The Green Blog
Jill Meyer DeStefano, California State/Long Beach - Delta Alpha, environmental advocate, works to preserve natural state of desert ecosystem

Pink Goes Green salutes Jill Meyer DeStefano, California State/Long Beach - Delta Alpha 1974, a tireless environmental advocate and volunteer who is working to preserve the natural state of Tule Springs in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Tule Springs is a significant desert ecosystem consisting of a series of small lakes that formed an oasis in this part of the Mojave Desert. Jill has taken on a campaign to make the area near her home a new national monument, managed by the National Park Service.

Update, December 12, 2014: Senate approves new national monument at edge of Las Vegas
Read the article here.

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"I looked around and couldn't believe that this entire area had been mapped for more and more homes," says Jill. "When I found out that future streets in this area had been named, I said 'Whoa, wait a minute! We're going to allow developers to build over thousands of years of history?'"

Soon, Jill and other concerned citizens in Tule Springs may finally see that history preserved. NPCA expects Congress to introduce legislation very soon that would make a 23,000-acre swathe on the outskirts of Las Vegas our nation's newest national monument. What's almost as amazing as the rich history of this site is how Jill has helped it all come together.

After Jill learned about the danger to her fossil-rich surroundings, she began rallying her neighbors and organized a citizens' group called Protectors of Tule Springs. We asked Jill more about her work and how Pink Goes Green followers can preserve and protect areas in their own communities.

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PGG: How were you inspired to try and make a difference to save the land and precious geological and environmental history in Tule Springs?

Jill: When I moved to Las Vegas in July 2006, I assumed the beautiful hills at the base of the mountains that I saw from my new home would have houses on them someday. A month later, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) came to my community and talked to us about the immense Ice Age fossil resources on the land between our development and the mountains. Five of us formed Protectors of Tule Springs because we could not imagine this area lost to future generations.

PGG: Did you ever think it would be too difficult to take on the developers and large energy company who threatened the area?

Jill: I was very naive. After hearing about 500 fossil sites laying on the surface of the land, I thought that this was an obvious "save the land" effort. I felt that when the public and developers saw the importance of Tule Springs, they would jump on board to save it. The public did embrace our efforts, the housing bubble popped (so the developers went away), but the energy company has still not given up.

PGG: How did you gain support for your cause? And who supported it?

Jill: In early 2007, I drafted a one page flyer to show elected officials our vision of a Tule Springs Ice Age Park -- an example of what this area could look like as an additional tourist attraction in Las Vegas. Over the next year, I met with the Mayors of the City of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, many County Commissioners and the staffs of our U.S. Senate and Congress. Finally we were able to present to Senator Harry Reid and Congresswoman Shelley Levine Berkley, Nevada/Las Vegas - Iota Phi 1970, in person. Everyone at that time was interested but not sure if the idea would ever take hold. But, we persisted. We appeared at Earth Day events and science festivals, gathering 10,000 public signatures in six months. That got the elected officials' attention.

In 2008, I met with the officials at Nellis Air Force Base to discuss protecting their base from further development, as the Tule Springs wash area is a security corridor. Every Air Force pilot trains out of Nellis Air Force Base before deploying overseas.

In April of 2009, a National Park Service paleontologist spent two days touring Tule Springs and issued a report which stated that "it is one of the most significant ice age fossil sites in the U.S. and possibly globally significant."

In November of 2009, both cities, the County Commission, and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe (they have adjacent acreage) voted unanimously to make Tule Springs a National Monument managed by the National Park Service. Then the Congressional Delegation came on board. We are still waiting for Nevada's Congressional Delegation to introduce the bill.

PGG: How would you say your Delta Zeta experience inspired you to enrich the world?

Jill: My experience as a Delta Zeta taught me to be organized -- with my time, in my thoughts, and in my relationships with a great number of people. I learned about speaking in public, to a variety of people, and how to respect differing beliefs and opinions on a subject. As President of my collegiate chapter, Delta Alpha, I learned how to bring a group together toward a common goal. Now, I do that every day, not only in the effort to create a national monument, but in my teaching career as well.

PGG: Have you always been mindful of stewardship of the Earth? If not, when and how did you learn to appreciate our planet and its resources?

Jill: I would have to say that I have always been an animal lover and a nature lover. My parents were not campers, but I got to go with friends many times. I was always the one trying to conserve on electricity and water in the family.

As an adult I have visited over 80 National Park-managed sites and love our unique natural resources and U.S. historical areas.

PGG: Your campaign to preserve Tule Springs has been tireless. Please tell us what you do in this volunteer effort.

Jill: During the first three years, I worked as many hours as I would have at a full-time job: creating PowerPoint presentations, literature to pass out, organizing walks, and meeting with numerous citizen and civic groups, as well as elected officials. Since the National Parks Conservation Association came in to help us, and since I went to work as a special education teacher, I spend countless nights and weekends keeping all of the parties interested and moving forward.

PGG: You are also working on renewable energy issues in the state of Nevada. What would surprise people about renewable energy that you would like them to consider?

Jill: I have learned a great deal regarding renewable energy transmission and its costs to the current rate payers in an area. While I feel our country must move toward renewable energy from solar, wind, geothermal and other sources, it is very expensive at this point in time. This problem is magnified in that in order to get the energy to a city, massive transmission lines must be built. Those often need to go through sensitive biological or paleontological areas such as ours. There seems to be a major problem. I am hopeful that solar and other renewable products will become more affordable to the general public, so that we can all have solar on our roofs (especially in sunny areas such as the Southwest). I think every business in Las Vegas should have solar on site. That way the hundreds of miles of transmission lines (and the cost associated with that) would not be needed.

PGG: Many people think they have to be a scientist or an expert on environmental problems or research to make a significant difference in preserving the environment. What advice would you give to others who want to help the environment?

Jill: Everyone has a role in protecting the environment. Simple things like recycling, taking shorter showers, turning up the thermostat in the summer, changing your old light bulbs, or disposing of batteries correctly are just a few ways to be involved in the environment. But every community has an amazing piece of history that needs your help to be saved. Find that thing that you are passionate about. Where is that wrong being committed that you can help make right? That is what community activism is about. Unfortunately, as the economy worsens, more needs to be done and volunteers are always welcomed.

You can read Jill's story on the National Parks Conservation Association’s blog here. The Association's mission is to protect and enhance America’s National Park System for present and future generations.


Update: Jill gave Pink Goes Green this update on her work: On June 27, 2012, Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller introduced the Las Vegas Valley Public Land and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument Act of 2012 (S3346). It was introduced in the House on June 29, 2012 (HR6072). It now goes to Committee in September and then hopefully passed by the end of 2012. So, we are one step closer.