April 16, 2024 7:01 am
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Calls renewed to protect Ash Meadows wildlife refuge

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Alex Gonzalez, Public News Service

Nevada conservationists held a webinar to discuss the protection of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge near the Nevada-California border from proposed mining activities.

Mason Voehl, executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy, said the refuge is the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert and is home to at least 26 endemic species.

Voehl added that because Ash Meadows is entirely sustained by groundwater, its future depends on how that groundwater is managed in the basin.

“We’ve been concerned for a long time about the future of the refuge because of the trends we are seeing in groundwater use,” said Voehl. “That has been really exacerbated by a new kind of interest in the region which is extraction, which is mining.”

Last summer, Canadian mining company Rover Metals submitted a plan of operations to the Bureau of Land Management – expressing its intent to conduct exploratory drilling near the northern boundary of Ash Meadows.

But because of public pushback, the BLM ultimately rescinded approval and delayed the project.

Voehl said Rover Metals is expected to continue pursuing the project in search of lithium, a key metal for the production of electric vehicles.

That’s why he and others are now advocating for more protections of groundwater resources by halting or limiting stress put on the region.

Taylor Patterson, executive director of the Native Voters Alliance of Nevada, argued that hydrological systems are extremely sensitive and delicate – especially in a region such as Amargosa Valley that has communities that depend on groundwater.

She said while mining activity can pose detrimental impacts to natural wildlife and ecological systems, it can also pose threats to Native communities.

“We’re looking at this group of people that has subsisted in this area since time immemorial and saying, ‘Well, don’t worry, we’re just going to take a little bit of your water, I’m sure it’ll be fine,’” said Patterson, “and that is just completely unacceptable.”

Patterson contended that when it comes to initiatives such as protecting Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, having Native voices at the forefront of these projects is what she calls “invaluable.”

She cited Avi Kwa Ame National Monument as a way to use community to achieve land protections.

This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.