Phase Two of Fixing the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Begins
This month's congressional passage of the National Defense Authorization Act has endorsed the strongest message ever sent that the Refuge must remain and be governed for both its purposes of wild sheep conservation and military readiness.
"This is a strong push in favor of WSF's efforts to guarantee access to the Refuge for management and hunting in close coordination with Nevada Department of Wildlife," said Gray N. Thornton, president and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. "Until now, this access has been difficult for lack of coordination on scheduling work crews around military training. Projects have been delayed or scrapped, watering devices are at risk of failure, and opportunities to scout curtailed."
The Air Force shares jurisdiction over half of the Refuge, using the area and the airspace for training activities based at the adjacent Nellis Test and Training Range.
The new defense bill rejected a proposal from the Air Force to expand their current tenancy on
half of DNWR to a takeover of 75% of it. Instead, Congress has required better coordination of the current arrangement by requiring regular coordination between the Air Force and the US Fish and Wildlife Service and creating an advisory committee that includes NDOW, tribes, and us.
"The Air Force's needs for more airspace for their latest jets are real, and the discussion of future proposals to accommodate them will continue," said GNT. "But before that happens, the underlying commitment to co-manage the area for its original purpose in wild sheep conservation must now be made good."
There has been some drama over whether President Trump will veto the Defense bill and whether Congress has the time and necessary votes to override that veto.
Regardless of how that plays out, wild sheep conservationists have achieved a great stride toward the productive relationship we need with the Air Force to Put and Keep Wild Sheep on the Mountain in the Nevada desert.