New Public Land Plan Gives California Desert Wildlife a Brighter Future

(Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife)

September 14,2016

The first phase of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan protects millions of acres of California desert while directing renewable energy projects away from sensitive wildlife habitat.

For the iconic desert tortoise, today probably seems the same as yesterday. In the cool of the morning, tortoises emerge from their underground burrows, slowly venturing out into the desert in search of food. They are particularly fond of the fruit of the prickly pear. As the day heats up, they return to their burrows to wait out the hot sun.

But today is no ordinary day in the California desert. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel just finalized the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), protecting millions of acres of public lands in the California desert, and the wildlife that call them home. This plan identifies lands that are suitable for renewable energy development, away from public lands that are valuable to wildlife, and protects an area that encompasses the largest intact desert landscape in the United States.

Due to the spread of a respiratory disease and an extreme loss of habitat due to development, off-highway vehicles and grazing, desert tortoises are barely surviving. As healthy habitat is lost, and climate change alters the environment they have been so long adapted to, these and other animals struggle to find food, water, and shelter. But now these ancient desert denizens and other wildlife will have protections necessary to adapt to a changing climate. Today represents a turning point in conservation in the California desert.

Ivanpah project, ©Krista Schlyer

It Was a Tough Start

Eight years ago, battles in this area over where to develop massive renewable energy projects raged on. Some energy companies chose to place their enormous industrial scale projects on valuable wildlife habitat, threatening the survival of some of the most iconic desert species.

Knowing there was a way to plan for renewable energy while still protecting the most important parts of the desert, we urged these companies, the conservation community, the federal government and the state of California to work together on developing renewable energy projects that would avoid harm to wildlife and their habitat.

A Victory for All in the End

Before this plan was put into place, there were 3.25 million acres of permanently protected lands within the area of the California desert covered by the DRECP. This sounds like a lot, but compared against what wildlife need to survive into the future, it wasn’t enough. The DRECP adds millions more acres of conservation lands, including the Silurian Valley and Chuckwalla Bench as National Conservation Lands, and the Pisgah Valley as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. All told, the DRECP protects and conserves more land than the entire state of Massachusetts.

Desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, golden eagles, desert kit foxes, a myriad of lizards, snakes and other reptiles as well as unique desert plants like the eerily recognizable Joshua tree benefit from this conservation plan. Large portions of their habitats are now protected from industrial scale development, degradation from poorly maintained roads, and other uses. Protecting this land also helps fight climate change. Native plants that sequester carbon dioxide are left to continue to grow, and absorb and store this greenhouse gas. Recent scientific studies show that disturbing California desert soil can release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So simply protecting so much of this ecologically valuable land will also help California to meet important carbon emission reduction goals.

desert tortoise, ©Nate Rathbun

Looking to the Future

The DRECP isn’t the end of this effort. This plan creates a roadmap for California and the federal government to meet ambitious clean energy goals. Just as it protects valuable habitat from energy development, it also identifies less valuable lands (old landfills or agricultural land, for instance) where renewable energy can be developed without severely impacting imperiled wildlife. A full 600 square miles of such land have been identified under the plan as Development Focus Areas for wind, solar and geothermal energy projects.

This plan also represents a new paradigm for wildlife conservation – one that starts with identifying the most important wildlife habitat to be conserved so species can survive into the future, even in the face of climate change and increased renewable energy development. It also incorporates robust public input – throughout the entire process, the DRECP received more than 14,000 public comments. We know that some of those comments came from supporters like you – thank you!

Desert sunset, ©Krista Schlyer

Interior Secretary Jewell’s signature completes the public lands portion of the DRECP, but this planning effort is far from over. There are several million acres of private lands in the California desert that are currently undergoing this “smart from the start” planning at the county level. The ultimate goal will be to knit together plans on private lands with the public land DRECP to create a framework of protected public and private lands. With that framework in place, wildlife conservation will stretch the full 22 million acres of California’s desert lands, while also identifying additional lower value lands for renewable energy development.

Tomorrow, the sun will rise again over the California desert, and desert tortoise and other wildlife will emerge into the cool morning to begin again their search for food before the sun becomes too strong. Their day-to-day hasn’t changed, but their futures will be a little brighter, thanks to the nearly 10 years of work Defenders and other conservation groups put in to make the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan a reality.

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Wilderness Society: Finalization of Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan Balances Clean Energy Development and Land Conservation in the California Desert

September 14,2016

The Wilderness Society welcomes the finalization of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). This landmark collaborative effort by stakeholders and state and federal agencies, marks a major step forward in meeting California’s ambitious renewable energy goals and addressing climate change, while also protecting critical wildlife habitat, historic and natural resources on our shared public lands.

The DRECP will help streamline the permitting process and provide certainty for clean energy development, while guiding utility-scale projects to the most appropriate locations and conserving valuable and vulnerable wild places in the California desert.

The following statement is from Dan Smuts, Senior Regional Director, Pacific Region for The Wilderness Society:

“This plan is a thoughtful and balanced blueprint for the future of the California desert. It provides a model for the entire nation by addressing the urgent need for clean energy while protecting important lands for wildlife and plants.”

The California desert offers some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, but it is also home to historic trails, ancient Native American petroglyphs, and remarkable wildlife like bighorn sheep and desert tortoise. It’s a region of spectacular vistas and exceptional recreational opportunities. The finalization of phase one of the DRECP demonstrates to the entire nation that through intelligent planning, we can provide renewable energy solutions and protect our cherished wild lands.”

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Conservation, Clean Energy and Climate Leadership

(Helen O’Shea and Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC)

September 14,2016

Climate change is happening now and the stakes couldn’t be higher. NASA declared July 2016 the hottest month on record globally, and Californians are living the very real impacts of climate change as we enter our fifth year of an historic drought and wildfires burn from Big Sur to Mendocino. California has long been a pioneer in fighting climate change, and it made its leadership known again earlier this month by passing two bills setting the most ambitious carbon pollution reduction goals on the continent. As my colleague Alex Jackson so aptly put it, “The world is watching and California is stepping up.”

The State’s ambitious climate change goals as spelled out in the new legislation will require significant development of solar and wind in the biologically rich California desert.  Fortunately California has long been a leader in conserving lands and wildlife as well as fighting climate change. In recognition of the importance of both conservation and climate change the State today partnered with the Department of the Interior to finalize the long-awaited Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas marked the signing of the Record of Decision for the landmark 10 million acre plan this morning in Palm Springs.

The DRECP is the result of 8 years of extensive state-federal partnership and stakeholder engagement—the final plan is the result of dozens of public meetings, the assessment of hundreds of datasets, and tens of thousands of public comments. The years of collaborative work on this landmark plan have paid off. The Department of Interior and their partners at the state of California should be congratulated for proving through the DRECP that conservation, clean energy and climate leadership can go hand in hand.

The DRECP is the most ambitious and innovative planning effort undertaken in the California desert and it strikes the right balance between the protection of critical desert resources and the responsible development of much-needed renewable energy—not an easy feat by any measure. The plan does this by embracing key principles of smart from the start planning that NRDC and other advocates have promoted for years:

  • Assessing development at a landscape scale, rather than allowing site by site project decisions to be decided by a first come, first serve basis
  • Guiding development to lower conflicts areas more appropriate for large scale development
  • Deciding what lands should be off limits to development, by conserving lands that are ecologically important
  • Requiring developers to meet a more strategic set of mitigation requirements, rather than allowing an ad hoc process that does not achieve meaningful conservation

Conservation

The final DRECP builds on California’s remarkable desert conservation legacy by permanently protecting some of the Mojave’s most special places, including the spectacular Silurian Valley, which lies in between Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve; the biologically rich and diverse Chuckwalla Bench in Riverside County; the biologically rich Pisgah Valley which is critically important to both the iconic desert tortoise and bighorn sheep; and the wonderfully unique Amargosa watershed which is home to endemic species found nowhere else on the planet.

The DRECP also includes important clarification around some of the desert’s most important conservation resources. The plan clarifies that BLM lands added to the special National Conservation Lands System—a system set up specifically to recognize and protect BLM lands with nationally significant resources—are protected forever; that means they cannot be taken out of conservation by future land management plans.

Clean Energy

The DRECP sets aside 388,888 acres (more than 600 square miles) of lower conflict land in Development Focus Areas or DFAs, where resource conflicts will be fewer and therefore development timelines will be shorter, mitigation obligations lower and project costs lower. The DFAs created through this plan include lands around the Salton Sea where renewable energy development has the potential to not only generate clean energy but also be part of a comprehensive solution to some of the Salton Sea’s ongoing environmental challenges. In addition, the plan identifies another 40,000 acres of Variance Lands where development is possible, but not streamlined.

The DRECP and Climate Leadership

As we move forward with pursuing our climate goals as aggressively as we can, it’s important to use all the tools at our disposal—the DRECP is a critical piece of a comprehensive plan to fight climate change that includes energy efficiency, conservation, distributed generation, and modernizing our electric grid to handle more renewables from both sides of the meter.

The passage of SB 350 in California, and more recently SB 32 and AB 197, and the federal Clean Power Plan are expected to drive a new round of utility scale renewable energy development across the west, so having plans in place to direct that development towards low conflict areas is particularly critical right now. The BLM component of the DRECP provides the cornerstone public lands element, and the next step is for the BLM and state agencies to work closely with the desert counties on Phase II of the DRECP to plan for renewable energy and conservation on private lands as well.

What’s Next?

Phase II of the DRECP—the private lands piece involving the 7 counties within the DRECP planning area—Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego—will help align federal, state and local renewable energy development and conservation plans, policies and goals. To date, with funding support from the California Energy Commission, three counties have already identified 326,750 acres for renewable energy development on non-federal lands. Finalizing the private lands piece of the DRECP is essential to realizing the comprehensive, desert-wide vision originally articulated for the DRECP back in 2008 and for protecting California’s unique conservation legacy and clean energy future.

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Sweeping plan to use Mojave for solar, wind development wins OK

(Carolyn Lockhead, San Francisco Chronicle)

September 14,2016

WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell gave final approval in Palm Springs on Wednesday for a sweeping renewable energy development plan within nearly 11 million acres of public lands in California’s Mojave Desert, one of the largest intact ecosystems in the continental United States.

Jewell described the California desert as the “epicenter” of President Obama’s goal to produce 20,000 megawatts of solar and wind power on public lands as a key element of his agenda to fight climate change, which she called “the most pressing issue of our time.”

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a joint effort between California and the federal government, sets aside more than 600 square miles of land for renewable energy development, with streamlined permitting for giant solar and wind plants, mainly in Riverside and Imperial counties. Another 625 square miles are available for potential development under stricter rules. More than 6,500 square miles are set aside for conservation, meaning industrial development is ruled out.

The solar and wind industries have criticized the plan as all but unworkable, as did off-road-vehicle recreationists.

The desert plan has taken nearly the entire eight years of Obama’s presidency to complete, complicated by the need to reconcile two inherently conflicting goals: putting big solar and wind farms on public land to fight climate change, while at the same time conserving the fragile desert ecosystem, which scientists say is a large natural carbon sink.

Plant biologist James Andre, director of UC Riverside’s Granite Mountains Desert Research Center in the Mojave National Preserve, dismissed environmentalists who back the plan that treats public land ecosystems “as commodities for industrial purposes.”

Large environmental groups that support the administration on climate change hailed the plan as a way to save the Mojave from an onslaught of renewable-energy development while still using the desert to meet greenhouse gas targets.

The plan also got a strong endorsement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who has built her legacy on desert conservation.

With Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton promising to increase by tenfold the amount of renewable energy on public lands, supporters said that restricting that development to less intact areas of the desert will help preserve the rest.

“We will be entering the next push for projects in a much more organized way than we were before,” said Kim Delfino, California director for Defenders of Wildlife, which supports the plan. “Eight years ago, it was a free-for-all out there. Now developers are being told these are the more degraded places to go.”

Karen Douglas, a commissioner on the California Energy Commission and a key architect of the plan, said this week that meeting California’s ambitious climate goals will require industrial-scale solar of the kind that can be put in the desert.

She said that the state is also looking at other areas for industrial solar such as degraded farmland in the San Joaquin Valley but that the desert remains “a really important part of our portfolio” to meet climate targets.

The planning effort grew out of mistakes made early in Obama’s first term, when billions of dollars in subsidies led to a solar and wind land rush in the Mojave and siting decisions that now are widely viewed as irreversible mistakes. The most prominent of these is at Ivanpah (San Bernardino County). Built on 6 square miles of endangered desert tortoise habitat with more than $2 billion in federal subsidies, the massive solar complex is still wrestling with thousands of fatalities of birds and bats zapped each year by its concentrated solar beams.

Delfino said the plan will stop the threat of industrialization of miles of pristine desert in places such as the stunning Silurian Valley at the gateway to Death Valley National Park.

But Randy Banis, who represented off-road vehicle users on the plan’s advisory committee, said the initiative drastically reduces “recreational opportunities for the more than 5 million visitors” a year who use desert lands that are all but inaccessible without a vehicle.

Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-Scale Solar Association, said the plan is a big disappointment. She called the plan “out of step with climate goals … a Model T in a Tesla world.”

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Desert development divvied up

(Central Valley Business Times)

September 15,2016

Massive solar power farms may be developed on large portions of the California desert under deals announced between the state and federal governments this week.

Called the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, the renewable energy and conservation planning effort covers 10.8 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the California desert.

Ultimately a blueprint is to be reached covering 22 million acres of public and private land in California’s desert region, which would be marked for streamlining renewable energy development while conserving ecosystems and providing outdoor recreation opportunities.

The lands specifically identified for renewable energy development by the plan have the potential to generate up to 27,000 megawatts of renewable energy – enough to power over eight million homes.

“Renewable energy is a key part of California’s approach to addressing climate change, and large scale renewable energy projects in the California desert will play an essential role in California meeting climate and renewable energy goals,” says California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas.

The Bureau of Land Management’s Land Use Plan Amendment identifies priority areas for renewable energy development while setting aside land for conservation and outdoor recreation. The plan designates areas with high-quality solar, wind and geothermal energy potential and access to transmission, sited in low conflict areas.

Applications in these areas could see a streamlined permitting process, predictable survey requirements, and simplified mitigation measures, the BLM says

The Interior Department is also considering additional financial incentives for projects located in these areas.

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CAP’s David J. Hayes on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan

(RealEstateRama)

September 15,2016

Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Center for American Progress Senior Fellow David J. Hayes released the following statement today about the U.S. Department of the Interior’s release of the final Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which will help balance renewable energy development and conservation on approximately 10 million acres of public lands in California.

The Interior Department today laid out a management framework that will guide public use of 10 million acres of public lands in the harsh and magical beauty of the California desert. The plan protects millions of sensitive acres from development while welcoming renewable energy development in areas that make sense. Hats off to the Bureau of Land Management and its partners in California that, after participating in a vigorous public process, have laid out a plan that honors conservation imperatives while providing new opportunities for Californians to increase renewable energy production in sun-rich Southern California. In the past, little planning like this has been done, leaving the nation’s public lands open to abuse. The Obama administration’s focus on landscape-level planning—as well as Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D-CA) parallel commitment to pursue innovative efforts such as the state-led Least-Conflict Lands Project in order to assist the siting of renewable energy projects in the San Joaquin Valley—is the smart way to do the peoples’ business on public lands.

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Interior Department signs blueprint for renewable energy development in the California desert

(Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times)

September 14,2016

For decades, environmentalists have rhapsodized about the tranquil beauty of California’s deserts while battling fiercely with energy companies, the government and within their own ranks over what if any power production should occur on those sun-baked, wind-blown, geothermally active expanses of land.

On Wednesday, U.S. Interior Department officials signed a blueprint that they touted as a finely tuned effort to balance conservation of California’s iconic desert landscapes with the state’s growing hunger for clean energy in the age of climate change.

Eight years in the making, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan implicitly recognizes that “green” energy can be environmentally destructive.

It puts 9.2 million acres of federal land in the California desert off limits to solar, wind and geothermal development, while steering renewable projects to less ecologically valuable areas on about 800,000 acres, with a particular emphasis on roughly half that land.

Projects proposed for Development Focus Areas would enjoy streamlined permitting. Energy development would also be possible on other lands, totaling more than 400,000 acres, but without streamlining.

Increasing the amount of renewable energy produced on federal lands has been a key part of the Obama administration’s climate change policies, which seek to cut fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“You are the epicenter of that here in the Southern California desert,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told federal, state, local and tribal officials who had gathered  at a signing ceremony in Palm Desert. “We’ve all come together in a way that is a path forward for the rest of the nation.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who has successfully shepherded major desert protection acts, praised the blueprint.

“The desert’s sweeping desert vistas and rugged mountain terrain provide vital refuge for everything from bighorn sheep and desert tortoises to Joshua Trees and Native American artifacts. The desert likewise holds great potential for utility-scale renewable energy,” Feinstein said in a statement. “We must ensure that the proper balance is struck.”

Several environmental groups also lauded the announcement.

“This plan is a thoughtful and balanced blueprint for the future of the California desert,” said Dan Smuts, senior regional director for the Wilderness Society. “It provides a model for the entire nation by addressing the urgent need for clean energy while protecting important lands for wildlife and plants.”

At least one organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, faulted the Interior Department for not adopting stronger protections. While the document permanently conserves about 2.8 million acres, other lands could be opened to energy development under future plans, warned Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the center.

The blueprint, which was the subject of more than 16,000 comments and nearly a dozen public hearings, marks the first part of an effort to map renewable energy development on 22 million acres of the California desert.

The next phase will deal with private holdings in seven desert counties. To date, three counties have pegged 326,750 acres for renewables on nonfederal lands.

The push for renewables by the federal government and California has put the state’s sprawling desert lands in the cross hairs.

Wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal plants are essentially industrial facilities that can kill birds en masse and scrape the desert floor clean of vegetation as well as all the creatures that depend on it.

Some conservation groups have complained that the desert — a place of spare charms that not all appreciate — has been turned into a sacrifice zone in the war to slow climate change.

The Ivanpah solar plant west of Las Vegas, for example, is a magnet for insects and the birds that feast on them. Federal biologists say about 6,000 birds a year die from crashes or immolation while chasing flying insects around the facility’s three 40-story towers, which catch sunlight from five square miles of garage-door-size mirrors to drive the plant’s power-producing turbines.

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Deal on Renewable Energy, Conservation in SoCal Desert Finalized

(Suzanne Potter, Public News Service)

September 15,2016

Mojave Trails National Preserve is protected under the new Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan finalized Wednesday.

PALM DESERT, Calif. — A deal on conservation and renewable energy between the state of California and federal agencies that was eight years in the making is now a reality.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed the record of decision finalizing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan on Wednesday in Palm Desert.

The plan covers nearly 11 million acres of land and protects wide swaths of habitat while setting aside specific areas for wind, solar and geothermal energy projects to be expedited.

Dan Smuts, senior director at The Wilderness Society, said that there was a movement in recent years for investors to snap up random parcels of land for energy development.

“We’re moving from a project-by-project-level proposal process that has led to scattershot development across the desert, toward a zoned approach where they identify least-conflict places at the start of the process,” Smuts said. “We call this smart from the start.”

President Obama declared three new national monuments in the area: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains. But the administration has also made it a priority to promote renewable energy on federal public lands.

As of a few years ago, project applications covered more than 1.6 million acres of land. Helen O’Shea, director of the Western Renewable Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the projects will now be concentrated in development focus areas.

“It’s encouraging developers to go there by streamlining the development process,” O’Shea said. “So that if you go to one of these development focus areas, you will actually be able to move your project through permitting quicker. And when you can build quicker, it’s also cheaper.”

Frazier Haney, conservation director with the Mojave Desert Land Trust, said he was glad to see that the plan designated an additional 2.8 million acres of new national conservation land.

“The desert contains 28 percent of the state’s land mass but over 35 percent of its biodiversity,” Haney said. “It’s a place of incredible beauty and it’s a place of tremendous variety both for human exploration but also for science.”

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan takes into account the entire desert landscape, emphasizing corridors to connect wildlife and protection of lands crucial to species’ ability to adapt to climate change.

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Obama sets aside 10 million acres in California for renewable energy and conservation

(Jenny Rowland, Think Progress)

September 15,2016

The plan was well-received by conservation groups, while solar advocates said more land should have been set aside for energy.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell approved Wednesday a plan to set aside 10.8 million acres of public land in the California desert for mostly conservation — with a dash of renewable energy.

Nearly a decade in the making, phase one of the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan, or DRECP, provides a blueprint to help meet ambitious state and national climate goals and to site new solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects.

“Today we celebrate the culmination of more than eight years of thoughtful planning, deep collaboration, and extensive public engagement to guide future management of 10 million acres of California desert that belong to all Americans,” said Secretary Jewell in Palm Desert on Wednesday. “This landscape-level plan will support streamlined renewable energy development in the right places while protecting sensitive ecosystems, preserving important cultural heritage and supporting outdoor recreation opportunities.”

The plan sets aside less than 388,000 acres for renewable energy development — on land that has been found to have the least possible conflict with conservation priorities. The plan will also streamline the permitting process for clean energy development, such as wind and solar projects, because environmental surveying has already been conducted in these zones.

Under the DRECP, this land has the potential to generate up to 27,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, enough to power 8 million homes — three times the amount of solar energy that has been produced on public lands to date.

In addition to land dedicated to clean energy development, the plan sets aside millions of acres of conservation lands, with about 2.8 million acres permanently protected as National Conservation Lands and others reauthorized or expanded as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. This mix of protected lands will provide critical wildlife habitat, along with providing recreation opportunities and preserving cultural areas.

“The California desert offers some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, but it is also home to historic trails, ancient Native American petroglyphs, and remarkable wildlife like bighorn sheep and desert tortoise,” Dan Smuts, senior director at the Wilderness Society, said in a statement. “The finalization of phase one of the DRECP demonstrates to the entire nation that through intelligent planning, we can provide renewable energy solutions and protect our cherished wild lands.”

A primary aim of the proposal is to address climate change. The lands contained within the plan are not only some of the best locations for solar energy, recent studies have found the desert ecosystem stores enormous amounts of carbon buried as calcium carbonate in the soil. Conservation areas will prevent disturbance of the soil, which could release carbon into the atmosphere.

The plan is the product of years of collaboration and compromise between federal and state governments, renewable energy companies, conservationists, local communities, and other stakeholders.

However, not everyone is happy with the compromise. The Solar Energy Industry Association criticized the plan for favoring conservation goals and not going far enough in permitting lands for development. Meanwhile, some conservation groups are arguing that more should be done to protect the California desert’s vulnerabilities to climate change.

“The plan protects millions of sensitive acres from development, while welcoming renewable energy development in areas that make sense,” David J Hayes, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement. “Hats off to BLM and its partners in California who, after participating in a vigorous public process, have laid out a plan that honors conservation imperatives, while providing new opportunities for Californians to increase renewable energy production in sun-rich southern California.”

The announcement was part of a three-state tour from the Department of the Interior promoting renewable energy on public lands and waters. The DRECP is one part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls on the department to permit 20,000 MW of renewable power by 2020. Since 2009, the department has permitted enough utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands to power approximately 5.1 million homes.

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Desert energy, conservation plan announced

(Inland News Today)

September 18,2016

PALM DESERT – (INT) – Federal and state officials have completed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

It seeks to strike a balance for development and conservation on public lands across California’s Desert, mostly in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The Plan has identified the lowest conflict areas for renewable energy development that exceed what is needed for the State’s climate change targets.

Winning protection for both wildlife and people are such unique desert landscapes as the Chuckwalla Bench,. the Chemehuevi Valley in the eastern Mojave, the Silurian Valley, Amargosa Basin, and the Yuha Desert.

“Many landscapes in the California Desert are a patchwork of public and private lands. While we can invest to protect private lands through purchase in conservation areas, it is critical that adjacent public lands are protected as well. Working across these boundaries creates a cohesive, connected ecosystem,” said Frazier Haney, Conservation Director for the Mojave Desert Land Trust.

The plan covers 10 million acres of public lands and creates energy development zones at locations where solar, wind and geothermal projects would least harm wildlife and other natural resources.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was in Palm Desert Wednesday where she announced approval of the plan.

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