Nevada Pushes Back Against Proposed Air Force Expansion

May 30, 2019

In a strong bipartisan message, the Nevada legislature says it will not welcome a proposed expansion of a U.S. Air Force training range into the state's Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

The Air Force is asking Congress to redesignate large swaths of public land for military testing and training. The majority of that request - 227,000 acres - lie within the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in southern Nevada.

Conservation groups have voiced opposition to the move. So has the Nevada legislature, which recently passed a bipartisan resolution pushing back on the plan.

Kevin DesRoberts is with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that manages the refuge.

"The current Test and Training Range is 3 million acres. It's already really large; it's a huge area," he says. "How much more does the Air Force need? We don't know."

He says the refuge is an important tool in helping to protect the iconic Desert Bighorn Sheep.

"This is the largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states," he says. "And one of the reasons it's so critical for Desert Bighorn Sheep is that it protects the largest remaining intact piece of habitat for that species in our country."

DesRoberts says the agency would prefer to keep the current arrangement, where nearly half of the refuge - or about 826,000 acres - are designated for military use. That agreement expires in 2021.

At 1.6 million acres, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the nation's largest outside of Alaska.