevada should be on renewable energy resources like wind, solar and geothermal. Continue reading

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Environment: Court rejects Las Vegas water grab

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Court rebuffs Las Vegas plan for unsustainable groundwater mining.

Nevada’s fragile desert spring ecosystems safe for at least a little while longer

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Nevada judge this week blocked a Las Vegas water grab that would rob future generations of precious groundwater resources.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority had proposed siphoning 37 billion gallons from remote underground aquifers in a plan that was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies in the Great Basin Water Network, as well as by White Pine County, Nev.

According to federal studies, the groundwater pumping, hundreds of miles north of the city, would destroy more than 137,000 acres of wildlife habitat by lowering groundwater tables by up to 200 feet in many areas — all to fuel unsustainable growth in the desert metropolis.

In 2011, the Nevada Division of Water Resources gave the project a thumbs-up by allocating 84,000 acre-feet of ancient groundwater a year to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for export to Las Vegas, but Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial District Court of Nevada said that allocation is unfair to future Nevadans and not in the public interest. Continue reading

New study dates oldest known North American rock art

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A CU-Boulder led study helped pinpoint the age of petroglyphs carved into these Nevada boulders. Photo courtesy CU-Boulder.

Meaning of Nevada petroglyphs remain a mystery

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Stone Age North American cave dwellers may have been preoccupied with finding food most of the time, but they still found the time to leave their mark by carving mysterious symbols into prominent boulders.

Now, a University of Colorado Boulder researcher believes he’s discovered the oldest known petroglyphs in the country.

The carvings on a boulder in western Nevada date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago, according to CU-Boulder researcher Larry Benson. Continue reading

Court clamps down on renegade Nevada rancher

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Desert tortoise. Courtesy USFWS.

Court affirms BLM’s authority over public lands grazing

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Some of those self-styled sagebrush rebels just can’t take a hint, even — or especially — when it comes from a federal judge.

Starting in 1993, the Bureau of Land Management has been trying to prevent Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy from grazing his cattle where he has no legal right to do so.

Bundy has pretty much ignored all polite requests to cease and desist, while his cows trample habitat for protected desert tortoises and damage ancient Native American cultural sites.

Last week a federal court issued a ruling that once again affirms the BLM’s right to to remove the trespassing cattle. The decision affirms a previous finding by the same court, made in 1998 and later upheld on appeal. Continue reading

Rare Great Basin plant to get some protection

Webber's ivesia, a rare desert flower in the rose family, will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Sarah Kulpa, USFW.

Webber’s ivesia, a rare desert flower in the rose family, will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Sarah Kulpa, USFW.

Critical habitat designation will help bolster populations of Webber’s ivesia

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A rare Great Basin flower will get some protection under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed 2,011 acres of critical habitat for Webber’s ivesia.

The plant, a member of the rose family, grows only in localized patches of rocky, clay-based soils that are wet in spring and that shrink and swell with drying and wetting. The soil can take thousands of years to form and is associated with  sparse vegetation associated with low sagebrush.

The five counties where the rare flower is found are in the transition zone between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Basin Desert. Continue reading

Water: USGS assesses Lake Mead

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Lake Mead. Photo courtesy NASA.

Invasive mussels now dominating lake-bottom ecosystem

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Better sewage treatment in Las Vegas, long-term treatment of persistent pollution from industrial sources and development of artificial wetlands have all helped protect water quality Lake Mead, according to federal scientists who recently released a report the status of the last big storage bucket in the Colorado River’s plumbing system.

Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said that Lake Mead’s water quality is good and that fish populations are holding their own. Lake Mead is even providing habitat for an increasing number of birds.

But the report also acknowledges that invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism, posing significant threat to the Lake Mojave and Lake Mead ecosystems. The report also acknowledges the long-term threat of climate change, which will bring reduced water supplies to the entire Colorado River Basin. Continue reading

Water: BLM OKs massive Nevada pipeline project

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The BLM has approved a right-of-way for a 250-mile water pipeline in Nevada.

Conservation groups prepare for court battle

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say they will challenge the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of a 250-mile pipeline project designed to drain central Nevada aquifers and deliver water to Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s groundwater development project would siphon more than 27.4 billion gallons of groundwater per year from at least four valleys in central Nevada. According to environmental groups, the project would imperil dozens of species dependent on precious surface and groundwater in the driest state in the U.S.

“The federal government’s own scientists are confirming this Las Vegas water project would be an epic environmental disaster,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s really no exaggeration to say that the natural, cultural and social heritage of central Nevada is at grave risk from this project.” Continue reading

Feds hope to speed up permits for renewable energy projects

 

Wind farming in the West.

Interior Department teams up with Defense Department to develop solar and wind on military lands

By Summit Voice

Continuing to push for utility scale renewable energy projects, the Obama administration said this week it will seek expedited review and approval for seven wind and solar projects
that would generate a total of 5,000 megawatts of electricity — providing enough power for about 1.5 million homes.

The federal Office of Management and Budget is charged with overseeing the government-wide effort to make the permitting more efficient, with a target date of October, 2014 for completing the federal permitting for the projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming under a March, 2012 executive order.

Almost at the same time, the Department of Interior and Department of Defense announced an agreement aimed at ncouraging appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes, and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations. Continue reading

10,000 acre Nevada wildfire started as a prescribed burn

North Schell fire 15 percent contained

The North Schell Fire perimter map, courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

The North Schell Fire in Nevada. Photo courtesy BLM.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One of the biggest new wildfires burning in the West started as a prescribed burn that escaped control during one of the driest seasons on record in the Great Basin.

The North Schell Fire in Nevada has burned across more than 10,000 acres and is estimated at 15 percent containment. It’s burning in the North Schell Range, not far from Ely, in eastern Nevada.

Fuels include white fir, mountain mahogany, piñon-pine, juniper, and sagebrush. The fire is making occasional runs, along with spotting and torching in extremely difficult terrain. More than 200 firefighters are on scene with more resources arriving.

Fire officials said there is extreme potential for the fire to grow, with temperatures in the high 70s and 80s and relative humidity in the single digits.

Las Vegas water grab challenged in court

Las Vegas water plan challenged in court.

Groups say diversion plan lacking adequate environmental analysis

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nowhere is water more precious than the desert, where a tiny oasis can be the only source of sustenance in thousands of acres. Most people intuitively understand the value of water in dry regions, but Las Vegas and Nevada state water officials just don’t get it.

A long-planned scheme by Las Vegas to rob surrounding desert basins of groundwater last month won approval from the state engineer but a huge coalition of environmental and community groups won’t let that decision go unchallenged.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 300 allies in the Great Basin Water Network appealed  the Nevada state engineer’s approval for a plan to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump and pipe away up to 27 billion gallons of water annually from four rural valleys to feed urban development in Las Vegas. Continue reading

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