When some people look at the Mojave Desert, they see a vast expanse of nothing. But Shannon Salter sees ancient Mojave yuccas and wispy creosote bushes, shrewd kangaroo rats and slender foxes, all living atop a hard-packed crust of rock and lichen formed over thousands of years.

“There’s this idea that it’s a wasteland,” Salter said. “No, it’s a vibrant, amazing thing. We are turning it into a wasteland with all of our antics.”

In mid-October, Salter, a 37-year-old poet and writing teacher, moved into a campsite in the Pahrump Valley — just east of the California border in southern Nevada — to protest a solar project that she and other activists argue will irreparably damage the fragile desert ecosystem.