The goal is to protect 15% of the desert in the most crucial areas: aesthetically, as well as geologically and ecologically. The protection we're aiming for is a National Conservation Area, designating this area officially as Wilderness. Activities such as ranching (since it is a historical part of this area) could continue (depending on specifications) as long as they were proven not to be detrimental to this ecosystem (i.e. over-grazing).
The Red Desert is 6 million acres. Oil and gas projects already cover 2 million of those.
Industrial development would destroy the proposed Wilderness Area.
Even if every acre of the Jack Morrow Hills was developed and all of the technically recoverable oil and gas was extracted, well beyond the scope of oil and gas plans, it would only provide the United States with 9 weeks of natural gas and 39 minutes of oil
Through the Wilderness Act, Congress recognized the intrinsic value of wild lands. Some of the tangible and intangible values mentioned in the Wilderness Act include "solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation," as well as “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value." Wilderness areas provide habitat for wildlife and plants, including endangered and threatened species.
The Red Desert of Wyoming contains important wildlife and endangered species (including some found only in this region/terrain: i.e. the Black Footed Ferret and the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad) The largest migratory herd of Pronghorn antelope in the lower 48 (perhaps in the world) live in this desert. Some of the most spectacular geological formations in the world are found here, many unique fossils, and archaeological artifacts stretching back 12,000 years, as well as multiple ancient petroglyphs. It is currently threatened by possible oil and gas development. However, the main areas mentioned have only marginal deposits worth little money: but if the price of oil goes high enough, they may be ruined forever.
This desert has academic value in all of these fields: geology, hydrology, paleontology, ornithology, zoology, entomology, botany, climatology, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, and history.
The Red Desert itself is bigger than Wales, reputedly constituting the largest unfenced - and unprotected - area in the lower 48 states.
“The Red Desert contains some of the most spectacular geological formations anywhere on the planet and provides key habitats for rare wildlife, ranging from mountain plovers and burrowing owls to ferruginous hawks,” says Red Desert expert Erik Molvar, wildlife photographer, biologist, and previous executive director of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. Molvar devoted much of his life to the Red Desert.
Such formations, important elements, and areas the proposed wilderness include:
- Red Desert Sage Brush Steppe
This is one of the largest pristine sagebrush steppes in the world.
The only other comparable example of a pristine sagebrush steppe ecosystem, in terms of size and quality, is found in Mongolia.
***The sagebrush steppe ecosystem is one of the most endangered in the world.***
- Adobe Town
An ancient, huge maze of rock formations, with pinnacles and cliffs up to 500 feet tall which stretch for 25 miles above the Skull Creek plain. It was formed 55 million years ago from volcanic ash (from Yellowstone) shaped by wind and water over millennia. Important nesting area for multiple birds, habitat to many different plants and animals and one of the most unique geological formations found in the world.
It's also historic because it used to be a hideout of bandits such as Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the James brothers.
- The Jack Morrow Hills (Also containing the following geological and habitat features)
Home to the endangered, once though extinct, Black-footed Ferret. Home to many other threatened and endangered species, such as the Golden Eagle, and important habitat and breeding ground to rare High Desert Elk (the Red Desert containing perhaps the largest herd of High Desert Elk left in the world)
This area also has many of the previously mentioned archaeological artifacts, and also has many historic land marks such as the Oregon Trail, Pony Express Trail, Mormon Trail, and California Trail.
- The Honeycomb and Oregon Buttes
These buttes are not only beautiful, but geologically exquisite and home to many different forms of wildlife. They are incredible to behold and, in many ways,hold a lot more value than can be immediately seen, especially them and their surrounding areas for support of wildlife.
- The Leucite Hills (part of the greater Jack Morrow area and contain part of the Killpecker dunes as well as the Boar's Tusk)
The Boar's Tusk (as depicted above) is an isolated remnant of a long extinct volcano.
- The Killpecker Sand Dunes (Though currently designated as a study area, a Wilderness Area/National Conservation Area would involve greater protection)
These sand dunes are the largest living sand dune systems in the United States. They stretch for over 55 miles and contain more than 109,000 acres of land.
In many ways, the Red Desert has just as, if not more, important ecological, aesthetic, geological, archaeological, and historical features than many National Parks. However many of the most important places within it have little to no protection.
Video: Forgotten Spaces: https://vimeo.com/112730102