Decision by BLM preserves sage grouse

Whether you hunt, fish or simply enjoy exploring Nevada's outdoor treasures, there is good news coming out of Lincoln County. The Bureau of Land Management, Ely District, has rejected an application from the Wilson Creek Wind Company, LLC, that would have buried one of the state's crown jewels under a rather expansive wind farm.

The company's plans called for as many as 350 wind turbines and the infrastructure necessary to connect the power generated by those turbines with the power grid - buried power lines, access roads, substations, buildings, etc. - to be built on 31,000 acres of public land about 20 miles northeast of Pioche.

Of course, making all of that happen would have had an impact on far more land than the actual project footprint called for.

Bordered on three sides by the Fortification Range, the White Rock Mountains and the Wilson Creek Range, these lands are not typical of the landscape most people associate with Nevada.

They include high desert meadows and tree-covered ridges. Get far enough away from the highway and you'll even find stands of quaking aspen.

In addition to the scenery they provide, these lands are home to multiple wildlife species and provide critical summer range for Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer. Perhaps most importantly at this point in history, they are a focal point for sage grouse reproduction.

For Western life to continue as we know it, sage grouse need a place to make more sage grouse. Somehow I can't see a forest of turbines and miles of new roadways as being conducive to the birds' romantic interludes.

In May 2011, the BLM announced that it was starting the mandatory public scoping process for the Wilson Creek Wind Project. At the time, Cory Lytle, a member of the Lincoln County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife, expressed his concerns:

"If this project goes through the hunting and access on these mountains will be lost. Gone, gone, gone. Pressure on other areas will increase, and it will also have a dramatic effect on the deer and elk herds in (Area) 231. Another factor in this is sage grouse.

"If the sage grouse population is eliminated from our area, it puts them one step closer to being listed as endangered. If that were to happen, kiss the way of life we know and enjoy goodbye as well."

For now, Lytle, his Lincoln County neighbors, Nevada's sportsmen and other conservationists can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Tom Brown, a project opponent, expressed his appreciation for "the many people that showed up at the scoping meeting in Las Vegas and spoke out against this destructive project. ... I only hope they don't appeal the decision to cancel the application."

Wilson Creek Wind has 30 days to file an appeal.

■ REWARD GROWS - Many Southern Nevadans were outraged by the illegal killing of a female desert bighorn sheep early this month at the north end of the McCullough Mountains near Anthem. The Operation Game Thief Citizens Board offered a $500 reward for information that would help state game wardens solve the case. An outdoor advertising firm donated its space and posted a call for information on several digital billboards and sportsmen's groups have stepped forward in a big way.

The Safari Club International Desert Chapter, the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited pledged a total of $5,500 as a reward for information that leads to a conviction in the case. Anyone with information pertinent to the investigation can call the Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-992-3030. Callers can remain anonymous.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His "In the Outdoors" column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at