Mason Voehl from the Amargosa Conservancy joins hosts Chris Clarke and Alicia Pike to discuss the dire threat posed by a Canadian mining company's plans to conduct exploratory drilling for lithium near the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. The drilling could potentially puncture the aquifer and cause catastrophic damage to the fragile ecosystem. The hosts highlight the conflict between the need for renewable energy and the preservation of biodiversity, and call for public support to protect Ash Meadows. They provide a petition and encourage donations to the Amargosa Conservancy to help in the fight.
Episode photo of Devils Hole pupfish by Olin Feuerbacher/US Fish and Wildlife Service
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**0:00:15** - (Alicia Pike): It's time for 90 Miles From Needles, the Desert Protection Podcast, with your hosts, Chris Clark and Alicia Pike.
**0:00:29** - (Chris Clarke): Hey, welcome to the 90 miles from Needles. The Desert Protection Podcast. Thanks for tuning in. I'm Chris.
**0:00:34** - (Alicia Pike): And I'm Alicia.
**0:00:36** - (Chris Clarke): And we have one of those issues that pits environmentalists against each other from time to time. The whole notion of getting off the fossil fueled treadmill to preserve our planet from climate change is incredibly important. But at the same time, we also need to pay attention to the biological diversity crisis that is threatening not just the desert, but pretty much everywhere else on the planet. And in the desert in Nevada right now, we have a rather acute issue that really brings that conflict into focus.
**0:01:15** - (Chris Clarke): And we have with us in our virtual studio today, mason Voehl from the Amargosa Conservancy. Thanks for joining us, Mason.
**0:01:24** - (Mason Voehl): Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah. So the situation we're dealing with is we have a Canadian mining company by the name of Rover Metals, and they have notified the BLM in Nevada of their plans to conduct exploratory drilling for lithium directly against one of the most significant oasis in the Mojave Desert. One of the most significant wildlife refuges in the world. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
**0:01:52** - (Mason Voehl): And what this company plans to do at this time is to come in and drill up to 30 holes at a depth of 250 to 300ft. And what they're going to be doing is basically taking core samples. And they use those core samples to determine what the lithium prospect is in this area that they have claims in. And so this happens in Nevada, where, because of the way the regulations are written, the company, as long as they are going to disturb fewer than five acres of land, simply has to notify the BLM of their plans to do it. They submit their paperwork, they pay a reclamation bond. In this case, it's a fairly small amount, $30,000, and they can commence with drilling.
**0:02:29** - (Mason Voehl): And honestly, if you'd put a map in front of me and asked me, Mason, where is maybe the least advisable or worst place that you could imagine a situation like this occurring of a company coming in and doing exploratory drilling? I'd be hard pressed to come up with the worst one. Frankly, it just would be. And so this is problematic for a whole host of reasons. One, we know, based on where these boreholes are being drilled, that they're within extremely close proximity to springs in the northern part of the refuge that sustain multiple endangered species. Now, I should probably talk about what Ash Meadows is first before we go any further. It's a 24,000 acre wildlife refuge.
**0:03:10** - (Mason Voehl): It's made up of about 30 perennial springs and seeps and slews. It's fed by ancient groundwater ferried by the Amargosa River coming from the north and snow melt coming off of the Spring Mountains to the east. It is the considered the largest oasis in the Mojave Desert, home to at least 25 species that exist nowhere else on the planet. They've adapted exclusively to the wetland and riparian habitats present within Ashwood Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Twelve of those species are already listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act because they live in a really precarious world where they are surrounded on all sides by the heat and broil of the Mojave Desert, which we're certainly experiencing right now in July.
**0:03:52** - (Mason Voehl): These are relic species that have adapted to these microclimates found out in the Mojave Desert, and they are all radically, fundamentally existentially dependent on groundwater for their survival. And Ash Meadows has a really long history of folks. It only exists because a lot of people recognized early on, back in the 70s, that this place had tremendous biological diversity importance, not only just on a regional scale, but on a global scale. Ash Meadows is actually one of the only four wetlands in the United States that are designated as a ramsar site, a ramsar wetland.
**0:04:26** - (Mason Voehl): It's a very rare distinction and it's considered to have the highest rate of endemism in the United States and the second highest in North America, from what I believe. So this situation we're dealing with, in which we have a company coming in, drilling exploratory holes in a watershed that is notoriously complex, and that based on, well, data that we have within close vicinity to these borehole sites. We know the water table here is quite shallow. In fact, we have reason to believe that the carbonate aquifer that feeds these springs in the refuge might be as shallow as 200 to 300ft in depth.
**0:05:01** - (Mason Voehl): So for a company to come in and start poking holes with the prospect of altering hydrological flows that sustain the springs and the refuge, it's as scary as it gets, frankly, it is. And it's only possible because of the mining law and the regulatory laws on the Nevada side of the watershed. So it sounds like I can say, yeah, go for it.
**0:05:19** - (Chris Clarke): So to drill for core samples, where's the harm there?
**0:05:25** - (Mason Voehl): Yeah, there's a wide spectrum of possibilities here. Let's talk about the worst case scenario. Worst case scenario is they start drilling these holes to that depth of 200 and 5300ft. They could, in theory, puncture the aquifer, the deep carbonated aquifer that sustains the springs and the refuge, and that could cause a catastrophic dewatering event. This has actually happened all around the world. There are analgo situations like this. There's a situation just 50 miles south that I'll talk about in a moment. But what could happen is if they were to hit a pocket of groundwater under, under pressure, that could cause water to essentially be removed from that flow and potentially cause a surface expression. Shallow pond it would basically puncture.
**0:06:05** - (Mason Voehl): It would pop the balloon, so to speak, and would permanently change the way in which groundwater flows in this area. That's the worst case scenario that we have envisioned. And some of these boreholes are within 1500ft of fairbank spring, which supports multiple endangered species of fish. And so it's not a stretch to imagine that if there was a massive dewatering event, an uncontrollable artesian flow is how we would refer to it in that vicinity. It could permanently change the conditions of fairbank spring and lead to immediate harm to those species. That's our worst case scenario. And frankly, it only takes one of these 30 boreholes to go really wrong for an event like that to occur.
**0:06:43** - (Mason Voehl): And that could have cascading impacts through the entire refuge on how that groundwater is filtered through the various spring slews. The whole kind of riparian wetland habitat could be compromised as a result of that change. Now, I mentioned there's an example of this. Not far, not far away, just outside of tacopa, California, is a place called borehole spring. And borehole spring is well named. It is not a natural spring. It was made artificially and accidentally when the Staufer chemical company back in the 1960s was doing exploratory drilling. They drilled a hole down to about 350ft and they hit a pocket of ground, wander under pressure, water at 160 degrees fahrenheit comes spilling out of the ground.
**0:07:26** - (Mason Voehl): They, over a period of years, poured over 10,000 cubic yards of cement and silt and gravel to try to stem the flow of that artesian flow and were unsuccessful. It is still flowing to this day and has caused a significant change to the hydrology in that area, including the drying up of several adjacent springs that were productive as little as 60 years ago and immediately have experienced declines in discharge.
**0:07:52** - (Mason Voehl): So that is very close at hand. We have an example close at hand of what could happen if a borehole goes wrong. And that's why we absolutely have to engage at this stage of the exploration, because we feel like the risk is simply not worth what the company is trying to gain from prospecting in this area. Of course, there's a future connected action here which exploratory drilling tends to lead to mining.
**0:08:14** - (Mason Voehl): This could become an open pit mine directly adjacent to this exceptionally important biological diversity area. And these things feel incompatible to us because of the risk it poses to the groundwater resource.
**0:08:28** - (Alicia Pike): So can you explain to us, if this is such a critical wildlife refuge, where are the protections for it?
**0:08:35** - (Mason Voehl): Yeah, I mean, it's part and parcel of our public land system in which we have a tendency to draw artificial boundaries that we think best encapsulate a particular area. And in this case, the boundary that surrounds the refuge is important. It gives the refuge a certain amount of protection, but the groundwater that sustains it is coming from beyond its boundaries. And so really, there are a number of restrictions in this area regarding groundwater pumping.
**0:09:03** - (Mason Voehl): Folks may be familiar with the devil's hole or devil's hole pupfish, which lives in habitat that is within the refuge, but it's in a disjunct part of Death Valley National park that's completely surrounded by the refuge. But it's home to the most rare and endangered species of fish on the planet, one of the early species listed as endangered. And that has resulted in a number of important protections, specifically surrounding how groundwater is managed in this basin.
**0:09:29** - (Mason Voehl): So we have serious concerns about how, if it's even possible for an open pit mine to be developed in this area, given the restrictions that this Devil's Hole produces. As a result of the Nevada SA, engineers essentially mandated to maintain a certain amount of water in the Devil's Hole to prevent the extinction of the Devil's Hole pupfish. So we have a lot of questions around where the company thinks they're going to get their groundwater from, given the close proximity of this project to the Devil's Hole. Now, that being said, the exploration stage is excluded from those considerations because they're not pumping groundwater, they're drilling holes where the company has acknowledged that at every single of their 30 boreholes, they're going to intersect groundwater.
**0:10:07** - (Mason Voehl): So they basically are presenting a project that doesn't quite rise to the level of needing strong intervention from the Nevada state engineer, because they're not yet pumping groundwater, which is what the state engineer regulates. So this is in some ways, what I think what we're seeing in this conflict is a better part of a century of outdated policy that is now being stressed against this bigger context that we're all trying to live within this imminent need to transition to a decarbonized energy economy and wean ourselves off of our fossil fuels addiction.
**0:10:41** - (Mason Voehl): But we're going about it in a way that feels reckless and haphazard based on, again, the perceived impact it could have to the biodiversity in this region.
**0:10:51** - (Alicia Pike): This is definitely something we wanted you to expound on, is the paradox of trying to shift to a green way of producing energy when it seems like we're putting the most critical intact habitats on the chopping block in an effort to do that. And it just seems like we're replacing one bad habit with another in the name of trying to do better. And I think that conversation is really hard because even environmentalists, we want to move this ball forward.
**0:11:24** - (Alicia Pike): But how do we convince those who have invested in lithium mining that maybe this isn't the silver bullet, that maybe we need to look at some other options?
**0:11:33** - (Mason Voehl): Yeah, and honestly, Nevada is, I think, the epicenter of that question right now. We have other situations unfolding in Nevada involving proposed or active lithium extraction that have sparked this divide in the environmental community. There's two different arguments I could put forward, but for why this situation feels different. The first is based on what's being proposed here and again based on strictly looking at the potential impacts to groundwater.
**0:12:00** - (Mason Voehl): It really doesn't matter what the mineral is. In this case, it could be lithium, it could be cobalt, could be nickel, could be kryptonite, you name it. We just feel that the mining activity is simply too close to the refuge and it poses too great of a threat to the groundwater resources. For us, it's quite simple. We can compartmentalize it in that way of saying it doesn't. Regardless of what the mineral is or the end use of that mineral is, we have to analyze the potential impacts of any kind of activity involving drilling and mechanized earth moving and industrial equipment this close to an area of extremely sensitive and fragile habitat.
**0:12:32** - (Mason Voehl): So that's like the first argument I would offer. I think the second argument lives a little bit more in the real world, where I think we're at the point of having to recognize that clearly this administration has set out for itself a priority to create that domestic supply chain of lithium in order to help our US. Energy economy make this transition. And clearly I think that is having an effect on how the federal agencies are handling these situations. I believe they're under a tremendous amount of pressure to find ways to streamline and not put up too much friction in the way of us getting projects moving.
**0:13:09** - (Mason Voehl): And so I think that is having an effect in this case. We should probably just be sober minded about that. And I would say, of course, this is all of us, I think, in the environmental community, recognize that lithium is important, that this transition does need to happen. It does need to happen quickly. It probably should have happened two to three decades ago. And that is going to require a certain amount of new extraction and domestic extraction in places like Nevada that are wealthy in that mineral.
**0:13:33** - (Mason Voehl): However, I think where this situation crosses a line for us is it's simply like we have to be able to say where we're willing to see that extraction take place at that pace and where we're simply not. There have to be certain areas that we're just simply, all of us agree are out of bounds that we're just not even going to consider as risk as being worth the risk in light of what this lithium is intended to accomplish.
**0:13:59** - (Mason Voehl): And that's where, again, if you put a map in front of me and ask me to identify those places, I think actually a lot of people would say a place like Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, this has to be out of bounds. We have to look at the value that already exists there and accept that whatever we're trying to gain from the lithium in terms of our transition is not going to be worth the cost if we get this wrong. So we have to be smart about this, and I think we're going to have to be okay with extraction happening in some places that maybe are non ideal, but there's a certain category of places that simply have to be out of bounds, and ash meadows is one.
**0:14:32** - (Alicia Pike): Of mentioned endemics endangered species being present in the area. And you also mentioned groundwater depletion. What other side effects could we expect if those boreholes turned into a real mining project?
**0:14:47** - (Mason Voehl): So within the exploration area is a very prominent butte that's about 1700ft away from fairbanks spring, and we've been calling it fairbanks butte for that reason. I've climbed to the top of this butte to look out over the refuge, which is quite the vista. It's only about 70 or 80ft of vertical, but it allows you to look over the entire spans of the refuge. That butte is also quite visible from virtually every corner of the refuge, including at the visitor center.
**0:15:13** - (Mason Voehl): And so for me, the last few weeks, I've been driving around the refuge, going to the visitor center even, and wondering how my experience of this place would change if on the horizon, I could potentially see and hear industrial mining equipment working around the clock. It just seems completely at ODS with the experience that they're trying to preserve in places like ash meadows. It's a literal oasis. We go there for peace. We go there to escape the sounds of our urban world to some extent.
**0:15:44** - (Mason Voehl): And so it is, I think, beyond the potential impacts of the groundwater, to see that kind of activity happening in such close proximity that is going to affect the experience of walking on the trails. It's going to affect the experience of visiting fairbank spring. Right now, you can park your car and walk literally 40ft and sit next to the edge of fairbank spring and peer into this pool that is home to several species of fish you're not going to see anywhere else. And in fact, the idea that you can walk up and see fish in the mojave desert still blows my mind.
**0:16:13** - (Mason Voehl): But to imagine that experience being permanently changed by knowing that directly across the literally across the road, you could be hearing and seeing industrial mining equipment. There's going to be blowing dust, there's going to be noise, there's going to be vibration. It's never going to be the same. And so for me, that, for me, is the personal investment I have in this campaign. And this work generally is trying to preserve that experience for other people because, frankly, it's miraculous that it exists at all in this area. Ash meadows almost wasn't, I think, those that aren't familiar with the story. There was a lot of folks recognized back in the 70s when a company came in and wanted to develop this into the next desert metropolis. That was just simply unacceptable. And it took a huge coalition of folks, the local community, federal agencies, especially the nature conservancy, they're really the heroes of that story to come in and say, this needs to be set aside for a different purpose.
**0:17:06** - (Mason Voehl): And so it's serendipitous in a way that it's the 50th anniversary of the Nature Conservancy making their first acquisition of Big Spring, which is one of the largest springs in the refuge, and it's also the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. It just feels that history is so in our face right now. That legacy, that conservation legacy that has made places like Fairbank Spring still accessible to the public and has preserved it in a condition that is stunning.
**0:17:32** - (Mason Voehl): It just feels like we all have an obligation to recognize that history and to be a part of it right now. So that's the motivation that I imbibe in my visits to Fairbank Spring. I spend a lot of time just sitting at these pools, considering how these pools have endured the decades of projects like this that have never been able to make a dent. And so it feels this is not a good time for us to change that.
**0:17:55** - (Chris Clarke): So what's the timeline like from here?
**0:17:57** - (Mason Voehl): What's the road ahead?
**0:17:58** - (Chris Clarke): Presumably a really good fix for projects like this and any other kind of problematic mining project would be to reform the 19th century mining law. But that's one of those things that people talk about doing, and there's just never the political ability to do it. And I will disclose here that I already know the answer to this. I'm on the board of the Amargosa Conservancy, which employs Mason as executive director. But not everybody does know this stuff. And so where do we go from here in fighting this?
**0:18:33** - (Mason Voehl): Absolutely. To answer that question, bear with me for just a moment while I explain the regulatory status of this project. At present, due to the way the mining laws and the regulations work within the BLM, there is currently no opportunity for the public to engage in this project, to provide public comment, to participate in scoping. This kind of project doesn't trigger NEPA. According to the BLM, they're maintaining they have no discretion at this point to put this project through a more robust environmental analysis and to give the public.
**0:19:05** - (Chris Clarke): A chance to be the National Environmental Policy Act.
**0:19:08** - (Mason Voehl): Absolutely. And I don't know if anyone's more familiar with that than Chris is. Plenty of people. But what NEPA does, right. NEPA does two things. It gives the public a chance to be made aware of projects like this and then gives them a chance to participate in the process. And so it's about transparency and about democracy. And right now, the public doesn't have that opportunity. So we have been working diligently the last month to just put this project on the radar of folks, make the local communities aware of it, who have had no communication from either the BLM or from Rover Metals regarding this project.
**0:19:41** - (Mason Voehl): That was our kind of first priority, was just making folks aware, and then it was to give them a chance to express their concerns over it. So the Amargos Conservancy created a public petition that is still online, that can still be signed onto, giving the public a chance to express their concerns over this project and their desire to see the BLM delay this project and to conduct environmental analysis for it. So that petition is online on our email@example.com.
**0:20:09** - (Mason Voehl): We were hoping to do more through public pressure. We were hoping we had time to raise enough of a noise about this issue that the BLM took notice and said, we need to treat this differently. Clearly, there's widespread concern over what's happening over this project, and maybe we should slow this down. Unfortunately, we're out of time. The company has paid their reclamation bond, as we understand it, which means that they have the green light to commence drilling. And we have it on good faith, based on information that we've received, that they intend to do that as soon as July 17.
**0:20:41** - (Mason Voehl): That's currently eight days from now that we're talking. So the clock is running out, and unfortunately, that means that my organization has taken an unprecedented step in its history, which is signing on to litigation against the BLM. In this case. What we're hoping to do is simply delay this project enough to where we can see NEPA conducted, giving the public a chance to be informed, giving the public a chance to participate in the process, and ideally, seeing consultation conducted with the Fish and Wildlife Service who manages the refuge. It's important to me that they have a chance to speak to the potential impacts that they could be dealing with in the refuge as a result of this project on adjacent lands.
**0:21:22** - (Mason Voehl): So our backs are up against it, and we are doing everything in our power through both the court of public opinion and the court court to see if we can slow this project down enough to prevent the unnecessary destruction that it has. The risk of incurring.
**0:21:37** - (Alicia Pike): It just seems so I'm not in the conservation world, so that's the beauty of my perspective.
**0:21:42** - (Chris Clarke): Yes, you are.
**0:21:43** - (Alicia Pike): Yeah, here we are. Yeah, I got you. But it just seems so crazy to me that something could be overlooked, like drilling these boreholes when we have examples like Borehole Springs that not just in our country, but across the world, how is something like that overlooked when it comes to protections? How is that a green light issue? Is that something that needs to be rewritten? How do we address that for future projects?
**0:22:07** - (Mason Voehl): I think you're asking all the right questions. I think it's a question that all of us have been dealing with for our whole careers in this space. Mine's been very short. Chris has been dealing with it a lot longer than I have. But again, I think what we're reckoning with the sort of shortcomings of a system that has maybe it worked at one point, but it feels like the world has changed since these regulations and these laws were put in place.
**0:22:31** - (Mason Voehl): And I would like to see the laws change with us. I don't know how that's going to happen, but I think it requires us, at minimum, in situations like this, where we see a project that feels egregious, that frankly, I've not met a single person yet who has been willing to take the other side of this debate and saying, does this exploration really seem like a big deal? Are the impacts really that bad? Is it really too close?
**0:22:54** - (Mason Voehl): I think it's so obvious that this is not suited to the public's interest in this area. And so I think we've got a really strong case here. We've got a long fight ahead of us, but I think we start with making change on the macro level by making sure that we can bring these issues to light in a very tangible way on the ground. And it's issues like this that crystallize why that's important. We can see the stakes are really real.
**0:23:20** - (Mason Voehl): And so I think if we can be successful on the ground in these cases of not allowing these ill cited projects to move forward, that may someday lead to the change we need to see in the policy.
**0:23:31** - (Chris Clarke): We've heard a lot about Tiehm's Buckwheat in the last couple of years in connection with lithium in Nevada and mining, and just a morning's long drive away from Ash Meadows place called Rhyolite Ridge, where there's a lithium mine and a buckwheat species that occurs nowhere else in the world. And people have pretty much agreed that this is not a good place to mine lithium. Even the really diehard climate activists who are like, Climate, trumps everything else.
**0:24:01** - (Chris Clarke): So that's one species which is now protected, but it wasn't when it was first found, and Ash Meadows has, you said how many species?
**0:24:13** - (Mason Voehl): Two dozen, at least 25 that we know of.
**0:24:16** - (Chris Clarke): So if you're opposed to the Rhyolite Ridge Mine damaging the Team's Buckwheat population of the entire planet, you should be 25 times as upset about this lithium mining project.
**0:24:28** - (Mason Voehl): Absolutely. A lot of credit is due to the advocates that have worked on that Tiehm's Buckwheat campaign to take this, what is really an extremely obscure species, living in one of the most remote ranges in Nevada, which is saying something. We've got a lot of remote ranges, and they were able to put this species on the public's radar sufficiently to get it protected, and I think to garner support for their campaign against this mining project.
**0:24:55** - (Mason Voehl): I borrow a lot of hope from that because if they were able to do that with Tiehm's Buckwheat having to first establish what Teams Buckwheat is, we already have Ash Meadows. We already know what's there, and it's already locally, regionally, nationally, internationally known and beloved. So I think in this case, what's been really heartening to me is see the outpouring of support coming from all corners of the network I'm a part of, because people recognize that this is different the situation is of a different magnitude because Ash Meadows is one of the most unusual, unique, improbable landscapes on Earth. So, again, it just feels like at the end of the day, if we're willing to see mining occur here, given the risks it poses to that landscape, it's going to set a precedent. It's going to send a signal saying, maybe we're willing to mine anywhere.
**0:25:43** - (Mason Voehl): And that's a really scary thought. So I think this is a line in the sand that we really need to hold because it will set a precedent elsewhere, and not only in Nevada, but elsewhere. It will reveal how strong our appetite is for the lithium over and against our other interests in value.
**0:25:59** - (Alicia Pike): So what's the call to action that we can do? Because you mentioned earlier that there is a petition online, but you also mentioned that the public at this point is essentially excluded from the process. So what can the average person do?
**0:26:14** - (Chris Clarke): And we will link to the petition in the show notes, but we can provide links to other things as well.
**0:26:21** - (Alicia Pike): I'm ready to go out there on the 17th and just be waiting.
**0:26:27** - (Mason Voehl): Yeah. I think for folks that aren't local to the area, that petition does matter. I think if we can show that there's a groundswell of support, show that there is robust local, regional, national, community concern over this, that has the potential to turn some heads, it shows that we have put this situation on folks radar and that they clearly want to see the process changed to give them a chance to participate in it. So that petition does matter. And I think if we can continue to grow that petition, continue to put that in front of senior leadership within the Department of Interior, we don't know what impact it could take, but I think it's worth us taking the chance so that's the first way folks can help us. It takes less than 30 seconds. It's just adding your name, your contact information, and then you can add a short blurb about what this place means to you, what Ash Meadows means to you. That goes a long way. People do read those, and personally, I read them when they come in, and it's heartening for me. So you do it for no other reason than I enjoy reading people's blurbs about why they love folks.
**0:27:27** - (Chris Clarke): He's got a lot of work to do.
**0:27:28** - (Mason Voehl): Well, it matters. Yeah, absolutely. That's the first way. I think the next eight days are going to be really revelatory. We're going to see how durable our case is in this situation. I think we need to be prepared come July 17 for anything. And I think a showing of support on the ground on that day, of folks that are concerned, that are committed to at least kind of seeing how things play out on the ground, maybe folks that are willing to do informal monitoring just to ensure that. We know what's happening as a result of the activities that take place. Again, I almost can't let myself think about that as a possibility. We have to be ready for it. And I think that's something that I'm committed to, being there on that day. And again, I think the more folks that show up and can demonstrate that there is concern about this, I think that could be a powerful message as well.
**0:28:20** - (Alicia Pike): So I just can't help but want to play devil's advocate here. You described our worst case scenario and you know the mining company is going to say you environmentalists always draw out the worst case scenario. What's the best case scenario if they do start dropping them more holes in on the 17th?
**0:28:37** - (Mason Voehl): In this case, I think we're almost kind of lucky because this company happens to be a pretty small one. And the way the mining industry tends to work is you get these small companies that go out, they get claims established that do their core sampling. They get to advertise these prodigious amounts of whatever mineral they're after, and of course, in this case, lithium. And then they get to try to reel in a much bigger fish.
**0:28:58** - (Mason Voehl): And so even in the best case scenario, let's say they do their drilling 30 holes, somehow they avoid puncturing the Aquifer in a catastrophic way. It's still going to permanently change the area. It'll never be the same. Reclamation is not restoration. So this area that right now shows very little signs of human activity is going to be permanently changed. That alone would be a sufficient loss for me.
**0:29:20** - (Mason Voehl): But then they get to go and try to rail in a much bigger fish. A company with much bigger resources, with more capital, with more energy to expend that is then looking to develop this into an open pit mine. And I think if we let that door swing open, it's going to be really hard to close it. For me, I think we have a really, I think, unique opportunity right now based on where we're at in this process.
**0:29:43** - (Mason Voehl): If we can loudly and firmly demonstrate the community is simply not interested in seeing this project move forward, we have a shot. I think we have a shot at keeping this the way it is, at least for the time being. But I think it's going to require all of us, and especially us right now, working on the ground to be really diligent about trying to send that message as strongly as we can.
**0:30:00** - (Alicia Pike): You can count on us to be there.
**0:30:03** - (Mason Voehl): Another way that folks can help us is to support my organization, the Amargosa Conservancy. We're a small organization. It's me and ten fantastic volunteers that are my board of directors, who I count on week in, week out for advice and work and wisdom. But we're a small organization with a really big job ahead of us. This is going to be no matter how this shakes out. I think that we're in for a long fight. So you can make a difference by supporting my organization through a donation. I mean, your money, I promise, goes a lot farther with the AC than it does with the many other organizations. And again, we need it now more than ever just to be able to fully engage in this process of doing the organizing and being able to take every opportunity we have to elevate the message and the status of this project.
**0:30:50** - (Mason Voehl): You can help us do that by making a donation at amargosaconservancy.org.
**0:30:55** - (Chris Clarke): Mason, thanks for taking time out from your weekend to talk to us.
**0:30:59** - (Mason Voehl): Thanks for having me on and for letting me speak about this. And wish luck, everybody that you got.
**0:31:05** - (Chris Clarke): Mason Voehl, executive director of the Amargosa Conservancy, a wonderful organization that I'm on the board of because I believe in it and what it's doing and working to defend a beautiful place.
**0:31:16** - (Alicia Pike): Thanks, Mason.
**0:31:17** - (Mason Voehl): Thank you both.
**0:31:17** - (Alicia Pike): Bye.
**0:31:23** - (Chris Clarke): Well, that's another episode. We are grateful to you for checking us out and tuning in. We are also grateful to Mason Voehl and to the Amargosa Conservancy for doing the work that they're doing, or should I say that we are doing. Since I'm on the board, this is a really crucial issue. It's one of the scariest threats I've seen come into the desert in quite some time. And it's basically all hands on deck at this point. We really need to stand up and keep this from happening to Ash Meadows, which is an amazing place that I get to show my co host in a few days. We're very excited about that.
**0:32:01** - (Alicia Pike): We're not excited to have to go out there for this reason, but I am very excited to go see the Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge.
**0:32:07** - (Chris Clarke): It is an amazing place and to defend it. Like Mason said, the Amargosa Conservancy is going to need some support in the political sense by going to sign that petition at amargosaconservancy.org. And also in the financial sense, it's just a really important place to put some resources. You know, there's always a ton of money in destroying the desert. It makes you so much money to go in with a bulldozer and wipe out an ecosystem. Defending that ecosystem and protecting it is not nearly as rewarding financially.
**0:32:42** - (Chris Clarke): It's way more rewarding spiritually. When it comes to fighting against the people that wanted to spoil the desert for profit, they have that advantage. So it's really important for us to sign up and support the folks that are working to protect the desert and to share some of your scant surplus dollars with them, because it really only.
**0:33:05** - (Alicia Pike): Takes a little bit. Every generous donation is noticed and helps them fight the good fight, whether it's the dollar or $20. It's other organizations have said, we notice every 20 or $30 donation that comes in. Don't think that any bit is too little.
**0:33:21** - (Chris Clarke): And in fact, we know very well, what it's like to have one or a $2 donation come in? Those dollars make a difference. Money is very helpful. And to that end, we have some folks to thank who signed up to help us get the word out about Ash Meadows and a lot of other really important places in the desert. And they are do you want to start or should I start? I'll start. Because Jillian Sandel is at the top of the list and she's a good friend, former neighbor. I'm very pleased that she likes what we're doing here.
**0:33:56** - (Alicia Pike): Thank you, Jillian. Oh, we're just going to go.
**0:34:01** - (Chris Clarke): Yeah, let's alternate.
**0:34:03** - (Alicia Pike): Beth, like Cher. Beth does not need a last name. Beth, thank you for your contribution.
**0:34:12** - (Chris Clarke): I was thinking Shakira, actually, but yes,
**0:34:16** - (Alicia Pike): Shakira works. We like her as well!
**0:34:17** - (Chris Clarke): Daniel Southard, thank you so much for joining us on our patreon site. I hope you like what you hear.
**0:34:25** - (Alicia Pike): Shelby Logue. Shelby Logue. Hopefully I said your name correctly. Your donation is so appreciated.
**0:34:32** - (Chris Clarke): Robert Bagel, who has been coming through with individual donations that are fairly hefty and it's a lovely thing. And Robert's a local, lives here in Yucca Valley, California.
**0:34:43** - (Alicia Pike): Awesome, Robert. Kate Short. Thank you, darling. Thank you. Thank you.
**0:34:49** - (Chris Clarke): Neil Matouka, my NPCA friend. Just really glad to see your name on this list and thank you.
**0:34:58** - (Alicia Pike): Shannon Salter. Thank you so much.
**0:35:01** - (Chris Clarke): Shannon another good friend. Shannon is one of the people that has been protecting the desert in Nevada for quite some time, working on the ill advised solar fields up there near Pahrump, not too far from Death Valley. So we appreciate her a lot.
**0:35:19** - (Chris Clarke): Tara Terry. Thank you. Loved your email recently and just really love the enthusiasm of our listeners. It's so great.
**0:35:28** - (Alicia Pike): Heather Gang. Thank you. Thank you.
**0:35:31** - (Chris Clarke): Thank you, Laura. And now it's my turn to be unsure about how to pronounce things. Laura Huenneke. Thank you,
**0:35:42** - (Alicia Pike): Christina Aiello. Thank you, Christina.
**0:35:45** - (Chris Clarke): Christina is a kick ass bighorn sheep biologist. She has been doing amazing work documenting the lives of our cousins in the sheep community.
**0:35:55** - (Alicia Pike): We are so glad to hear you enjoyed your stay in Wonder Valley.
**0:35:59** - (Chris Clarke): Charles George, thank you for your generous donation. It was really wonderful.
**0:36:05** - (Alicia Pike): Captain Atlas, thank you for your donation.
**0:36:09** - (Chris Clarke): If that is your real name. And Patricia Grogan, who I think we've had on this list before, but she's here again, so thank you.
**0:36:17** - (Alicia Pike): In good company with a duplicate name.
**0:36:20** - (Chris Clarke): Thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot as we navigate the treacherous waters of becoming a nonprofit. The support that you folks show us is just really affirming and validating and rewarding and we have extremely high ambitions for this podcast. We have some great episodes coming up and we're not sure what order they're going to come to you in, but we have a few of them coming together all at once and we're just going to have to pick out which one comes first, but we'll let you know about that. And in the meantime, please spread the word about Ash Meadows and the threats it's facing.
**0:36:58** - (Chris Clarke): Your help on social media is so important. Getting this stuff out. Share this episode. Go to Amargosaconservancy.org and share what they've got there for social media. This is an emergency, folks, and we really appreciate you taking part in the campaign to save Ash Meadows.
**0:37:15** - (Alicia Pike): Save Ash Meadows. It's worth it.
**0:37:19** - (Chris Clarke): Let's go, pupfish.
**0:37:22** - (Alicia Pike): Team Pupfish. Are we signing off?
**0:37:26** - (Chris Clarke): I believe we're signing off.
**0:37:27** - (Alicia Pike): That was another heartbreakingly wonderful episode. We look forward to seeing you on the next one.
**0:37:34** - (Chris Clarke): Until next time!
**0:37:38** - (Alicia Pike): We'll see you on the trail.