A recent review conducted by the US Navy concluded that there is no risk that any significant environmental harm would come about from the service’s desired 1.1 million-acre expansion, according to the Associated Press.
The Navy’s environmental impact statement, released Friday, claimed there would be no significant impact on cultural or biological resources and only “minimal” harm to the “near-threatened” greater sage grouse.
The US military has received pushback from tribal bodies such as the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and conservationists such as Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, who told AP that US President Donald Trump’s administration was expanding the military-industrial complex through its attempt “to turn Nevada's precious public lands into a bombing range.”
“The Navy’s planned land seizure threatens to devastate greater sage grouse breeding areas and migratory bird habitat at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge," he added.
Lawmakers have also pushed back against the expansion and have even brought the matter to Capitol Hill.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced compromise legislation to Congress on December 19 which called for a reduction in the US military’s request to have its expansion include 300,000 acres of land owned by the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. According to the Nevada Independent, the military already uses approximately 800,000 acres of the refuge, which was established in 1936 to protect the habitat of the bighorn sheep, numerous ecosystems and various cultural sites belonging to area tribes.
Mastro’s legislation calls for the expansion to be reduced to just 98,000 acres and allows the service to construct a total of 15 new threat emitters in the area. Of the 98,000 acres, only 48,000 would be in the actual refuge, and the remaining 50,000 would be a buffer zone just outside of the area.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a Democratic presidential candidate who has campaigned in Nevada, slammed the Navy for not consulting with area tribes and linked to the NCAI’s resolution opposing the project in a Wednesday tweet.
As @USNavy looks to expand NAS Fallon, it hasn’t meaningfully consulted and worked with the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe. That’s unacceptable. As president, I’ll seek Tribal Nations’ free, prior, informed consent for decisions affecting their lands. https://t.co/EUcUniltGz— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 15, 2020
The US Navy argued that the expansion is necessary to ensure the future safety of the country.
“Expanding the [range] for the first time in two generations is absolutely essential to our national security, enabling our country’s sailors and Marines to prepare for today’s threats,” said Lucian Niemeyer, acting secretary of energy, installations and environment for the Navy, reported the Associated Press. “Our war-fighters must be ready at a moment’s notice to effectively respond to more advanced aircraft and weaponry to defeat all potential adversaries.”
The service’s study did, however, recognize concerns raised by the Nevada Department of Wildlife pertaining to the greater sage grouse and proposed funding for a study by the department regarding the bird’s mating behavior and how it might be affected by an increase in low-level overflights by the Navy.