I’ve lived in Nevada over 20 years now and one of the hidden gems of our state that I rank as my number 1 outdoor destination is the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness. Part of the world’s largest Joshua Tree forest, the name means “ancient ones” in the Yuman language of the Mojave people, who revere this sacred place. Some of the trees are thought to be 1,000 years old, rising 30 ft tall. Combined with the solitude and relatively untouched nature of the place, it is a wonder to experience and commune with nature. Yet that could all be ruined because of a foreign corporation that wants to make a quick buck by developing 600 ft tall windmills on adjacent land.
It’s not just the Joshua Tree at risk. This is a haven for plant and animal communities that make up a fragile ecosystem that has been badly fragmented and deprived of its own lifeblood as water sources are diverted for human purposes.
“Visitors can also find blackbrush, Mojave yucca, buckhorn cholla, creosote bush, white bursage, banana yucca, bunch grass, matted cholla, and prickly pear cactus throughout the wilderness. Birdwatchers will spot-gilded flicker (known to occur in Nevada only in this location), northern flicker, ladder-backed woodpecker, black-throated sparrow, red-tailed hawk, crissal thrasher, golden eagle, loggerhead shrike, and cactus wren. Other wildlife roaming this wilderness include desert tortoise, big horn sheep, coyote, desert cottontail, black-tailed jackrabbit, valley pocket gopher and desert wood rat.” – Bureau of Land Management
Unfortunately there is a small hole of unprotected federal land between Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness, the Mojave National Preserve, the Castle Mountains National Monument and the Paiute Eldorado ACEC where development is allowed. It is often referred to as the doughnut hole (see map and thorough details at the Basin and Range Watch website here).
The Swedish company Eolus North America’s Kulning Wind Energy Project is smaller than their original Crescent Peak Wind Project concept which was rejected by the BLM, but no matter what, these 600 ft tall windmills, the wide roads required for the industrial equipment to build them which would bulldoze through this fragile ecosystem, and the threat to a variety of birds, bats and generally to the pristine nature of the area are all unacceptable.
Local news Fox 5 covered the story, highlighting the connection to the creation of the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument which would preclude this project all together.
Patrick Donnelly, Nevada’s state director for the Center for Biological Diversity extended his voice of support for urgent protection in his Biodiversity Notes:
“Protecting Avi Kwa Ame is a good idea for a lot of reasons. It’s of spiritual importance to the local tribes. It’s an incredibly important chunk of desert tortoise critical habitat. It’s beautiful and biodiverse. And now this zombie wind project has emerged again, providing fresh urgency for this effort. Antiquities Act, legislation, who knows? There are a couple of ways this place could be protected but I think at this point the key is moving with some sense of urgency. We need to protect Avi Kwa Ame National Monument before we lose it forever. Count us in.”