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How Democrats voted to give part of a wildlife refuge to the military

Zoya Teirstein

In a voice vote earlier this month, Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee approved a Republican-introduced amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would hand control of more than 850,000 acres of national wildlife refuge in Nevada over to the U.S. Air Force. Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director for the Center for Biological Diversity, called the vote by the Democratic majority on the committee “a stunning betrayal.”

The fight to preserve the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in the Mojave Desert by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and is the largest national wildlife refuge in the lower 48, has been ongoing for several years now. The Air Force already operates a large base directly adjacent to the refuge. As the agreement stands now, the Air Force has the ability to conduct air drills over the half of the refuge that is closed to the public, provided it leaves the ground-level ecosystem alone. In 2019, the military put forth a proposal to dramatically expand that base, the Nevada Test and Training Range, into the refuge.