Advocacy

Statements 

 

January 2020 Public Statement on Oil and Gas Drilling

WHEREAS, the Great Basin National Park Foundation (Foundation) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to protect, preserve, and interpret the starry night skies, wide-open scenery, cultural heritage, and diverse native ecosystems of Great Basin National Park; and,

WHEREAS, the mission of the National Park Service, including Great Basin National Park, is  “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (NPS Organic Act 1916); and

WHEREAS, the Foundation’s past accomplishments include obtaining resources for a Visitor Center in Baker, Nevada and its exhibits; trail improvements; state-of-the-art telescopes for night skies programs; compilation of oral histories of Great Basin residents; and development of the Great Basin Observatory which is a state-of-the-art, research grade observatory - the first ever constructed in a National Park – which provides students, teachers, researchers, and Park visitors anywhere in the world access to highly stable and truly dark night skies; and,

WHEREAS, Great Basin National Park is a national park and state treasure and is certified as an International Dark Sky Park, and the landscapes and vistas surrounding the park contribute to the beauty, economy, and recreation values of the region and are essential to the Park’s mission of interpreting the entire Great Basin; and,

WHEREAS we are troubled to learn that parcels located in close proximity to Great Basin National Park appear to have been offered, and continue to be scheduled to be offered, for lease for oil and gas exploration on lands that have little potential for development, and that these lands have subsequently been made available to private interests for historically low compensation to taxpayers; and,

WHEREAS any decision to shift public lands into private control should include a responsible, robust, collaborative public process including scientifically valid assessments and recommendations to mitigate and minimize potential impacts to the land, water, wildlife, historical and cultural artifacts, and adjacent communities; and,

WHEREAS ongoing oil and gas leasing near Great Basin National Park has the potential to lead to significant degradation of natural resources, visitor experiences, dark skies, air quality, and water quality and negatively impact the Park itself; and,

WHEREAS, the BLM’s pursuit of leasing or auctioning off public lands constitutes privatization of our public lands, thus potentially harming western communities that depend on public lands for other activities, including hunting and fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation; and,

WHEREAS, the BLM’s leasing proposal has not demonstrated that it would not impact sustainability of the Park’s natural and cultural resources and that these ongoing actions prevent lands surrounding Great Basin National Park from being managed for conservation and recreation,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Great Basin National Park Foundation opposes oil and gas leasing on the landscape surrounding Great Basin National Park and requests that all future actions to lease or auction public lands in proximity to the Park be halted until such time as an adequate, collaborative process is in place which demonstrates that the leasing of specific parcels will cause no harm to the Park and its mission.

 

November 2011 Public Statement on

Great Basin National Park and the Southern Nevada Water Authority's Groundwater Pumping Project

The Great Basin National Park Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is "to support programs and projects that enhance the values of Great Basin National Park."

In its Strategic Plan, the Foundation articulated a vision in which:

"The Natural and cultural heritage of the Great Basin will be enhanced, not compromised, by individuals or industries that understand and appreciate the beauty, diversity, or fragility of this high desert region. Future generations will enjoy wide open landscapes, clean air, dark night skies, vigorous and diverse native ecosystems, and thriving local cultures. Cheatgrass and other invasive weeds will have been eradicated, groundwater will be used locally and conservatively, and sixth and seventh-generation cowboys will still ride the range. ... The Great Basin is enjoyed for its space, silence, and solitude and given protection on par with its diverse and unique natural and cultural resources."

We are aware that the Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes to pump groundwater from rural eastern Nevada to the citizens of Southern Nevada. Two of the valleys from which groundwater is proposed to be pumped are situated on either side of Great Basin National Park. We know that scientists have studied and reported on this complex project and its potential impacts and that the best science available is not yet conclusive with regard to potential adverse impacts on Great Basin National Park's treasured resources, in particular those values mentioned in our Vision statement: "wide open landscapes, clean air, dark night skies, vigorous and diverse native ecosystems, and thriving local cultures." We believe that when the science is undecided, we should adopt the precautionary principle. Therefore, we believe that the project should not proceed in the valleys adjacent to Great Basin National Park until it can be demonstrated that the project will not impact the sustainability of the Park's ecological, economic, and social resources.

 

September 2017 Public Statement (revised from November 2011 Public Statement)

Re: In the Matter of Protested Applications 54003 through 54021 (Spring Valley – Basin 184)

The Great Basin National Park Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to support programs and projects that enhance the values of Great Basin National Park.”  The Foundation’s vision, which we articulate in our Strategic Plan, is as follows:

“The natural and cultural heritage of the Great Basin will be enhanced, not compromised, by individuals or industries that understand and appreciate the beauty, diversity, or fragility of this high desert region. Future generations will enjoy wide open landscapes, clean air, dark night skies, vigorous and diverse native ecosystems, and thriving local cultures. Cheatgrass and other invasive weeds will have been eradicated, groundwater will be used locally and conservatively, and sixth and seventh-generation cowboys will still ride the range. … The Great Basin is enjoyed for its space, silence, and solitude and given protection on par with its diverse and unique natural and cultural resources.”

We are aware that the Southern Nevada Water Authority proposes to pump groundwater from rural eastern Nevada to the citizens of Southern Nevada.  Two of the valleys from which groundwater is proposed to be pumped are situated on either side of Great Basin National Park.  We know that scientists have studied and reported on this complex project and its potential impacts, and that the best science available is not yet conclusive with regard to potential adverse impacts on Great Basin National Park’s treasured resources, in particular those values mentioned in our Vision statement:  “wide open landscapes, clean air, dark night skies, vigorous and diverse native ecosystems, and thriving local cultures.”  We believe that when the science is undecided, we should adopt the precautionary principle.  Therefore we believe that the project should not proceed in the valleys adjacent to Great Basin National Park until it can be demonstrated that the project will not impact the sustainability of the Park’s ecological, economic, and social resources.

In 2016, the Great Basin National Park Foundation, together with its partners Great Basin National Park, University of  Nevada Reno, Western Nevada College, Concordia University in California, and Southern Utah University, constructed and opened the Great Basin Observatory at the Great Basin National Park with an initial investment of $850,000, nearly all of  it from private individuals and foundations. The Great Basin Observatory is the only research grade observatory in a national park. The Park has been declared an International Dark Sky Park. Its night skies are considered among the most stable, darkest, and clearest in the contiguous United States. Eminent astronomers and astrophysicists have endorsed the Observatory for its potential to partner in major future discoveries and contribute significantly to education in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.  University students are already using the observatory to conduct and publish research.  A web portal now in development will be accessible worldwide by astrophysics researchers, teachers, students, and the general public. Planning and fundraising is underway for the Observatory’s education and outreach program, Reach for the Stars. 

The Great Basin National Park Foundation Board of Directors believes that the term “environmental soundness” must take into consideration air quality and its effects on dark night skies as well as on other natural and cultural resources that are required by the Park’s 1986 enabling legislation to be preserved in perpetuity for present and future generations.   Specifically, with respect to the protested applications for Spring Valley, we believe that the project construction and ongoing maintenance activities, as well as the long term drying effects from groundwater pumping, will create dust in Spring Valley.  Furthermore, should any industrial structures require lighting, we are concerned with potential light pollution. Any lighting needs to be assessed for its effects and should meet International Dark Sky Association standards for reducing light pollution.

Additionally, we believe there is insufficient information to assure that the groundwater pumping project will not cause water levels to fall enough to harm the Model Cave Amphipod Stygobromus albapinus,  a newly discovered species found nowhere in the world except  in Great Basin National Park, or to impact the Park’s famous Lehman Caves. Finally, science has not yet determined the long term effects of global warming on Great Basin hydrographic basins.

There is insufficient information to assure that the groundwater pumping project proposed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority will not harm the pristine dark night skies and other natural resources of Great Basin National Park. We request that our concerns be assessed and that, if any harmful effect is anticipated, monitoring and mitigation measures be proposed.

We continue to believe, as we stated in 2011, that “the project should not proceed in the valleys adjacent to Great Basin National Park”  (specifically, with regard to this remand hearing, Spring Valley) “until it can be demonstrated that the project will not impact the sustainability of the Park’s ecological, economic, and social resources.”