US Air Force Applies to Renew Test & Training Range and Expand Area by 300,000 Acres

BLM segregates 300,000 acres while Air Force studies extension and expansion

Nevada Land Use Update
Nevada Land Use Update.Image Courtesy of ShareTrails.org

The U.S. Air Force has applied to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to continue to use the site of its Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) and to expand it by about 300,000 acres of additional public land. As a result of the withdrawal application, the BLM has segregated approximately 300,000 acres from appropriation under the public land laws. The two-year segregation is obligatory while the Air Force prepares an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on its expansion and extension proposals for the area northeast of Las Vegas.

The Air Force published a Federal Register notice on August 25 stating that it would conduct the EIS on both renewing the existing public land withdrawal, which covers approximately 2.9 million acres, and the withdrawal and reservation for military use of another 301,507 acres of public land to expand the existing range. The existing land withdrawal expires in 2021. Based on the environmental analysis, the Secretary of the Interior will make a recommendation to Congress on the proposed withdrawals. However, Congress, not the Secretary, will make the final decision on both the requested extension and proposed expansion.

As a first step in the EIS process, the Air Force will hold five public meetings on the proposed extension and expansion of the NTTR. The BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Department of Energy, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife will participate as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the EIS.

During the EIS, the Air Force will consider existing uses of the expansion area. For instance, of the 301,507 additional acres the Air Force is seeking, approximately 266,000 acres are managed for desert bighorn sheep by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. The Nevada Test and Training Range already includes much of this refuge's land. More than 35,000 acres of the expansion area are managed by the BLM. The Air Force expansion would also overlap a designated energy transmission corridor (known as the 368 Energy Corridor) in two locations (Beatty and near Tule Springs National Monument), the current Vegas to Reno Off Highway race course, and proposed mountain bike and hiking trails in the Beatty area.

The two-year segregation removes the expansion lands from all forms of appropriation under the public land laws, including the mining laws, the mineral leasing laws, and the geothermal leasing laws. Valid existing rights at the time of the segregation will be honored. The existing Nevada Test and Training Range is already withdrawn from these laws. The action is required under section 204(b)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

The entire Federal Register notice for the Notice of Application for Withdrawal Extension and Withdrawal Expansion is available here.

While the Air Force will accept comments on its EIS, the BLM will accept comments on the requested withdrawal actions through the following methods:

E-mail: BLM_NV_SNDO_NTTR_Withdrawal@blm.gov Fax: (702) 515-5023 Mail: BLM Southern Nevada District Office, Attn: NTTR Withdrawal, 4701 North Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV, 89130-2301

The following is a schedule of the Air Force public meetings on the proposed withdrawals:

  • Beatty Community Center, Beatty, 5-9 p.m. October 12;
  • Tonopah Convention Center, Tonopah, 5-9 p.m. October 13;
  • Caliente Elementary School, Caliente, 5-9 p.m. October 18;
  • Pahranagat Valley High School, Alamo, 5-9 p.m. October 19; and
  • Aliante Hotel, North Las Vegas, 5-9 p.m. October 20.