Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, cultures, and history of the desert, as well as sustainable local renewable energy alternatives. We support our local desert economies because we live here and visit here often.
The Mojave, Colorado, and Great Basin Deserts are home to a wide range of biodiverse habitats. This place is an amazing landscape full of unique plants, animals, and geological wonders, as well as local communities seeking to preserve their quality of life. We work to conserve desert wildlands and species, protect groundwater resources, dark night skies, culturally important landscapes, local ways of life, and much more. Our vision is to unify diverse groups and individuals, and work together and respect our differing perspectives and common goals about how to manage the landscape for the future.
A major focus for us currently is the push by federal and state agencies to open up undisturbed habitat and public lands in our region to energy development. Our goal is to identify the problems of energy sprawl and find solutions that will preserve our natural ecosystems and open spaces. We specialize in ground-truthing proposed project sites and reporting our findings to the public so that everyone is well-informed about how to comment during agency review periods. We pioneered citizen science monitoring of energy projects in the desert. We support energy efficiency, better rooftop solar policy, and distributed generation/storage alternatives, as well as planning for wise energy and land use following the principles of science and conservation biology.
We are a group of desert advocates from diverse backgrounds united by our love of arid lands. Join us!
Our Board of Directors
Kevin Emmerich enjoyed a career in the National Park Service for 20 years in 7 different National Parks and Monuments, including Death Valley National Park since 1991 (now retired). He has also worked as a field biologist for research on desert species such as the Panamint alligator lizard, desert tortoise, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard. He lives in the Mojave Desert and has followed desert conservation and land-use issues for many years. He and his wife Laura Cunningham cofounded Basin and Range Watch in 2008. Seen here with Cassie, his 27 year old rescue-horse and friend.
Laura Cunningham has a Bachelor's degree in paleontology from the University of California at Berkeley, where she also studied zoology, botany, herpetology, and natural resource management. She undertook graduate study at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Science Communication. Laura then worked as a field biologist for US Geological Survey--Biological Resources Division on amphibian declines in the Sierra Nevada; California Department of Fish and Wildlife with desert fishes; and California State University, Dominguez Hills as project manager for a Panamint alligator lizard research study with the late Dr. David Morafka. She has surveyed extensivley for fringe-toed lizards. She also worked as a contract tortoise biologist translocationg tortoises and monitoring large-scale development projects in the California Desert. In 2010 she published the book A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California (Heyday), and then a children's book The Bay Area Through Time (Heyday 2015). She is a self-taught artist specializing in field sketching and oil painting, and enjoys hiking and living on a small Nevada ranch with her husband Kevin, a herd of horses, and two iguanas. See her blog.
Judy, a resident of Southern Nevada for 54 years, enjoys hiking, birdwatching, and photographing the desert, the mountains, flora and fauna of the Great Basin, Mojave and Sonoran Deserts. She worked in management and marketing for professional consulting engineering firms in the Las Vegas area for more than 30 years, retiring in 2007.
As a Charter member of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas Natural Science Scholarship Association (NSSA) from 1974 to 2014, she helped raise scholarship money for students enrolled in the natural sciences at UNLV and College of Southern Nevada (CSN). As co-chairman of NSSA for more than 15 years, she planned and organized fundraising trips to destinations in Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah and New Mexico, as well as Baja California and British Columbia. Trips were typically led by geology, biology and/or botany instructors from UNLV or CSN.
After retiring, she intended on spending as much time as possible at her desert hideaway nestled in the Joshua tree forest northeast of Searchlight. Dreams of a relaxing retirement vanished when Duke Energy installed MET Towers near the home. The specter of wind turbines in pristine desert adjacent to wilderness areas, an Area of Critical Environmental Concern for desert tortoises, and Lake Mead National Recreation Area induced her to become an activist to protect the desert and its cultural sites, as well the plants and animals that live there.
With the help of attorney David Becker and activists Kevin Emmerich and Laura Cunningham, the 87-turbine, 9,700 acre wind project planned for pristine desert is presently on hold.
Shaun Gonzales is a desert activist who grew up in the Mojave Desert and enjoys exploring the southwest. He has worked to promote desert conservation through his blog, social media, and photography.
From the time she was a small girl in western Massachusetts, Terry Weiner preferred being outdoors on bike or roller skates, or just lying in the grass watching ants and caterpillars. After earning a BA degree in psychology from Westfield State College in 1969, Terry discovered the Appalachian Mt. Club and the local Naturalist Club and hiked the hills of New England. Local botanists heightened her fascination with plants thereby deepening her connection to the natural world.
In 1976 Terry gathered her new tent, Coleman stove and hiking boots and headed west for a summer of camping and hiking across the U.S. She never returned to Massachusetts to live. After a few years in Santa Barbara studying the flora of the coast and mountains, she moved to San Diego in 1979. On her first trip over the coastal range to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, she realized the desert was the reason she moved west and the reason she would stay.
On her desert campouts in Anza-Borrego, Terry became concerned about the noise and dust and other impacts from off-road vehicles all over the desert. This led to her engagement on the Off-Road Vehicle Task force of the Sierra Club and to her involvement with the Desert Protective Council (DPC). She was appointed to the Board of Directors of the DPC in the late 1990s. In 2000, the DPC hired Terry as the first DPC paid staff as the Conservation/Membership Coordinator.
Between 2001 and 2004, Terry served on the California Department of Parks and Recreation OHV Stakeholders’ Roundtable. Since 2005, Terry has served as the DPC’s Imperial County Conservation and Projects Coordinator. She is a co-founder of Solar Done Right and a co-founder of the Alliance for Responsible Recreation, a coalition of conservation organizations, property owners and rural community citizens dedicated to working with land management agencies and law enforcement to protect public and private lands from the impacts of motorized recreation and to re-focus the national conversation about the “need” for ORV recreation to the pressing importance to protect our air and water quality, and our precious desert habitats and Native American cultural heritage for future generations.
Terry loves all genres of music. She enjoys running, hiking and especially studying botany and primitive camping in the desert. Her favorite desert ecosystems are sand dunes.
Michael Connor has worked on species and habitat conservation issues in the southwestern deserts for many years and has extensive experience in public lands management issues. He is the California Director for Western Watersheds Project. Prior to that he served as Executive Director of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee.
A California licensed Electrical Contractor living in Santa Barbara, CA, Terry has been active in our deserts for more than 30 years.
He is currently Chair of the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee, a group that works for the protection of the deserts of California, Nevada and other areas of the Southwest.
Lisa T. Belenky is a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, working out of the Oakland, California office. Her work focuses on the protection of rare and endangered species and their habitats under state and federal law on public and private lands throughout California and the southwest. Her work includes litigation and policy advocacy regarding: endangered species listing petitions and critical habitat designation; recovery plan development and implementation; site specific project development; and land use planning. Over the last 7 years, Ms. Belenky has spent much of her time on legal and policy issues related to siting large-scale renewable energy projects on public and private lands.
Before becoming an attorney, Ms. Belenky spent much of her time as a grassroots political activist in California and Nevada focusing on issues ranging from the environmental and human damage caused by nuclear waste, atomic weapons, and hard rock mining to Native American land rights and LGBT rights.
Ms. Belenky received her J.D. from the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1999, and her B.A. in philosophy from University of California at Santa Cruz. Her publications include: Belenky, Lisa T., Cradle to Border: U.S. Hazardous Waste Export Regulations and International Law, 17 Berkeley J. Int'l L. 95 (1999).
Patrick Donnelly first fell in love with the Mojave Desert in 2004, and it has remained the constant in his life ever since. While his earliest years in the desert were focused on habitat restoration projects, he was catalyzed into activism by the GreenPath North transmission line proposal through his then-home of Yucca Valley, California. The successful GreenPath campaign led to spending several years studying and writing about utility-scale renewable energy development on desert lands while at the University of California, Berkeley, ultimately obtaining a Robert and Colleen Haas Scholars Fellowship to support his work.
Sid Silliman is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science (Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, 1975), and A.B. in Political Science and History (Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines, 1966). He has been involved in public lands policy through engaging the issues of habitat conservation and industrial-scale renewable energy in the Mojave Desert. Presentations he has given to numerous community groups over many years include the subjects of human rights, international affairs, politics of grizzly bear recovery, and habitat conservation. In addition to numerous recent articles on conservation issues in the California Desert, he has edited such publications as Organizing for Democracy: NGOs, Civil Society and the Philippine State (edited with Lela G. Noble), Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press (1998). He has been on the board of directors of the Desert Tortoise Council and Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, and is active with the California/Nevada Desert Committee of the Sierra Club.
Our Advisory Board
A 37-year veteran of the National Park Service, Mark most recently served as the Superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park from 2011 to 2014. Throughout his career he has been dedicated to conserving our nation’s more precious lands, and helping visitors to National Parks discover the wonders of wild places.
His other work experiences include: Project Management Chief, Planning and Compliance Manager, Physical Science Specialist, American Indian Consultation Supervisor, Accessibility Program Supervisor, Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act Manager, Search and Rescue Incident Commander and Technician, Hazardous Materials and Oil Spill Response Coordinator, Emergency Medical Technician, Fire Logistics Crew Supervisor, and Public Involvement and Outreach Coordinator. Butler received his Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California and obtained a Bachelors Degree in Soil and Water Science and Environmental Toxicology from the University of California, Davis. Mark is currently the Owner/ President of an environmental consulting firm.
Long-time desert advocate in 29 Palms CA, Pat Flanagan is an education specialist and has developed curricula on the ecology of the Salton Sea for children's outdoor learning programs. Pat is on the board of the Morongo Basin Conservation Association, as well as being an appointed member of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council (MAC). She is an expert in desert natural history and is active in the conservation community of the California Desert.
Dustin teaches courses on energy and sustainability in the Environmental Studies Department at San Jose State University. His research focuses on the social and environmental dimensions of food and energy systems. He has worked with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition on their “Just and Sustainable Solar” Campaign since 2008 and is the lead analyst for the Solar Scorecard, which rates the sustainability of photovoltaic manufacturers. Dustin serves on the NSF International Joint Committee that is developing a sustainability leadership standard for photovoltaic modules. He is also a Principal at EcoShift Consulting where he provides expert witness analysis and testimony to support rooftop solar adoption on behalf of the Sierra Club and EarthJustice. Prior to his arrival at San Jose State, Dustin was a Science and Technology Studies postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD from the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz, and obtained an MS in Environmental Policy Studies and BS in Chemical Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He previously worked for a bioremediation startup as a project engineer at MTBE spill sites, and before that was a chemical process engineer for a Fortune 500 chemical manufacturer.
Ruth Nolan is a lifelong resident of the Mojave Desert/Coachella Valley Desert of California. A former wildland firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management CA Desert District and US Forest Service, she is now professor of English and Desert Indian Literature at College of the Desert in Palm Springs, CA and is a California Desert scholar who lectures widely on the literature and cultural history of the Mojave Desert. She's also the editor of No Place for a Puritan: the Literature of California's Deserts (Heyday Books, 2009), and author of Ruby Mountain (Finishing Line Press, 2016.) She has led numerous community writing workshops throughout the desert region in locations such as Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, Anza Borrego Desrt State Park, The Living Desert Reserve, Indian Canyons, Coachella Valley Preserve. She blogs about the desert for KCET Los Angeles, Sierra Club Desert Report, News from Native California and Inlandia Literary Journeys. She lives in Palm Desert, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and http://ruthnolan.blogspot.com
Bill is the principal of Powers Engineering, an air quality consulting engineering firm established in San Diego in 1994. He is a much-sought-after analyst of issues relating to electrical transmission, and power plant emissions and permitting.