Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 20, 2019


Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449,

Senate Bill Rebuffs Military Request for Nevada Wildlife Refuge Takeover

Proposed 100,000-acre Bombing Range Expansion Would Still Hurt Wildlife

LAS VEGAS— Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced legislation today to expand the U.S. Air Force’s Nevada Test and Training Range into the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but the bill offers a fraction of what the military has requested.

The Air Force wants to seize 1.1 million acres of the refuge to expand its bombing range. Cortez Masto’s bill reduces that area to fewer than 100,000 acres. It also transfers several thousand acres of other public land to the military and designates 1.3 million acres of wilderness in the refuge.

“We’re pleased that Cortez Masto’s bill rejects the military’s enormous land seizure,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But we shouldn’t have to give up tens of thousands of acres of this spectacular wildlife refuge just to keep the military at bay.”

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest refuge in the lower 48 states, containing 1.6 million acres of pristine Mojave Desert habitat for iconic desert bighorn sheep and threatened desert tortoises. Designated as a wildlife refuge in 1936, it is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to permanently protect the habitat for these creatures and many more.

The 2.9 million-acre Nevada Test and Training Range, adjacent to the refuge, is used for military training, including live-fire bombing.

The Center has spearheaded a multi-year campaign to protect the refuge, under the banner #DontBombTheBighorn, with conservation and tribal allies across Nevada and the country. The campaign has galvanized a massive outpouring of opposition to the military’s plan, with tens of thousands of people writing letters and hundreds attending meetings. The Nevada legislature passed a resolution opposing the plan. Veterans’ groups and the outdoor business community have also come out against it.

“Nevada’s desert has been treated like a national sacrifice area for far too long. Losing an area larger than the city of Las Vegas isn’t a victory for our endangered species or for people, even if it’s accompanied by wilderness designation,” said Donnelly. “The final bill needs to ensure that Nevada’s wildlife doesn’t lose out to military expansion.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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